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The cruelty at Manus Island

  • 09 August 2017


As I write, staff of the Australian immigration authority and their security contractors are working hard to close the detention centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, where Australia has held over 900 refugees for the last four years.

The consequences of their actions for the refugees held at the Manus centre are already severe. Detained refugee Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish journalist and filmmaker has reported on this over the past week for The Saturday Paper and in regular posts on Facebook and Twitter.

The closure of the Manus Island camp might be worth a certain grim approval if the rest of the message of refugees and their supporters had been heeded. We have been demanding that the government close both camps, and also that the people interned there are brought to Australia and able to live freely in the community. #CloseTheCamps was always followed by #BringThemHere and #LetThemStay.

Such demands were somewhat mollified earlier this year by the promise that refugees would be able to settle in the United States, following negotiations made with the Obama administration that were eventually also consented to by the current administration. We know now that this was fake news.

So not only have those detained on Manus Island been lied to and denied settlement in the United States; the Australian Government immigration authority and its contractors are being as brutal in closing the camp as they have been in running it.

They are attempting to force the refugees out of the centre, cutting off water and power and threatening arrest if refugees refuse. But, the refugees are refusing. As has already become abundantly clear, life outside the centre means exposure to even more danger. Further attacks on refugees from Manus Island locals, who live under the strain of high levels of poverty and unemployment and anti-refugee propaganda, can only be expected to continue.

As Boochani reported last week: 'The pressure on the refugees is increasing day by day. Today they cut the water in Foxtrot, the largest compound in Manus detention centre, and they are planning to cut the power soon … I am asking all of those advocates who are fighting for change to Australia's illegal and dangerous refugee policies to be with the refugees in this historical period.'

The Australian-run offshore immigration detention on Manus Island may be soon at an end, but the Australian Government seems hell-bent on ensuring those detained continue to face abuse. And this abuse continues to be