Refugees to be left in PNG when Manus closes

The Manus Island detention centre
Contributed from New South Wales

The Manus Island detention centre got such a bad name that it must be closed and it seems it will be by the end of the year.

But Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says that the refugees who had been imprisoned in this concentration camp, are to remain in Papua New Guinea, unless they can go to the United States.

Dutton told Sky News that the government has been clear that “those people” will not be allowed into Australia. In a strange leap of logic, he added, ‘ ‘…we’re just not going to allow the people smugglers to be out there again – saying “look if you wait you’ll eventually get to Australia”.’

Although there has been talk with United States officials about the Manus closure, according to the immigration department, there are no negotiations with any other countries about the resettlement of refugees or any other related issue. If this is true, the exercise may prove to be no more than an attempt to hide ongoing detention from public scrutiny.

Alternatively, pressure is being put on many refugees to settle in Papua New Guinea. Without support, the handful that have are mostly struggling with extreme poverty and violence. They do not want to settle in these conditions. Nor should they be forced to.

Australia does have the capacity to absorb more than are been taken in. There is no argument that scrutiny about who is allowed in is necessary. At the same time, this should be done with respect, proper treatment and refugees should never be rejected without good reason.

Hiding behind a claimed need to discourage people smugglers misses the point. Refugees exist because they are desperate to escape an intolerable situation. As conflict in the world rises, so will the number of refugees. They are not tourists trying to jump ship.

A nation will ultimately be judged by how it treats the vulnerable. How will Australia be remembered by history?




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