Inside Australia’s refugee prison camp in PNG

Bomana prison annex
Australia has spent $22 million on the Bomana prison annex, where asylum seekers are being detained.

The Refugee Action Collective (RAC) Victoria held a forum on November 18 to discuss the situation facing asylum seekers in Bomana Immigration Centre, a detention centre attached to Bomana prison in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The asylum seekers being detained there had previously been locked up in Australia’s offshore detention centre on Manus Island, prior to its closure last year.

Kieran Magee, who chaired the forum, said Australia has spent $22 million on the Bomana prison annex. Nevertheless, the government denies any responsibility for the treatment of detainees, despite the fact they are in PNG because Australia sent them there.

He said the aim was to treat people so badly that they ultimately agree to return to the country from which they fled.

Magee read a statement from some former detainees who were released from Bomana after agreeing to return to their home countries. They said that in Bomana, they only received a tiny amount of food, with some losing more than 10 kilograms in weight.

There was no clean water, air-conditioning or fans, books, television or radio in the detention centre and detainees phones were confiscated.

The detainees also said they were promised $25,000 if they agreed to return to their home countries.

RAC member Margaret Sinclair said detainees in Bomana had been denied refugee status in a "flawed" process.

Sinclair said Australia designed and funded the Bomana Immigration Centre, and continued to provide funds for the guards. While most guards are local, the supervisors are Australian.

She said the campaign needed to fight for these detainees to be released and brought to Australia.

Along with those being held in Bomana, there are refugees currently living in hotels and motels in Port Moresby, after bring brought there from Manus Island.

One of them, Shamindan Kanapathi, spoke to the forum by phone about their situation. He said they are fearful of being pushed out of their existing accommodation and abandoned.