1 Nov 2017

Dutton calls claims over Manus situation misleading

1:47 pm on 1 November 2017

Australia's Immigration Minister has accused refugee advocates of misleading about the situation on Papua new Guinea's Manus Island.

Manus Island dismantled

The camp being dismantled Photo: Supplied

Peter Dutton's comment follows the official closure of Australia's offshore processing centre at Lombrum on Manus where about 600 refugees are refusing to leave.

Fearing for their safety if they go to new locations at Manus' Lorengau town, the men have barricaded themselves inside, despite power, food and water supplies being cut off.

Mr Dutton has urged the refugees holding out in Lombrum to move across to the new locations.

He says all of the men "have been informed for a considerable period of time that there is safe and secure alternate accommodation where health and other services will be maintained".

The minister hit out at advocates, saying they have long claimed the Manus centre was a 'hellhole' but that the moment it was to be closed they demanded it be kept open.

Peter Dutton

Peter Dutton Photo: AFP

Manus locals opposed to refugees living in their community

A former Manus MP said local people did not blame the hundreds of refugees for their plight and were not looking to attack them.

But Ron Knight said local people did not want the refugees living in the community with them, and the refugees didn't want to live in the community either.

As the MP until three months ago, Mr Knight warned for years of social problems arising from having the foreign men mix with locals.

He said there were dozens of ongoing court cases related to incidents involving refugees, ranging from assault to alleged rape of a child.

An image from the 91st day of protest inside the Manus Island detention centre 30/10/17.

An image from the 91st day of protest inside the Manus Island detention centre 30/10/17. Photo: Supplied

"That's primarily from a small group of refugees. The fear is the influx of another six or seven hundred people in Lorengau town is that that will expand and the issue will get much, much worse.

"We're not saying that they're bad people, but these people have been locked up for four or five years and they are stir crazy."

"Simply the issue is that people in the communities in Lorengau do not want them (the refugees) to be residing in the communities next to their women and children," said Mr Knight.

"The East Lorengau Transit Centre is a huge area, all they need to do is beef that up and move them all in there, and that will be secure enough for all of them.

"Spend the money to beef that up to put in more accomodation, more shower blocks, and make that conducive for them to stay in that area," said Mr Knight.

"It's not like they're going to be there and locked up anyway. It's just a place to sleep and eat, and they still have access to town and everything, which the people are really concerned about."

Long-term viability questioned

PNG's Immigration Minister Pettrus Thomas told RNZI that it was Australia's intention to provide the refugees still on Manus with allowances for them to be self-reliant and able to access services.

But Mr Knight questioned the long-term viability of this.

"Are we trying to make them dependent on a welfare state sort of thing? Or are they just going to sit there and live their lives out, just in that one area, all these men?" he said.

"It just doesn't make sense. The only option that we have here is the UNHCR has to pick up its game and say, look, this is our mandate, let us deal with it."

Mr Knight hoped that indications by New Zealand's new prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, that her country could take 150 of the refugees would come to fruition.

Previously, Canberra has obstructed this offer being taken up.

"Why is Australia interferring?" said Mr Knight. "Maybe New Zealand can talk to the PNG government and take it off their hands, because Australia's passing the buck and saying it's PNG's problem now."

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