Manus locals face job losses as detention centre closes

12:46 pm on 18 October 2017

Local businesses on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island are bracing themselves for losses as Australia's offshore detention centre is closed.

The Manus Island detention centre.

The Manus Island detention centre. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

The Manus centre, where asylum seekers and refugees have been detained for four years, is due to shut at the end of this month.

The centre has been a major source of economic activity for Manus locals.

A former Manus provincial administrator, Wep Kanawi, said up to 4000 Manusians have been employed through activities linked with the centre, and many jobs losses were expected.

"It's going to leave a hole in employment, in internal revenue, and it's going to lead to about 150-plus small to medium enterprises, the little backyard shops, I think those are going to close. And the Manus community is concerned about that."

Mr Kanawi said cash flow was going to dry up as the centre's operations were the heart of economic and commercial acivity on Manus.

"Most of the people who were providing services to the asylum seekers facility will now be out of jobs and out of luck. And so they're looking for any sort of opportunity that will continue to keep them busy and keep their pockets jingling."

He said he was unsure whether provincial authorities could do much about helping local people find jobs when the Manus centre closed.

But he said there had been talk of plans for programmes to stimulate projects to help fill the coming void.

Centre's closure still on track

Meanwhile, PNG's government is working with Australia to shut down the centre.

But PNG is worried it may be left to care for about 800 men still there.

The Manus Island detention centre.

Photo: Behrouz Boochani

Only about 25 of the refugees have so far been resettled in the United States, while 150 detainees have been denied refugee status and are being forced back to the countries they fled.

Most of those men refused to take part in PNG's refugee determination process for fear it would result in them being resettled there.

Refugees who have expressed interest in US resettlement may volunteer to transfer to Nauru ahead of the centre's closure.

Two buildings in Manus Island's Lorengau town have been earmarked to accommodate about 500 refugees, after the centre's October 31 closure.

But a meeting of Manusian locals on Monday objected to the location of one of the buildings.

Loop PNG reported the locals were threatenting to protest unless the governor of Manus province and immigration officials responded to their concerns.

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