UNHCR express concern over detainees in Manus Island

Asylum seekers sit in the regional processing centre on Manus Island Asylum seekers sit in the regional processing centre on Manus Island UNHCR/Vlad Sokhin

13 September 2017
The closing of a detention centre on the Manus Island in Papua New Guinea leaves no alternatives for hundreds of refugees.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has expressed deep concern about the situation of the hundreds of people held in the regional processing centre for asylum seekers on Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea. In 2016 Australia and Papua New Guinea's authorities announced the intention to close the detention centre in October 2017, despite the absence of valid alternatives for detainees. One year after, the same uncertainty about their future and the fear for their safety outside the centre are still causing strong distress among refugees and asylum seekers.

According to Australian law, anyone intercepted while trying to illegally reach the country by boat is sent to detention centres, where they must wait to be processed. These camps are located in Manus Island and in Nauru Island, both in the Pacific Ocean. The Manus Island centre contains 773 people, including many children and entire families. Some refugees and asylum seekers have spent years in this kind of centre, where living conditions are  precarious. Over the years, detention centres have been criticised by United Nations and several human rights groups. Violence among the detainees is extremely common. In 2016, the Guardian newspaper documented over 2,000 cases of self-harm, assault and sexual abuse in the Nauru centre alone over the previous two years.

The UNHCR, in order to prevent further tragedies and crisis, has renewed its call for Australia to find "humane solutions outside of Papua New Guinea and Nauru for those remaining under offshore processing arrangements". This communication came a few days after the death of Hamed Shamshiripour, a 31-year-old Iranian asylum seeker found dead in a forest on Manus Island, on August 7. According to the police, Shamshiripour has committed suicide. His family has requested an autopsy and an official inquest.


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