Posts Tagged ‘Papua New Guinea’

Philippines among worst offender of press freedom in Asia Pacific — Corruption Perception Index 2017 predicts trouble for the Philippines

February 22, 2018
Members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines stage a rally criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila. The STAR/KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines, along with India and the Maldives, are the worst offenders of press freedom in the Asia Pacific region, according to an international organization against corruption.

In its Corruption Perception Index 2017, Berlin-based Transparency International noted that the three countries score high for corruption and have fewer press freedoms.

“In the last six years, 15 journalists working on corruption stories in these countries were murdered, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists,” the report read.

The Philippines, with a score of 34, also dropped its ranking in the global corruption index from 101st in 2016 to 111th in 2017.

The survey further noted that the results of the 2017 index show that corruption in many countries in the region is still strong.

“In some countries across the region, journalists, activists, opposition leaders and even staff of law enforcement or watchdog agencies are threatened, and in the worst cases, even murdered,” Transparency International said.

The results of the survey indicate that countries with least protection for press and non-governmental organizations also have the worst rates of corruption.

“Every week at least one journalist is killed in a country that is highly corrupt,” the report read.

The results of the 2017 index also show the variance in public sector corruption in Asia Pacific as the region has an average score of 44 out of 100 despite top scorers like New Zealand and Singapore.

Among the worst scorers in the region are Afghanistan, North Korea, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.

“With a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 means very clean and 0 reflects a deep-rooted, systemic corruption problem, the Asia Pacific countries, on average, are failing,” the survey read.

The index ranked 180 countries and territories based on perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople. Countries were scored from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

“This year, the index found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43. Unfortunately, compared to recent years, this poor performance is nothing new,” Transparency International said.



 (No man is above the law…)


Manus Island: Police enter decommissioned Australian refugee detention camp

November 23, 2017

Papua New Guinea police have moved in on the shuttered Australian-run Manus detention camp in an attempt to force hundreds of asylum seekers occupying it to leave. The camp long symbolized Canberra’s strict asylum laws.

– Authorities in Papua New Guinea are removing more than 300 asylum seekers from a squalid immigration camp on Manus island to another location

– Australia has paid PNG and the nearby island of Nauru to hold refugees as part of its controversial immigration policy

– Rights groups and the UN have warned of violence and a humanitarian crisis

– Asylum seekers have refused to leave for three weeks

Papua New Guinea authorities moved to empty a decommissioned Australian-run immigration detention center, drawing criticism from rights groups and the UN over hardhanded tactics and a potential humanitarian crisis.

Police Chief Superintendent Dominic Kakas said 50 police and immigration officials entered the camp on Thursday morning and persuaded 35 of the 378 men there to go to alterative accommodation in the nearby town of Lorengau.

But asylum seekers reported police were using force to remove them from the Manus island camp, where authorities stopped providing water, electricity and food supplies nearly three weeks ago.

Other detainees said that dozens of men have been arrested, including Iranian journalist and refugee Behrouz Boocahni, who is one of the most vocal advocates for those inside the camp.

Tweeting before his reported arrest, Boocahni said police were destroying their belongings, beds, water supplies and stocks of food.

They are destroying everything. Shelters, tanks, beds and all of our belongings. They are very aggressive and put our belongings in the rubbish bins. The refugees still are silent are watching them so scared.


Other detainees reported similar hardlanded tactics.

PNG Police Commissioner Gari Baki said earlier this week that no force would be used.

How did it come to this?

The detainees are held under Australia’s strict “sovereign borders” immigration policy, under which the country refuses to allow asylum seekers attempting to enter by boat to reach its shores.

Last year, PNG’s Supreme Court ruled the Manus camp illegal and asked the Australian government to close it.

About 400 asylum-seekers, men mostly from Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Syria, barricaded themselves into the camp on October 31 to protest their removal.

Many Manus occupants have said they fear for their safety if moved to other transit centers on the island amid opposition from locals.

Instead of being left in limbo at another detention facility, they want to be permanently settled in Australia or another country.

Items on the floor of the Manus Island detention centreConditions at the Manus Island detention center have been deteriorating rapidly

What is the situation in the center?

The inmates’ medicines ran out last week, their health is suffering in the hot and humid weather and they have started digging wells inside the center to get water.

“The situation on the ground is very serious and deteriorating day by day,” said Nai Jit Lam, a regional representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

“Australia must continue to take responsibility and play an active role in achieving solutions,” Lam said.

The UN had long criticized the living conditions on Australia’s offshore migrant detention centers.

The detention center is on Manus Island north of the mainlandThe detention center is on Manus Island north of the mainland

What is the Australian government’s stance?

Australia’s refugee policy has prompted protests at home for better conditions and rights for asylum seekers. However, the government argues it deters people smugglers and prevents deaths at sea.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told Sydney radio station 2GB that a police operation was under way to move the asylum seekers to a new $10 million (€8.7 million) in PNG.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shrugged off asylum seekers’ fears, accusing them of trying to pressure Australia to accept them.

“They think that … in some way they can pressure the Australian government to let them come to Australia. Well, we will not be pressured. We will not outsource our migration policy to people smugglers,” Turnbull told reporters.

Protesters block the entrance to the Victorian Liberal party offices in Melbourne, AustraliaProtesters block the entrance to the Victorian Liberal party offices in Melbourne

“People on Manus should go to the alternative places of safety with all the facilities they need, they should do so peacefully and they should do so in accordance with the legal directions of Papua New Guinea,” he added.

Under a deal struck between the Obama administration and Australia, the United States agreed to take up to 1,250 of the several thousand refugees on Manus island and nearby Nauru. US President Donald Trump has decided to honor the US commitment despite his opposition to immigration.

But slow processing of asylum applications has meant that so far only 54 asylum seekers have been accepted by the United States.

New Zealand has also offered to take some of the men.

cw/rt (Reuters, dpa, AFP)


PNG police order protesting asylum seekers out of Australian-run camp

November 23, 2017

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Papua New Guinea police sealed off an officially shuttered Australian-run detention camp on Thursday and ordered asylum seekers occupying it to leave as they confiscated food and water the men had stockpiled, asylum seekers told Reuters.

Image may contain: one or more people, cloud, sky and outdoor

Asylum seekers occupying the closed Australian-run immigration detention centre on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island climb on top of buildings at the centre to avoid police, November 23, 2017. Thanus/via REUTERS.

About 380 asylum seekers have shut themselves inside the Manus Island Center for more than three weeks, defying attempts by Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) to close it in a standoff the United Nations described as a “looming humanitarian crisis”.

“They destroyed our food and damaged our accommodation too, they destroyed our water tank,” one asylum-seeker said in a mobile telephone message from the camp.

Many of the men climbed onto rooftops and hid in toilets, he said. Three other asylum seekers gave similar accounts of the police action.

A video shot by Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz and posted on Facebook showed police using a megaphone to tell the asylum seekers to leave because their stay at the camp, located on land used by the PNG navy, was illegal.

Image may contain: outdoor

Police enter Australia’s Manus Island refugee camp — Australia’s Manus Island refugee camp was closed after a PNG Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional, and some 600 refugees were told to relocate to three nearby transition centres. (Photo: AFP)

Footage he later posted on Twitter showed men boarding mini buses and buses. Tim Costello, chief advocate at the World Vision Australia aid group, told Reuters by phone from outside the camp that he had seen buses leaving.

Calls to PNG immigration and police were not returned.

The Manus island camp in PNG, and another on the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru, have been the cornerstones of Australia’s controversial immigration policy, which has been strongly criticized by the United Nations and rights groups.

Australia opened the camps in a bid to stem a flow of asylum seekers making dangerous voyages by boat to its shores.

Under its “sovereign borders” immigration policy, Australia refuses to land asylum seekers arriving by sea, instead sending them to the offshore camps.


Witnesses in the camp said officials in army fatigues led away Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani, who has been at the camp for four years and regularly posts social media messages on conditions.

Boochani earlier told Reuters by text message that police and immigration officials removed water supplies and the men’s belongings.

Pictures sent via a messaging service showed upturned boxes of food and torn parcels of rice and instant noodles and smashed furniture including broken beds.

PNG’s Supreme Court ruled last year that the center, first opened in 2001, breached its laws and fundamental human rights, leading to the decision to close it.

But the asylum seekers say they fear for their safety if moved to a transit center also on the island, and risk being resettled in PNG or another developing nation permanently.

“We don’t want another prison. We want to leave this place, but they need to give a good solution for us,” the first asylum-seeker said.

“We don’t want another prison. We want a third country.”

Most of those in the camp are from Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Syria.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Thursday that the transit center facilities had food, water, security and medical services.

“They think this is some way they can pressure the Australian government to let them come to Australia. Well, we will not be pressured,” Turnbull said.

The United Nations has urged Australia to accept an offer by New Zealand to take some of the men.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Jonathan Barrett in Sydney. Additional reporting by Swati Pandey.; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and Leslie Adler

Australia, New Zealand officials discuss screening for Manus refugees

November 20, 2017

By Charlotte Greenfield

Australia should accept New Zealand offer to resettle refugees: UNHCR

November 14, 2017


SYDNEY (Reuters) – The U.N. refugee agency on Tuesday urged Australia to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees from an abandoned Australian-run detention center in Papua New Guinea, as about 450 men remain barricaded inside without food or water.

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and outdoor

An undated image released November 13, 2017 shows detainees staging a protest inside the compound at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea. Refugee Action Coalition/Handout via REUTERS

The asylum seekers have been holed up inside the center for the past two weeks defying attempts by Australia and Papua New Guinea to close the facility, saying they fear for their safety if moved to transit centers.

With many detainees complaining of illness bought about by the unsanitary conditions in the camp, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urged Australia to allow 150 of them to resettle in New Zealand.

“We urge Australia to reconsider this and take up the offer,” Nai Jit Lam, deputy regional representative at the UNHCR told Reuters.

Most of the asylum seekers are from Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Syria.

Australia’s “sovereign borders” immigration policy, under which it refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores, has been heavily criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups but has bipartisan political support in Australia.

Australia says allowing asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores would only encourage people smugglers in Asia and see more people risk their lives trying to sail to Australia.

Two motions introduced in Australia’s parliament by the Labor and Green parties, and passed in the upper house on Tuesday, call on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to approve the New Zealand proposal.

“This is a foul and bloody stain on Australia’s national conscience,” Greens senator Nick McKim told reporters.

Turnbull this month rejected the refugee resettlement offer from his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, preferring instead to work through an existing refugee swap deal he negotiated with former U.S. President Barack Obama last year.

Under the U.S. deal, up to 1,250 asylum seekers detained by Australia in Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the South Pacific could be resettled in the United States in return for Australia accepting refugees from Central America. So far, the United States has accepted only 54.

Despite Turnbull rejecting the offer, Ardern this week said it remained on the table and she would seek a second meeting with Turnbull to discuss the “unacceptable” situation inside the Manus island detention center.

Water and electricity to the center were disconnected two weeks ago after Australian security withdrew and the camp closed on Oct. 31. The camp gad been declared illegal by a Papua New Guinea Court.

Papua New Guinea has threatened to forcibly move the men if they remain inside the center. It has set three deadlines but all have passed largely without incident.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel

Stalemate as refugees dig in at closed Australia camp in PNG

November 14, 2017


© REFUGEE ACTION COALITION/AFP | Most of the 600 refugees detained at the camp refused to leave when Australia officially closed it on October 31 after the PNG Supreme Court ruled the site unconstitutional, citing fears for their safety outside

SYDNEY (AFP) – Some 400 refugees rebuffed continued efforts by Papua New Guinea authorities to convince them to move from a shuttered Australian detention camp Tuesday as the tense standoff over their future drags into a third week.

The confrontation has drawn global attention to Canberra’s tough immigration policy, under which asylum-seekers who try to reach Australia by boat are sent to remote Pacific camps on PNG’s Manus Island and the island nation of Nauru.

Most of the 600 refugees detained at the camp refused to leave when Australia officially closed it on October 31 after the PNG Supreme Court ruled the site unconstitutional, citing fears for their safety outside.

They are barred from resettling in Australia and Canberra has struggled to transfer them to third countries.

Kurdish-Iranian detainee and journalist Behrouz Boochani told AFP on Tuesday that the detainees were going to dig another well, a day after police moved into the camp to puncture or remove tanks holding the refugees’ remaining supplies of drinking water.

“It’s the moment to accept failure & let us go to a 3rd country,” Boochani, who has acted as a spokesman for the refugees, added in a tweet Tuesday.

Police, who have so far complied with orders from higher authorities not to resort to force to remove the men, used loudspeakers to appeal to the detainees to move on Monday.

Chief Inspector David Yapu issued a statement late Monday indicating growing impatience at the stalemate, after the refugees ignored several deadlines for the camp to be cleared.

“Those refugees were sitting in their compounds and staring at us without any signs of moving out from the centre,” the Manus provincial police commander said in the statement.

“Apparently my message went through deaf ears and into the brick wall.”

Yapu added that he needed “some clear directives on our next course of action” to persuade the men to leave.

PNG police said they have managed to get about 180 men to voluntarily relocate to three nearby transition centres.

Boochani said those who agreed to move to those new sites have complained about the harsh conditions there.

Canberra has been hopeful that up to 1,250 refugees on Manus and Nauru could be transferred to the United States under a resettlement deal struck last year.

But so far, just 54 refugees have been accepted by Washington, with 24 flown to America in September.

At the same time, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has snubbed an offer from New Zealand to resettle 150 refugees, citing fears it would restart the people-smuggling trade.

His New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern has expressed concerns about Manus and said Saturday she would raise the issue with him at the East Asian Summit in Manila this week.

“In terms of the people currently at the Manus Island centre, they should comply with the lawful requirements of the government of Papua New Guinea,” Turnbull told reporters in the Philippines on Tuesday, adding that the US deal “is progressing”.

Despite widespread criticism, Canberra has defended its offshore processing policy as stopping deaths at sea after a spate of drownings.

Pacific trade deal reached but leaders won’t endorse it yet

November 11, 2017

Tran Tuan Anh, Toshimitsu Motegi

DANANG, Vietnam (AP) — Trade ministers from 11 Pacific Rim countries announced an agreement Saturday on pushing ahead with a free-trade deal whose destiny was uncertain after President Donald Trump dropped it.

“We have reached an agreement on a number of fundamental parts,” Vietnam’s trade minister, Tran Tuan Anh, told reporters in the coastal resort city of Danang, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. But more work must be done before leaders of the countries involved can endorse the plan, said Anh and his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi.

The 11 counties remaining in the trade pact rejected by Trump in January have been working to revise the deal to allow them to proceed without U.S. involvement. That involved a difficult balance between maintaining high standards and pragmatism, Motegi said.

“Through a pragmatic response of the officials involved we could come to an agreement,” Motegi said. He said it was clear there would be a need for further changes but that differences had been narrowed down.

“The substance is something all the TPP countries can agree on,” said Motegi. “This will send a very strong message to the U.S. and the other countries in the region.”

The talks resulted in an even longer name for the trade pact than originally devised. It is now the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The announcement of a basic agreement was delayed by last-minute discord that prevented the TPP leaders from endorsing the plan when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not join other leaders who gathered Friday to endorse an agreement in principle on pressing ahead without the U.S.

In the end, Canada’s Minister for International Commerce Francois-P Champagne said in a tweet Saturday that “after lots of work, big progress on the ‘Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership.’”

Trudeau had said days earlier that Canada would not be rushed into an agreement.

Despite enthusiasm for sticking with the plan following the U.S. withdrawal, criticism over various issues persists. Detractors of the TPP say it favors corporate interests over labor and other rights. Trudeau said days before arriving in Danang that he would not be rushed into signing an agreement that did not suit Canada’s interests.

Aspects of the trade pact have also raised hackles over a requirement that companies be allowed to sue governments for lack of enforcement of related laws.

The proposed basic agreement reached in Danang said that the ministers maintained “the high standards, overall balance and integrity of the TPP while ensuring the commercial and other interests of all participants and preserving our inherent right to regulate, including the flexibility of the parties to set legislative and regulatory priorities.”

The U.S., the biggest TPP economy, had been one of its most assertive supporters before Trump took office. Trump has said he prefers country-to-country deals and is seeking to renegotiate several major trade agreements to, as he says, “put America first.”

Trump reiterated his markedly different stance on trade before the 21-member APEC summit convened late Friday with a gala banquet.

“We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore,” he told an APEC business conference. He lambasted the World Trade Organization and other trade forums as unfair to the United States and reiterated his preference for bilateral trade deals, saying “I am always going to put America first.”

Trump said he would not enter into large trade agreements, alluding to U.S. involvement in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the TPP.

In contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the same group that nations need to stay committed to economic openness or risk being left behind.

Xi drew loud applause when he urged support for the “multilateral trading regime” and progress toward a free-trade zone in the Asia-Pacific. China is not part of the TPP.

APEC operates by consensus and customarily issues nonbinding statements. TPP commitments are to be eventually be ratified and enforced by its members.

But even talks this week on a declaration to cap the APEC summit had to be extended for an extra half day as ministers haggled over wording. The release of a set of ministerial agreements early Saturday suggested the leaders would finesse any disagreements, as usual, to demonstrate unity and avoid embarrassing their hosts.

As a developing country with a fast-growing export sector, this year’s host country, Vietnam, has a strong interest in open trade and access for its exports to consumers in the West. The summit is an occasion for its leaders to showcase the progress its economy has made thanks largely to foreign investment and trade. Danang, Vietnam’s third largest city, is in the midst of a construction boom as dozens of resorts and smaller hotels pop up along its scenic coastline.

APEC’s members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.S. and Vietnam.


Associated Press writer Robert Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

Court rejects bid to restore Australia refugee camp services

November 7, 2017


© BEHROUZ BOOCHANI/AFP/File | This handout photograph taken and provided to AFP by Behrouz Boochani shows refugees and asylum-seekers at the Manus Island camp

SYDNEY (AFP) – A Papua New Guinea court Tuesday rejected a refugee’s appeal to restore water, electricity and food supplies to a shuttered Australian detention camp where hundreds of men have barricaded themselves in.

The remote camp on Manus Island — one of two offshore centres that holds asylum-seekers who try to reach Australia by boat — was closed a week ago after the PNG Supreme Court ruled last year that it was unconstitutional.

But some 600 men have refused to leave despite having no basic services, saying they feared locals outside would be hostile.

One refugee, Iranian Behrouz Boochani, sought an injunction to restore water, power and food supplies, but his application was rejected.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Salamo Injia said in his judgement that there was “no real good reason why they should not voluntarily move” to three transition facilities.

Injia said while some constitutional rights may have been breached when the services were withdrawn, the refugees had “brought those upon themselves” by refusing to leave the camp.

Boochani’s lawyer Ben Lomai told AFP he would appeal the decision.

Boochani, speaking on behalf of the refugees in the camp, said the court ruling showed “how we are forgotten people and there is no justice for us”.

“We are used to the court decisions going against us”, he told AFP.

He added that depriving refugees of basic services was “completely against humanity”.

Australia’s harsh immigration policy against boatpeople, which Canberra says is necessary to stop deaths at sea, has been widely criticised by the United Nations and human rights advocates.

Asylum-seekers are sent to Manus and Nauru, but the camps’ conditions have been slammed by human rights groups, which have also campaigned to have them shut amid reports of widespread abuse, self-harm and mental health problems.

Amnesty International said Tuesday the court decision “jeopardises lives”.

“The decision is an abhorrent attack on the right to life,” the group’s Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze said in a statement.

“If authorities don’t act immediately, there is a real risk that the situation will catastrophically deteriorate.”

There were rallies in several cities over the weekend against the detention of the refugees, with protesters calling for them to be brought to Australia instead.

Canberra has strongly rejected calls to move the refugees to Australia and instead has tried to resettle them in third countries, including the United States.

But so far just 54 refugees have been accepted by Washington, with 24 flown to the US in September, under a deal struck with former US president Barack Obama and bitterly criticised by his successor Donald Trump.

© 2017 AFP

Australia snubs New Zealand offer to take refugees amid protests — MP calls the Immigration Minister a “terrorist”

November 5, 2017


© AFP | The conservative Australian premier Malcolm Turnbull turned down Wellington’s offer to resettle refugees as he met his centre-left New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern for the first time Sunday in Sydney

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia Sunday snubbed New Zealand’s renewed offer to resettle 150 refugees held at remote Pacific camps, despite the closure of one detention centre in Papua New Guinea which has triggered a stand-off between detainees and the authorities.Canberra has been forced on the defensive by the move from Wellington’s new government, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying Australia would instead prioritise a similar deal with the US to resettle refugees in America, despite slow progress.

The issue re-emerged when the conservative Australian prime minister met his centre-left New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern for the first time Sunday in Sydney.

Pressure to resettle refugees increased after the Australian centre on PNG’s Manus Island was shut Tuesday after the nation’s Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

About 600 detainees are refusing to leave citing safety fears if they move to transition centres where locals are reportedly hostile.


But conditions in the camp are deteriorating with limited food and water and electricity cut off, with the United Nations warning of a humanitarian emergency.

Under its tough immigration policy, Canberra sends asylum seekers who try to reach Australia by boat to two camps, in Manus and Nauru, and they are barred from resettling in Australia.

Australia has struggled to move the refugees to third countries such as Cambodia or PNG.

“The offer is very genuine and remains on the table,” Ardern told reporters after meeting Turnbull.

But the Australian leader replied that while he appreciated the offer — first made by Wellington in 2013 — “we are not taking it up at this time”.

“We have an arrangement with the United States… so we want to pursue those, conclude those arrangements and then in the wake of that, obviously we can consider other ones,” he said at the joint press conference.

“So the priority now is the US arrangement.”

Under the American deal — struck with previous US president Barack Obama and bitterly criticised by his successor Donald Trump — just 54 refugees have been accepted with 24 flown to the US.

The agreement had envisaged resettling up to 1,250 refugees from Manus and Nauru to America, but the vetting process has been slow.

Turnbull said his government had successfully stopped the arrival of asylum seeker boats and cited fears the people-smuggling trade could be restarted.

“Many of those people smugglers were trying to get people to New Zealand,” he added.

However, Australia has come under fire from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, with a spokesman in Geneva Friday calling on Canberra to move the men from Manus to Australia and criticising the offshore asylum processing policy as “unsustainable, inhumane and contrary to its human rights obligations”.

“We urge the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea to fully respect their human rights… and to enter into a dialogue with the men to ensure these rights are duly respected, protected and fulfilled,” the spokesman added.

Despite widespread criticism, Canberra has defending its policy as stopping deaths at sea after a spate of drownings.




Manus Island detention: Adam Bandt calls Immigration Minister Peter Dutton ‘a terrorist’

Peter Dutton has hit back at Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt who labelled the Immigration Minister a “terrorist” at a rally in Melbourne protesting against the treatment of men who remain on Manus Island.

More than 1,000 people gathered at the State Library before staging a mass sit-in at Federation Square to show their support for 600 refugees and asylum seekers who remain at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea, despite its official closure on Tuesday.

Trams and traffic were brought to a standstill, while access to the train station was disrupted. Hundreds also gathered at a similar rally in Sydney.

The men on Manus Island say they do not feel safe in the replacement accommodation provided for them in the community.

Mr Bandt told the crowd the men had been “thrown in prison” by the Australian Government.

“These people have committed no crime other than to do what every single one of us would do if we thought our lives, or our family’s lives, were at risk,” he said.

Mr Bandt likened the Immigration Minister to a “terrorist” for “threatening people’s lives”.

“If the definition of terror is to use violence and threaten people’s lives for political purposes, then Peter Dutton is a terrorist,” he said.

“To look at the face of Peter Dutton is to stare into the eyes of someone who is prepared to kill people for political gain, and it’s time he was held to account for this crime against humanity.”

He also criticised Labor for reopening the offshore processing centre while in government, and urged them to join the Greens in their push to bring the men to Australia.

Mr Dutton said the Government stood by its record on preventing asylum seekers dying at sea, and dismissed the “terrorist” remark.

“I think that says more about Mr Bandt and the Greens than it does about me. The Australian Government has stopped deaths at sea. We’ve got every child out of detention,” he said.

“Mr Bandt, when he was in Government with [former Prime Minister] Julia Gillard, presided over 50,000 people coming on 800 boats and 1,200 people drowned at sea.

“I’ve not had a single person drown at sea on my watch.”

The minister told the ABC in Perth it was “disappointing” that the Greens “seem to be spoiling for some sort of fight” over the Manus Island issue.

Up to 20 protesters waited at the entrance of Crown Casino in Perth, where Mr Dutton addressed the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference between Germany and Australia.

‘The Government’s position is absolutely clear’

The UN on Friday said the Federal Government should provide immediate protection, food, water and other basic services to men, calling in an “unfolding humanitarian crisis”.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said there were serious concerns about the safety and wellbeing of the men, and both Australia and PNG were responsible under international human rights law to protect them.

People protesting Manus Island standoff sit down at Federation Square. CBD shut down with thousands here. @abcnewsMelb

In response to the UN’s statement, Mr Dutton’s said there would be no change in the Government’s policy and asked “that people be fully informed of the facts in relation to these matters”.

“The Government’s position is absolutely clear, it’s meant we’ve been able to stop boats and we’ve been able to stop deaths at sea,” he told reporters in Perth.

“If we allow people who’ve sought to come to our country by boat, to come to Australia to reside permanently then that will mean that people smugglers are back in business.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who has urged the Federal Government to consider New Zealand’s offer to help resettle 150 of the men, said the UN “had a point”.

“We don’t want to see the people smugglers back in business, but I think there is something going on at Manus which is deeply disturbing to the Australian people,” he said.

“Where you have got 600 people without food and water for days, the Government needs to take an active interest in their welfare.”

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinean soldiers have been instructed not to allow anyone to bring food to the refugees inside the detention centre.

Food, power and water supplies to the centre were cut when the site was officially closed.

A soldier at the gate to the Lombrum naval base, in which the centre is located, says a church group with food for the refugees was turned away on Thursday.

On Friday, soldiers prevented a locals from landing a boat carrying food near the centre.

The 600 men inside say conditions are worsening but they remain determined to stay.

Topics: government-and-politicscommunity-and-societyrefugeesimmigrationmelbourne-3000vicsydney-2000,papua-new-guinea




A refugee advocate holds a placard as she participates in a protest in central Sydney, against the treatment of asylum seekers in detention centres located in Nauru and on Manus Island, on Oct. 15. (David Gray/Reuters)

Australians protest against unfolding ’emergency’ in offshore detention camp

November 4, 2017

Image may contain: 8 people, crowd and outdoor

Refugee advocates hold placards and banners during a protest rally in central Melbourne, Australia, November 4, 2017. AAP/Mal Fairclough/via REUTERS Reuters

By Benjamin Cooper

SYDNEY (Reuters) – More than 1,000 people protested in Australia on Saturday against the treatment of hundreds of asylum seekers in an offshore detention center that the United Nations has described as an “unfolding humanitarian emergency”.

About 600 men have barricaded themselves inside the camp on remote Manus island in Papua New Guinea, defying efforts by Australia and PNG to shut it. Food, running water and medical services were cut off by Australia four days ago.

Australian authorities want the men moved to a transit center elsewhere on the island at the start of a process the asylum seekers fear will result in them being resettled in PNG or another developing nation.

The men also fear violent reprisals from the local community.

“These people have committed no crime other than to do what every single one of us would do if we thought our lives, or our family’s lives, were at risk,” Federal Greens lawmaker Adam Bandt told the crowd in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city.

Another smaller protest was staged in Sydney.

The Manus island center, and one on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru, have been key parts of Australia’s disputed “Sovereign Borders” immigration policy, under which it refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores.

Australia’s offshore detention policies have been heavily criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups but are backed the center-right government and the Labor opposition.

U.N. rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news conference in Geneva on Friday about the “unfolding humanitarian emergency” in the Manus island center, where asylum seekers have been reported digging wells to try to find water.

The Australian government has not responded to Colville’s comments. It frequently does not comment on issues concerning the offshore centers, citing operational reasons.

The relocation of the men is designed as a temporary measure, allowing the United States time to complete vetting of asylum seekers as part of a refugee swap deal, agreed on last year, under which Australia will accept refugees from Central America.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to consider New Zealand’s offer to take 150 refugees from the camps on Manus and Nauru.

(Reporting by Benjamin Cooper; Editing by Paul Tait)