Manus detention facility declared illegal
27 APRIL 2016
With the Manus detention facility declared illegal, the Australian government must now do the right thing
The ruling from Papua New Guinea’s highest court shows that the Australian government’s detention centre on Manus Island flies in the face of human rights protections enshrined in the PNG Constitution - basic protections reflected in international law.
Amnesty International Australia’s Refugee Coordinator Dr Graham Thom said:
“For the last three years the Australian Government has illegally detained vulnerable people in inhumane conditions on Manus Island. Now it is time for the Government to prioritise human rights and provide these people with the protection they are due.
“Mandatory offshore detention is not only illegal but harmful to the health and well-being of the people stuck in centres like Manus and Nauru. In the three years that the Manus Centre has been operational two lives have tragically been lost.
“Our 2013 report ‘This is Breaking People’ documented the cruel conditions in the centre: hundreds of people lived in cramped and crowded dormitories, were kept thirsty by a constant lack of drinking water, were forced to queue for hours under blistering sun or in pouring rain for food, and had to live in unhygienic spaces because there were not enough toilets and showers.
“Even after just a few months of detention dozens of these men were suffering from a range of mental health problems.
“Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has responded to the PNG Supreme Court decision by saying these men will not be allowed to enter Australia but instead, once found to be refugees, can take up settlement in Papua New Guinea or return to their country of origin.
“This simply will not work. Many of the men living in the Manus detention centre have fled war, torture, death threats, or dangerous discrimination. Over half of those remaining in detention have already been found to be refugees; there is no safe home for them to go back to.
“For too long these men have been pushed out of sight and out of mind. There has been too much deliberate and institutionalised harm by the Australian Government.
“Amnesty International calls on the Australian Government to prioritise human rights first and bring these people on to Australian shores for processing. Those men found to be refugees should then immediately be granted full protection in Australia.”
A BETTER ALTERNATIVE
The PNG Supreme Court decision should come as a warning signal to the Australian Government: third country arrangements and the offshore processing of people are not humane solutions. They are means for Australia to shirk its responsibility amid one of history’s biggest refugee crises.
Amnesty International continues to call for the Government to close all of its offshore processing facilities and move to an onshore system where these vulnerable people can have their claims fairly and efficiently processed in a transparent, humane and legal way.
The billions of dollars spent on Australia’s inhumane detention policies should be reinvested in the creation of fair and efficient processes in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as safe and legal routes which protect people looking for refuge.