This article comes from the Refugee Action Coalition (Sydney) 21 February 2018.
In the early hours of Tuesday, 20 February, police arrested up to 13 refugees who had been living Aku Lodge.
They were being forcibly returned to Manus Island, but for unconfirmed reasons there was a problem with the plane. The refugees are now being held at another lodge in Port Moresby surrounded by up to 50 PNG police. Their mobile phones have been confiscated.
It is expected that the refugees will be moved to Manus Island once alternative transport can be arranged.
The refugees had been living at Aku for up to two years, after being moved from Manus Island, supposedly to be resettled in Port Moresby or further afield in PNG.
The refugees have simply subsisted in Aku since being relocated there – no jobs; no welfare program; no trauma counselling – not even the basic elements of what might comprise anything resembling a resettlement program. Essentially they became prisoners in the lodge, at risk of being robbed and assaulted if they ventured outside.
But their arrest and forced relocation back to Manus provides official confirmation that, contrary to the claims made by Minister Dutton, there are no PNG resettlement arrangements.
In 2016, there was an attempt to resettle six refugees in Lae. None are still living on Lae. Faced with the deprived circumstances in Lae – in terms of jobs, health and safety – three of the refugees actually made their way back to Manus Island and attempted to move back into the detention centre.
“This forced relocation of refugees to Manus from Port Moresby puts the lie to the Minister’s suggestion that refugees can be resettled in PNG,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “The Minister can’t hide behind that lie any longer.
“There is no resettlement in PNG, and the shonky US deal will not provide resettlement places for all the refugees on Manus and Nauru. There is an urgent need for all the asylum seekers and refugees to be brought to Australia, where they can get the safety and protection they need.”