Protest, self harm escalates on Manus Island

Issue 

Refugee Action Coalition released this statement on January 16.

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Manus Island detention centre is engulfed in the largest protests in a year, as more asylum seekers join the hunger strike.

Sudanese asylum seekers in Mike Compound joined the hunger strike protest late on January 15. There are now around 300 on hunger strike in Mike Compound alone, and around 170 in Foxtrot.

Between 30 and 40 people have now stitched their lips together. Four Pakistani asylum seekers were taken to the medical centre after swallowing washing powder. Last night another two Iranian asylum seekers swallowed razor blades.

The Egyptian man who swallowed razor blades on Wednesday was medivacced to Port Moresby hospital on January 15.

There have been some attempts by guards to force people out of the compound shelter back into their rooms in an attempt to break the solidarity of the protest – but they have been unsuccessful.

“Everybody worries about the safety here,” one asylum seeker in Mike Compound told the Refugee Action Coalition, “No one forgets that night [that Reza Barati was killed].”

The protests have come to a head as the Immigration Department threatened to forcibly move 50 people determined to be refugees to insecure accommodation at the Lorengau settlement on Manus.

The refugees are not allowed to work and would live for up to a year on Manus before being relocated elsewhere in PNG.

“The Immigration Department tried to hide the fact that there were protests on Manus Island. But the department can’t hide the fact that there is a gaping hole at the end of its offshore processing policies. PNG is not safe and the PNG government has no political will to allow secure resettlement in PNG,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The government should call off the threat to forcibly move refugees on 22 January. All the asylum seekers and refugees should be brought to Australia where their processing and resettlement can be guaranteed.”

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