Dire report marks fourth anniversary of offshore processing

Dire report marks fourth anniversary of offshore processing

SBS World News Radio: A new report from human rights groups shows refugees and people seeking asylum endure a critical or major incident on Manus Island almost every day.  

The report has been released to mark the fourth anniversary of Australia's re-opening of its offshore processing program.

Four years after Australia resumed its offshore processing of refugees and asylum seekers, the situation on Manus Island and Nauru continues to be as chaotic as ever.

At least six people have been killed in that time, one in the past six months.

And a new report by the Melbourne-based Human Rights Law Centre and the activist group GetUp reveals those on Manus endure major incidents nearly every day.

GetUp human-rights co-director Matthew Phillips says the Department of Immigration's own records confirm the deteriorating situation.

"As recently as the 23rd of May this year, refugees and people seeking asylum have endured a critical or major incident on Manus Island on average almost every day. People's lives are seriously at risk. I mean, the Government has only one choice, which is to immediately evacuate the offshore camps and bring these men, women and children to safety."

Former United States president Barack Obama agreed to a deal with Australia late last year to offer refuge to up to 1,250 of the asylum seekers.

His successor, Donald Trump, has said he will honour it only to maintain a strong relationship with Australia and on the condition they satisfy strict checks.

But so far, not one person has been resettled.

The US government confirmed last week its refugee-intake cap had been reached, with the new intake year not due to begin until October the 1st.

That leaves serious questions about the future for many.

Australia has promised to close a second detention centre on Manus by the end of October, but only around 10 per cent of the refugees from the camp have completed US processing.

Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the US deal was still on, despite US immigration officials leaving Nauru two weeks short of their scheduled timetable.

"I understand that the matter is progressing as we expected. The United States is upholding the agreement. We have been given assurances by both President Trump and Vice President (Mike) Pence, and others, that the agreement will be adhered to."

Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani is among those detained on Manus Island.

He has been there for the past four years.

He says the Australian government is putting pressure on people to leave the detention centre and accept living in the local Papua New Guinea community but it is not safe.

"Most of the refugees prefer to be in this prison than go to PNG, because it's not a safe country and it is a big risk for us to go there. You know, in the past few weeks, some refugees were attacked by the local people, the Bangladeshi guy beaten so seriously on his arm and they sent him to hospital in Port Moresby. All of the attacks were by knife."

The Human Rights Law Centre's director of legal advocacy, Daniel Webb, has visited Manus Island three times.

He says Australia's detention regime has extinguished all hope there.

"Basic human decency and compassion must prevail. We know that Kevin Rudd had his political challenges when he announced this deal. We know that Malcolm Turnbull will probably have his political challenges if he tries to end it. But ending it is the right thing to do, because, you know, whatever the question, whatever the political question, whatever the policy question, continuing to destroy the lives of 2,000 innocent people, of 169 children, is not the answer."




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