Pacific News Minute: Australia Agrees to Close Manus Island Detention Camp

Aug 18, 2016

Credit Wikipedia Commons

And now an update in a story we've been following.  Australia agreed earlier today to close its immigration detention camp on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. 854 men live there under prison-like conditions, many for more than three years, but there are no details on their future.  We have more from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

The announcement followed a meeting in Port Moresby between Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and Australian immigration minister, Peter Dutton. "Both Papua New Guinea and Australia are in agreement that the center is to be closed," Prime Minister O'Neill told reporters, but he didn't say when, or what will happen to the refugees and asylum seekers.  A statement from Minister Dutton was similarly vague, except on one point: "No one from Manus Island regional processing center will ever be settled in Australia."

That policy dates to 2001, when more than 400 Afghan migrants were rescued from a sinking boat near Australian waters.  Then Prime Minister John Howard refused them entry and declared, "We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come."  Since 2012, Australia has sent migrants intercepted at sea to offshore camps, one in the island nation of Nauru, the other on Manus Island.  Last April, Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court ruled the camp on Manus unconstitutional and ordered it closed.  Today's announcement marks the first time that Australia's government has accepted that it has a role in what happens next.

Iranian Journalist Behrouz Boochani, detained on Manus for more than three years, told the Guardian that the men in the camp (they are all men) are wary of good news at this point. "They did not mention when they will close this hell prison," he said. "We want to know when exactly we will get freedom and where we will go."