On 31st October 2017, the detention centre on Manus Island in which the Australian Government has been holding more than 700 refugees was closed, leaving those living there in a desperate situation.
In response to this crisis, Peace Action Wellington (PAW) have started a petition to the new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Minister for Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway, demanding that the government act urgently and bring the refugees on Manus to safety in New Zealand.
PAW will also be holding a vigil outside Parliament tomorrow (Thursday 2nd November, 5pm – 6:30) in solidarity with those trapped on Manus. A refugee from Sudan, who is currently held on Manus Island, today sent this message to the New Zealand Government via Twitter: “We’re merely refugees who unfortunately ended up in those merciless offshore detentions, we experienced torture for more than 4 years and still undergoing it, please in the name of humanity we ask you emergency help.”
Peace Action Wellington spokesperson Emma Cullen commented, “We believe New Zealand has a responsibility to act to ensure the safety of these people who have been illegally detained and now are being abandoned by Australia. Australia has washed their hands of these refugees. New Zealand should stand up for what’s right and bring them here.”
Although the detention centre has been a nightmarish experience for all held there, closing it leaves these people extremely vulnerable and without any support in a hostile environment where local people have threatened violence against them.
This situation is unacceptable for both local people and the refugees. Local people on Manus Island were never consulted about the offshore detention centres and although the Papua New Guinean government has received huge payments from Australia, little of this has trickled through to local villagers. This has caused local unrest, as the lives of Manus Islanders have been disrupted by the centres. The Papua New Guinean Supreme Court ruled the detention centre illegal in 2016 because it breached the asylum seekers’ fundamental human rights, which is why it is now being closed.
“It is very clear that Australia has violated the human rights of these people by abandoning them in this way, just as they refused to accept their humanitarian responsibilities to those who tried to reach Australia on the Tampa. On that occasion New Zealand stood up for what is right and we should do so again.” said Emma.
“The situation on Manus Island is a humanitarian emergency, and our members have shown support for Peace Action Wellington’s call for New Zealand to offer help. ActionStation members are asking the Prime Minister to raise it urgently with her Australian counterpart and hope that she offers New Zealand’s help in taking in the refugees. We urge the Prime Minister to make a public statement to show the international community is watching and ready to help.” said Marianne Elliott of ActionStation.
The Australian government, as a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, is responsible for these refugees, regardless of how they entered Australian territory to seek asylum. Instead, the government brought them to Manus Island as part of their ‘Pacific Solution’ policy of preventing any people fleeing war or persecution from reaching safety in Australia if they seek asylum by boat.
On 31st October, water, electricity and sewage systems were shut off to the detention centre. Detainees were given the choice to either be moved to Nauru (another offshore detention centre), or to remain in a nearby town where they will be extremely unsafe.
“We demand that the New Zealand government do what the Australian Government will not. We should show manaakitanga, take a strong stand for justice and welcome these desperate people to Aotearoa New Zealand immediately,” said Emma.
Vigil details: https://www.facebook.com/events/125259294818106/