Rohingya asylum seeker claims he was pressured to accept cash from Australia to leave Manus


A Rohingya Muslim claims the Australian government offered him thousands of dollars to leave Manus Island offshore detention centre for Myanmar.

A Rohingya Muslim, who spoke to SBS World News from Port Moresby on condition of anonymity, says he felt pressured to sign a deal with Australia to return to Myanmar from Papua New Guinea's Manus Island in exchange for US$25,000.

Efforts to clear the centre have been ramping up after Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that it was illegal and must close.

"They [the Australian government] said: 'Think about it, if you go back you can try another country'," the 32-year-old said.

"I said I have to think about it, and I came back in my home and they sent somebody to me to apply some pressure, you know. They said 'think about it, Manus is no good.'

"Signing the papers was my only option so I signed them," he said.

"What choice do I have? The government offered me US$25,000 [to go back] or I sit in the transit centre at Manus Island."

His comments come after The Guardian reported that Australia had offered a man that amount if he returned to Myanmar.

The Myanmar military has been violent against Rohingyas since the 1970s with many escaping to neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan. Only a few have travelled as far as Manus Island.

The military ramped up its campaign of violence in August, forcing more than 400,000 to flee in the past few weeks.

In a televised speech on Tuesday, the country's leader Aung San Suu Kyi said she was "concerned" about the plight of Rohingyas. Her comments have since being widely criticised by human rights organisations for not cracking down enough on the military.

James Gomez, human rights organisation Amnesty's regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said her speech "demonstrated that she and her government are still burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine state." 

Aung San Suu Kyi addresses nation over Rohingya crisis
Aung San Suu Kyi addresses nation over Rohingya crisis

The Rohingya man said he arrived at Manus Island in 2013 after being kept at Christmas Island for 11-12 days.

He said he he lost his teeth when he was bashed by security on Manus Island in February 2014, and believes that ultimately PNG and Myanmar are both unsafe places for him to live.

"I have two choices, stay here in PNG or go back, so I would rather go back and die in my country."

The Australian Council for International Development has called on the government to stop offering financial incentives to Rohingya asylum seekers at the Manus Island offshore processing centre to return to Myanmar and bring Rohingya refugees to Australia.

Marc Purcell, the CEO of the council, said in a press release on Tuesday, "We urge the Australian Government to look at an increase to Australia's humanitarian intake, with specific consideration to vulnerable people who have fled violence and persecution in Myanmar."

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection said the matter was for the Government of Papua New Guinea.

SBS World News has contacted the PNG government for comment.

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