Government turns the screws on Manus refugees

The government removed equipment from the gym in Oscar compound in Manus Island detention centre.

Refugee Action Coalition Sydney released this statement on June 26.

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Just days after agreeing to pay Manus Island asylum seekers and refugees $70 million in damages for unlawful imprisonment and physical and psychological damage, the government has stepped up its punitive program to forcibly relocate the detainees.

On June 23, all gym equipment was removed from Mike and Oscar compounds. A new notice has announced that Foxtrot Compound will be closed and that asylum seekers should move from Foxtrot to Mike compound.

At the same time PNG Immigration and Australian Border Force are trying to force refugees to move out of the detention centre to East Lorengau Transit Accommodation — a gated complex closer to the Lorengau settlement.

The number of points that people can use in the canteen had already been reduced from 50 to 39. But that night, all canteen items were removed, except for phone cards, pens and cigarettes.

Refugees are fearful of being forced to East Lorengau. On June 22, a Bangladeshi man had his arm so savagely hacked in a machete attack as he was robbed of his phone, money and belongings, he had to be evacuated for emergency treatment in Port Morseby. Refugees in East Lorengau are vulnerable to such attacks and the attacks on refugees are increasing.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Ian Rintoul said: “No one is going to voluntarily move to East Lorengau when they face such danger there. The government has no concern for the welfare of the detainees. The attempt to drive them out of the detention centre is being driven by the fact that the contract for running the detention centre ends in October.”

Border Force says that moving from the detention centre to East Lorengau won’t interfere with any settlement in the US, but as yet there is no indication of how many will ever get to the US or how long people will have to wait. The first interviews in Nauru were held seven months ago, and still no one has gone from Nauru to the US.

On June 24, a generator was removed from Foxtrot compound in what could be the first step to cutting the electricity from the compound to increase the pressure on detainees to move out.

“The government has a duty of care for the people they put on Manus Island. Increasing the punitive measures against them can only make the already intolerable conditions even worse,” said Rintoul.

“Leaving them in danger is not an alternative. On Good Friday, they were shot at inside the detention centre. Outside the detention centre they are attacked and robbed. The government has also robbed them of four years and their future. They must be brought to Australia.”

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