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MEDIA RELEASE

Refugee Council calls on Government for transparency on Manus alternatives

1 November 2017

The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has called on the Australian Government for transparency around about their proposed alternative accommodation for the men detained on Manus, following remarks by UNHCR officials and the Manus Island Governor that the accommodation is inappropriate, inadequate, unsuitable and unfinished.

UNHCR officials who visited the proposed refugee accommodation centres at Lorengau two days ago likened it to a building site, with major works still underway and a lack of basic services. UNHCR also reported that the West Lorengau site in particular fails to meet the UNHCR’s basic accommodation standards and that they would not move any people there, leaving a shortfall in accommodating hundreds of people, and countering the comments by Acting Prime Minister of Australia Julie Bishop who has suggested today there is sufficient accommodation available on the island.

RCOA President Phil Glendenning said that this news was deeply troubling. “Our Government has repeatedly stated that alternative accommodation is available for the men that they are attempting to force out of the detention centre. Aside from the fact that this is not a long-term solution, it doesn’t even appear to be appropriate in the short term. Anyone could see this crisis coming and the Australian Government have utterly failed these innocent men”.

“UNHCR officials have reported that the transit centres could not house all of the men who are detained, even if they were to leave the current centre. As such, we are asking Acting PM Julie Bishop to clarify what our government is actually proposing. They cannot expect these men to leave their current accommodation with no safe alternative. Moreover, of course, the men in question urgently need a permanent and safe solution to the disastrous situation that our successive governments have put them in.”

Reports have also emerged that the consultation with local communities has been inadequate. Mr Glendenning added: “According to the UNHCR officials, this lack of consultation has led to growing fear both amongst the community and those detained, increasing the already febrile tensions on the island. Australia is absolutely responsible for the safety and welfare of these men and the Government is going to have a further crisis on its hands if it does not resolve this situation for the people detained and Manus locals alike.”

Manus Island Governor Charlie Benjamin has raised concerns about the accommodation plans, stating, “Asylum Seekers at the HMPNG Tarangau Naval Base camps will not be transferred to the new facility at Ward One of Lorengau unless the Australian Government and PNG Immigration Citizenship Service Authority take time to discuss this arrangement with Manus Provincial Government.” He added that Manus Provincial Government were never initially consulted in this Ward One arrangement, thus this must be done today.

Mr Glendenning reiterated the lack of viable alternatives available for those trapped on Manus and said, “Australia should act urgently to provide safety to those trapped in limbo on Manus, and bring them urgently to Australia as it has been unable to find  viable third country alternatives”

Media enquiries: Laura Stacey 0488 035 535.