SYDNEY - Critical services, including food, water and medical treatment, must be restored to the more than 600 refugees and vulnerable men inside the Lombrum detention centre on Manus Island before a major tragedy occurs, Amnesty International said yesterday as researchers returned from Manus Island.
Refugees and vulnerable men should not be forcibly relocated until such time as their dignity and safety can be guaranteed.
“Today, Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court rejected a last ditch attempt by refugees to have these essential services restored and their rights protected. The decision is an abhorrent attack on the right to life,” said Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher.
“If authorities don’t act immediately, there is a real risk that the situation will catastrophically deteriorate. The lives of these men, who are only asking for their rights to dignity and safety, are at serious risk.
“In 2013, when I first visited the detention centre on Manus Island a number of refugees described conditions as a ‘psychological war’ designed to break people mentally. Four years later, cruel tactics are still being used to pressure on refugees to relocate or settle in PNG. The situation has deteriorated to a point of utter despair.”
Amnesty International researchers witnessed an emerging catastrophe when they visited Papua New Guinea from 27 October to 7 November. The current situation on Manus Island amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, a violation of the UN Convention against Torture.
“This is the third time I have visited Manus Island, but what we witnessed there over the past week shocked me to the core. This is a desperate situation on the brink of a catastrophe,” said Kate Schuetze.
“That the Australian and PNG authorities have created such a crisis, leaving vulnerable refugees who sought Australia’s protection in such a desperate situation is callous, cruel and completely disgraceful.”
“There must be an immediate resolution to this crisis. Services must be restored, and the refugees must be supported at the centre until they can move to a place of safety and dignity.”
The men have refused to move to new locations because of violent attacks against them which the authorities have failed to prevent.
Approximately 600 refugees and vulnerable men remaining in the detention centre have had limited access to food water and medical care since services were withdrawn on 31 October. Attempts to deliver food to the centre have been actively blocked by the PNG authorities.
“Forcing these men to choose between food, water and medicine or moving to a place where they have a well-founded fear of violence and other attacks against them amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” said Kate Schuetze.
“Papua New Guinea is not an appropriate place to settle vulnerable people who have fled persecution and came seeking safety and Australia’s protection.
“The country does not have the systems in place to enable a safe and dignified life for the refugees, and local people have made it clear they want the men to go to Australia.”