AUSTRALIA’S offshore detention center for refugees on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea is slated to be closed amid allegations of abuse on asylum seekers and wide criticism against its immigration policies.
The announcement of the closure came after the government reached a mutual agreement with Papua New Guinea, but both governments offered no details on when it will happen or what the fate of the 850 men being held there will be.
Australia’s policy of sending migrants who try to reach its shores by boat to island detention centers has long drawn criticism from human rights groups. In April, Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruled that the Australian-run detention center on Manus Island was unconstitutional.
Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill issued a statement Wednesday saying he met with Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and that the two countries agreed the center will be closed.
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O’Neill said he was satisfied that officials from both countries were making progress toward that end.
“A series of options are being advanced and implemented.”It is important that this process is not rushed but carried out in a careful manner,” O’Neill said.
“This must take into account the interests of the people of Papua New Guinea and the wellbeing of asylum seekers and refugees.”
The announcement was made a few days after photographs showing two bloodied refugees in Papua New Guinea emerged and about a week after the controversial Nauru Files leak.
Last week, The Guardian released a large cache of over 2,000 documents showing asylum seekers in a similar center in Nauru, describing their “atrocious” living conditions, in an illustration of cruelty and routine dysfunction as a norm. In the complaints, the refugees claimed horrific accounts of torture, sexual abuse, and other human rights violations.
The ABC quoted Dutton as saying that all of the refugees currently in Papua New Guinea would not resettled in Australia.
Dutton said the governments would look into closing the center “as quickly as possible” although no timeline was set on the matter.
“It’s important to work through these issues in a methodical way,” he said. “We’re talking to third countries at the moment, to look at settlement options.”
Additional reporting from the Associated Press