MANUS REFUGEES UNDER ATTACK
On Thursday November 24 a small island in the middle of the pacific made world headlines, but not because of its natural beauty. Today PNG police and immigration stormed the Manus Regional Processing Centre and attacked refugees who were fighting for survival after being abandoned by Australian and PNG immigration. How did they find themselves in this predicament? A common narrative is people washing up on tropical island after their boats have become lost at sea. The refugees on Manus Island did embark on a dangerous voyage by boat but that is not why they are now in this situation, at least not directly. Fleeing their home countries looking for safety and freedom they arrived on Australian shores and asked for protection. Unfortunately the Australian government had just implemented a policy to send all people who arrived by boat to offshore processing centres. These centers are in developing nations – Nauru and Papua New Guine – who this colonial power can bully and bribe with money. PNG’s Manus Island fits the bill for a policy which seeks to send a message to other refugees that Australia is not a welcoming humanitarian country (as many believe). After some three years of locking refugees in the derelict centre on Manus the PNG supreme court ruled this incarceration unconstitutional. The centre was slated for closure, detainees were encouraged to return home some with bribes of up to $25,000. A small number around 50 decided to settle in PNG, with some becoming homeless and trying to return to detention, one man even tried flying to Fuji and applying be protection there only to be sent back to PNG. A number are in the East Lorengau ‘Transit’ centre, some having applied to go the America under a bizarre people swap deal and others expected to settle in PNG. Human Rights Watch have recently detailed an upsurge in violent attacks by armed locals. This is why when the detention centre closed on October 31 around 620 men decided not to leave. Alternative accommodation has been provided however it is closer to town, and hostile locals, and insecure. This and a series of terrifying events have lead to the current situation where detainees feel safer in the cage they have so longed to escape from than outside. Besides according to sources, including the UN, the new facilities are not yet ready to house the men. This was proven when SBS flew a drone over the new centres and broadcast the footage. Mostly the men are refusing to leave as a political statement, after 4 years on Manus they are demanding freedom. Even when not surrounded by the wire that was around the MRPC they are still held captive by the ocean and the administrative chains which deny them the freedom we take for granted.