Australia and Papua New Guinea on Thursday said they’d agreed to shut a controversial Australian-funded asylum seeker detention centre although the ultimate fate of 800 refugees held in the camp remained uncertain.
They’re ineligible to be resettled in Australia.
Some asylum seekers have spent with numerous reports of abuse and self-harm amongst detainees, including children, in the camps, which were criticised by the United Nations and human rights groups.
Some in PNG are not happy with the prospect of hundreds of asylum seekers being resettled into their nation and there have been reports of asylum seekers being attacked by locals.
“Both Papua New Guinea and Australia are in agreement that the centre is to be closed,” Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said in a statement.
“A series of options are being advanced and implemented. It is important that this process is not rushed out but carried out in a careful manner.” There was no mention of a closing date.
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who met on Thursday with O’Neill to discuss the camp, reiterated Australia’s position that it would not accept the refugees detained in Papua New Guinea.
“It has been the longstanding position of this government to work with PNG to close Manus and support those people as they transition into PNG or return to their country of origin,” Dutton said in a statement.
“Our position, confirmed again today with PNG, is that no one from Manus Island Regional Processing Centre will ever be settled in Australia.”
The statement came after a newspaper published leaked documents detailing more than 2,000 incidents of sexual abuse, assault and attempted self-harm, reported over two years at the Nauru detention centre.
The brutal conditions and reports of systemic child abuse at the camps have drawn wide criticism.
Australia says the policy is required to prevent asylum seekers dying at sea on the dangerous boat journey from Indonesia to Australia. Hundreds of people died trying the trip in the years before the policy was set in place.
Refugee advocates welcomed the move.
“Nearly a thousand men on Manus have already lost three or more years of their lives locked up in limbo for no good reason,” Elaine Pearson, Australia Director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
“They’ve endured dirty, cramped conditions, inadequate medical care and violence. Finally, it is time to let them move on with their lives in safety and dignity.”