Immigration

Manus stand-off by detainees a 'stain on Australia’s conscience': McKim

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A tense stand-off is continuing at the Manus Island detention centre as refugees refusing to leave nervously await their future.

The stand-off between detainees and authorities at Australia’s offshore immigration centre on Manus Island is a “stain on Australia’s conscience,” according to Greens Senator Nick McKim.

Senator McKim received a tour of the detention facility on Tuesday after it officially closed and told SBS News the situation was “absolutely shameful".

“I walked around that centre yesterday and one of the questions I was asking myself was how have we lost our moral compass so badly in this country? And how have we fallen so far?" he said.

In an earlier interview with AAP Senator McKim called Immigration Minister Peter Dutton a “racist monster, and a serial abuser of human rights".

 

Australia's offshore immigration centre at Lombrum Navy Base was officially closed on Tuesday but more than 600 refugees and asylum seekers remain inside the Papua New Guinea compound.

There is no running water or electricity at the centre after generators were shut down and taken off-site.

Sudanese refugee, Abdul Aziz Adam said many of the detainees didn't sleep at all last night and remain fearful of what will happen today.

“We were thinking that they may come to attack the centre maybe at night time so we were [on] high alert,” Mr Aziz said.

“Right now the whole compound is without power.”

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Asylum seekers on Manus Island concerned over deteriorating conditions.
Asylum seekers on Manus Island concerned over deteriorating conditions.

Facilities "not ready"

Authorities in PNG have said they will move refugees and asylum seekers into purpose-built accommodation in the nearby town of Lorengau.

But the detainees are unwilling to leave due to safety concerns and say locals are blocking the construction of new refugee accommodation.

Acting Prime Minister Julie Bishop told Sky News essential services are available for those inside the centre and they should leave.

“The PNG government is in charge of security matters,” Ms Bishop said.

“The alternative accommodation for refugees and also for those not found to be refugees is providing all the essential services including food and water and electricity and medical supplies so they have access to medical services.”

Senator McKim said there are three alternative facilities that PNG and Australia are proposing the detainees move to but one of facilities is still an active construction site.

“There’s about 450 beds ready to go and there are over 600 guys in the centre,” Senator McKim said.

“So if Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton or anyone else in the Australian government is claiming that today there are enough beds to accommodate the 600 detainees they are just simply lying.”

A PNG lawyer representing the detainees, Ben Lomai, said he lodged a legal application to block the centre's closure on Tuesday, with a decision expected today.

Mr Lomai is arguing enforceable protections for human rights in the PNG constitution have been breached.

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Julie Bishop speaks about Manus Island detainees
Julie Bishop speaks about Manus Island detainees

"More united than ever"

Mr Aziz has lived on Manus for more than four years.  

He said he wanted the Australian government to reconsider resettlement offers from countries like New Zealand and that the group of men are defiant in their protest.

“No one cares about us, so we care about ourselves,” Mr Aziz said.

“We are supporting each other and we are even [more] united than ever.”

- With AAP

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