Sunday, April 16, 2017

Evacuate Manus Island Refugees

Churches and refugee advocates are calling for asylum seekers on Manus Island to be evacuated to Australia after shots were fired when local men tried to storm the facility.

The Australian Immigration and Border Protection Department has confirmed one asylum seeker was hit by a rock and injured during the violence on Good Friday evening, which reportedly included personnel from the local naval base.

However, Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian-born journalist and asylum seeker held on Manus Island, says three asylum seekers and some Australian officers were hurt.

The Human Rights Law Centre spokesman Daniel Webb on Saturday said “enough is enough” and that Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, should immediately bring the men to safety in Australia.

“Most of these men were found to be refugees years ago,” he said. “Last night’s attack has again left them terrified and – after four years of fear, violence and limbo - they are completely exhausted.”

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, which represents several Christian church leaders, called on the government to “act with compassion” and evacuate the camp.

“The darkness of betrayal and abandonment that we are familiar with in the Jesus story is being felt keenly by those on Manus Island this weekend,” Very Reverend Peter Catt said in a statement. “By bringing people to Australia, the US (refugee) deal may continue.

“More importantly, the healing of those who have been damaged by our nation’s policy can begin”.

The immigration department confirmed an incident had occured at the detention centre, and that there were “reports PNG military personnel discharged a weapon into the air”.

Boochani said some of the 100 shots he heard had hit accommodation buildings in the compound.

“Last night proved that Australia cannot ensure safety not only for refugees but for its citizens too,” he said on Facebook on Saturday.

Opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann has called for a full investigation at the Australian-funded offshore processing centre, adding that there were conflicting reports about what had happened.

“The culture of secrecy must change,” Neumann said on Saturday. “The Turnbull government must be upfront about what has happened overnight on Manus Island.”

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Amnesty International has also called for a prompt and independent investigation, with senior director for research Anna Neistat joining the calls for the asylum seekers to be moved.
“Friday’s shooting serves as just another example that the Manus island detention facility is not a safe place for asylum seekers,” Dr Neistat said. “More incidences like this are inevitable unless the refugees and asylum seekers are relocated to safety.”

The immigration minister, Peter Dutton, says those refugees who aren’t taken under an agreement with the US will settle in PNG, while non-refugees will be sent back to their home country.

Refugees detained on Manus Island would not be coming to Australia, no matter how hard refugee advocates pushed, Dutton said last week.

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