Refugees still held offshore undermine Albanese’s claims of ‘respect and equality’ with PNG and need medical evacuation now
12 January 2023
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s claim of a relationship built on respect and equality with the people of Papua New Guinea, during his visit to Port Moresby today, does not reflect reality while refugees remain held offshore.
There are still over 160 refugees held in Papua New Guinea and Nauru after seeking asylum in Australia nearly a decade ago, despite an urgent need for medical evacuation and permanent resettlement.
Since 2012, over 4,000 people who came to Australia for protection have been subjected to detention centres in PNG and Nauru and are still suffering because of this arbitrary and harmful policy. There are currently over 160 refugees in PNG and Nauru still waiting to rebuild their lives and recover from the trauma the Government is subjecting them to.
The choice of the Albanese Government, and governments before it, to hide its cruel and immoral treatment of refugees by forcibly moving people to PNG shows a deep lack of respect towards the country and a disregard for the rights of people seeking asylum.
Albanese’s visit to PNG follows the former Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews’ October 2021 announcement that the Morrison Government ended the agreement with PNG to process refugees held there.
This announcement was an attempt to abandon refugees held in PNG and an effort to abdicate responsibility. The Albanese Government has continued the Morrison Government’s cruel policy, undermining any claims that the PNG Government has been treated as equals.
As the Australian Human Rights Commission noted Australia has obligations under the Refugee Convention to the people who sought asylum in Australia, regardless of whether people are moved to a third country for their claims to be processed.
The Albanese Government must immediately evacuate all refugees held offshore to Australia for urgent medical treatment as well as provide clear, quick and humane pathways to permanent resettlement for all.
Thanush Selvarasa, human rights activist and refugee detained on Manus Island, PNG, released on 28 Jan 2021 said: “Through my experience, I know offshore processing is very bad, we were destroyed mentally and physically. We came seeking dreams and hope and this was destroyed slowly day by day. We lost 13 innocent lives on that island.
My friends who are left in PNG need to be immediately evacuated to Australia under Medevac.
We came to Australia 10 years ago and still, we are in limbo, it is important we need a solution for permanency, we are human beings. It does not matter what visa we have or how we came here we are human beings. We need to see our family, I need to see my father and mother, and we need permanency for this, we cannot accept any more pain in our life.”
Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said: “As long as people who sought safety and protection on our shores remain trapped on PNG, we cannot talk about respect and equality. It’s a disgrace that we abandoned our moral obligation to people seeking asylum and outsourced our responsibility to Pacific Islands.
The flawed policy of offshore processing, resulting in 14 deaths, compensation payouts, mental and physical health deterioration and family separation is our failure. It’s time we took responsibility for our inhumane actions and put an end to the harm and suffering. All people remaining trapped on Nauru and PNG must be urgently transferred to Australia while awaiting permanent resettlement.”
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