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PNG could soon free these men

By Nikala Sim

The fate of 421 refugees and asylum-seekers will be determined in the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea tomorrow week (Wednesday 22/11).

The court will address an appeal by lawyer Ben Lomai, on behalf of Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani, after an initial application was rejected by Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia last Tuesday.

That application sought a return of basic amenities to the recently-closed Manus Regional Processing Centre (MRPC) and the cessation of a push to remove men from the centre.

October 31 saw the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments withdraw all support for the resident refugees and asylum-seekers including food, water, security, medical care, electricity and sanitation.

Sir Injia denied the return of services and upheld the relocation of the men to alternative facilities on Manus Island.

The appeal expands upon the initial application for return of services to, and right-to-remain at, the closed processing centre.

“Despite the refusal of injunctive orders we are instructed that under no circumstances the applicant and other asylum seekers will [sic] vacate the Centre voluntarily, at whatever costs,” Dr Lomai said.

“The Chief Justice failed to have regard for outbreaks of propaganda-fuelled violence by local youths towards asylum-seekers and refugees, in the island’s main town of Lorengau.”

One machete attack saw a man evacuated to Port Moresby for surgery after his arm was slashed to the bone by a machete.

Another saw an asylum-seeker emergency air-lifted to Australia with serious head injuries.

There was also the 2014 attack upon the centre which saw Iranian man Reza Barati murdered, and the more recent Good Friday incident this year when armed drunken Papua New Guinean navy personnel indiscriminately shot over 100 bullets into the centre and tried to ram a vehicle through the front gate.

The planned take-over of the centre by the Papua New Guinean navy raised the real prospect of violence, conflict and loss of life, Dr Lomai said.

“The safety of both the refugees and government workers plus staff of leading agencies is not to be taken for granted given the tension that is now being expressed by the locals on Manus Island.”

Deployment of the notorious para-military mobile squad raised this possibility even further, he said.

“The current situation at the MRPC and on Manus Island is now totally out of control and fears of a looming “blood bath” are mounting by the day.”

In his judgement last week, Chief Justice Sir Injia relied upon photographic evidence that two newly-built facilities on the island were complete, and of a standard, for the relocation of the 421 men.

The application tomorrow will request a physical inspection of those facilities and the existing East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre and the ceased MRPC which is the focus of global concern.

Amnesty International, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Human Rights Council and Australian Human Rights Commission, amongst others, have all raised concern about a humanitarian emergency at the closed Manus facility.

On the back of an offer of resettlement from New Zealand, the appeal also requests that Mr Boochani be provided with appropriate documents to travel to a third country of his choice within one week.

If the court action is successful refugees and asylum-seekers will be able to seek resettlement outside of Papua New Guinea, excluding Australia which refuses to allow them to enter.

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  1. Terry2

    Nikala, You raise some good points but reopening the MRPC is not a viable option as the Australian government has removed the workforce, cut off the power and water [ and presumably removed the power generators] and to reinstate all of this would be an unfair and unreasonable burden on the PNG government as this is not a PNG problem : Australia has clear and irrefutable responsibility for these men under international law but Dutton clearly won’t reopen the MRPC. Apart from which, it’s not a solution.

    One aspect that we should not overlook is that the Manus asylum seekers have won an undefended action in the Victorian Supreme Court which is delivering $70 million in damages to approximately 2000 of the Manus detainees : around $35,000 each.

    If these men can be given travel documents [they are stateless at the present time] they could as the author notes, leave PNG and go wherever in the world the want to go and where they will be accepted [other than Australia]. This is their only hope of regaining their their long-lost liberty.

    It’s in the hands of the PNG Supreme Court to deliver the justice and humanity that Australia is unable to.

  2. diannaart

    I don’t, in the least, blame the refugees and asylum seekers wanting to remain where they are – both Australian and PNG ‘authorities’ have done SFA to give them any hope or belief the new facilities are safe or even any better than where they are incarcerated.

    Have there been ANY photos of the “new housing”? Verification of safety for the men? Treating them like human beings?

  3. diannaart

    @ Terry2

    I am unsure as to exactly how much recompense the refugees will each receive given the cost of legal fees and other assorted leech-like payments.

  4. Terry2


    The settlement was $70 million plus costs . This from the SMH of 6 September :

    The Turnbull government agreed on a provisional settlement in June – of $70 million, plus an estimated $20 million in costs – which was formally approved by Justice Macaulay on Wednesday.

    So, all of the $70 million should go to the claimants and it needs to be placed in trust on their behalf in $AUS rather than PNGKina which is not a stable currency.

    Reference :

  5. diannaart

    Thanks, Terry2

    $35,000 is not much either in Australia, New Zealand or the USA. Wishing for both resettlement of Australia’s detainees and the aid needed to help them settle into new lives. There will be some very damaged people who need care.

  6. Terry2


    Agreed !

  7. roma guerin

    I have seen photos of the accommodation, so-called. Containers. On blocks. No services connected. The ground is clay, wet, and grooved with truck tyre tracks. No trees or vegetation of any kind.

  8. paul walter

    Pop ’em on a couple of jets and bring them here. It won’t bust the bank.

  9. Kyran

    The ASRC is reporting that the Prime Minister’s Office is ‘running a register’ for people who would like to express their concern about what is happening on Manus Island at the moment.
    The phone number is provided as (02) 6277 7700 and the office hours are stated as 8.30 am to 5.30 pm.

    There are no ‘official’ announcements that I can find.
    For what it’s worth, on the 3rd November, there was this article;

    The article cites Mr Amir Taghinia, who was in Port Moresby for medical treatment on the 3rd November. He is now in Canada, advocating for decency.

    The RNZ article cites Mr Behrouz Boochani, who said the men’s health was already deteriorating on the 3rd November. As Ms Sim notes, he is the lead applicant in the PNG appeal.

    The RNZ article also cites Mr Walid Zazai, noting on the 3rd November that days without food had already taken a toll.
    “Australia why are you starving us? We would happy if they shoot us because the suffering would end soon if they shoot us.”

    On the 11th November, Mr Zazai posted on his Face book page;

    “My dear friends,
    Im so sorry, i am going off from Facebook.
    I don’t feel well. Don’t have much strength. …. “

    Thank you Ms Sim and commenters. Given Ms Kenealy’s stated position on asylum seekers, it may be appropriate to give Mr Shorten a call as well. Take care

  10. Lora Whitford

    Behrouz Boochani says freedom is the prime reason for continued refusal to leave Manus.
    But they HAVE been given freedom, the right to settle in PNG.
    They say they cannot accept because they fear PNG is not safe enough.
    However they won’t be persecuted in PNG because of race or religion or political views. They may may be disliked because of their
    culturally inappropriate behaviour, or because of their material advantages, but that is not persecution.
    We have to assume the real reason they don’t want to take up the offer of PNG residency is because it doesn’t offer the material advantages of Australia. There are millions in refugee camps living in much worse conditions than Lorengau who would be very grateful to be housed there. It is unfair of the UN to demand a high standard of conditions at Lorengau but not apply that to their own camps.

  11. Kyran

    What a woefully ignorant response, Ms Whitford.
    “However they won’t be persecuted in PNG because of race or religion or political views.”
    That is a lie, well documented by the UNHCR, the HRC and numerous other internationally recognized groups and NGO’s. These refugees have already been murdered, assaulted, driven to suicide and self harm, and denied the most basic of services. Their very existence has been sufficient cause for their persecution.
    As for ‘material advantage of Australia’, have you not read what Dutton/Pezzullo are doing to those in Australia?
    In this day and age, there is no excuse for your ignorance. If you are going to make comment, at least pretend you have read something, anything, before hitting the keyboard.

  12. Ali Dee

    Hear Hear Kyran

  13. Terry2

    Peter Dutton has come out with a thinly veiled threat to Papua New Guinea (and New Zealand). Whilst conceding that it is a decision for the two sovereign states that Australia could not block.

    But he warned any arrangement for NZ to take refugees from Manus would be against Australia’s wishes and would run the risk of souring both countries’ diplomatic relationships with Australia – making it unlikely without Canberra’s blessing.

    “They would have to think about other equities within the respective relationships – they would have to think about their relationship with Australia.”

    That is fairly blunt and PNG as a recipient country of Australian aid would be very careful about not upsetting that arrangement and, as they have found out, Duton holds grudges and takes no prisoners.

  14. diannaart


    There must be a special place where LNP ministers are dredged up from the foetid depths of murky despair.

    Howard; was awful, Abbott; repugnant, Turnbull; beyond useless, but Dutton; he really was assembled with a crawling miasma of nastiness that lurks in the worst nightmares of sentient beings.

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