Turnbull Must Act to End Manus Crisis Now

23 Nov, 2017

The Australian Prime Minister must intervene to end the humanitarian crisis on Manus, the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) said today. 

World Vision Chief Advocate Tim Costello, who is on Manus Island, heading an inter-agency fact-finding mission, called on Malcolm Turnbull to personally intervene to bring the unfolding humanitarian crisis on Manus to a swift and humane resolution.

“Malcolm Turnbull is not a cruel man, he is not inhumane, but what we are witnessing here is both cruel and inhumane,” Mr Costello said. “I think personally he’d be appalled if he was seeing what we are witnessing.”

Police moved in to the Manus Island detention centre early this morning.

ACFID, the peak body for Australia’s aid and humanitarian sector, has appointed the fact-finding mission and is visiting the island with the consent of PNG authorities this week.

ACFID CEO Marc Purcell said the delegation was not politically motivated, “we are here to bear witness to the stories of these men and search for a durable humanitarian solution.”

“It’s been more than four years since offshore detention was reintroduced by the Australian Government,” Mr Purcell said.

“Parliamentary inquiries and international investigations into offshore detention have repeatedly exposed a catalogue of alleged physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

“Last month, Australia was elected to the UN Human Rights Council. Our actions on Manus are in breach of our international human rights laws and obligations.”

About 300 men are refusing to leave the now abandoned detention centre because the replacement accommodation is reportedly not ready, because of previous violent experiences with locals, and because they have already been in limbo for four years, unable to move on with their lives after being forcibly transferred to Papua New Guinea despite being found to be genuine refugees.

Oxfam, which is part of the joint delegation, calls on the Australian Government to immediately evacuate the men on Manus Island, bring them to Australia and ensure they are supported and assisted to recover.

“The current situation simply cannot go on,” Mr Costello said. “This is not a problem created by the people of Papua New Guinea, who are our friends and neighbours. They have been unfairly dragged into a mess of Australia’s making.

“The Australian Government is responsible for the safety and well-being of the men on Manus Island both under international law and as a basic moral obligation.

“We call on the Australian Government to immediately evacuate the men on Manus Island, to ensure they are supported and assisted to recover and offer them the future they deserve.

“And we call on the Australian Government to end the damaging regime of offshore processing and ensure people seeking asylum in Australia are never again subjected to indefinite detention.

“All people deserve to be safe and free.”

Mr Costello echoed comments by the UN Refugee Agency that three weeks since the closure of the regional processing centre on 31 October the situation on the ground is very serious, and it is deteriorating by the day. Also on Manus Island to observe conditions, Nai Jit Lam, UNHCR’s Deputy Regional Representative in Canberra, said, “Australia has in effect created and then abandoned a humanitarian crisis at the doorstep of the international community.”

He said it was vital that Australia “take responsibility and play an active role in achieving solutions for all the people Australia forcibly transferred to Papua New Guinea. This is a man-made and entirely preventable humanitarian crisis. It is a damning indictment of a policy meant to avoid Australia’s international obligations.”

Tim Costello and ACFID CEO Marc Purcell are available for interview from Manus Island.

Tim Costello can be contacted on Manus Island on +61 411 633 446

Marc Purcell can be contacted on Manus Island on +61 450 961 561