PNG migration rejects torture claims over Bomana

4:15 pm on 28 January 2020
Bomana Correctional Facility, Papua New Guinea

Bomana Correctional Facility, Papua New Guinea Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Papua New Guinea's Chief Migration Officer has rejected claims that asylum seekers detained in Port Moresby's Bomana prison were tortured.

Robert Bara Kennedy said media reports about alleged torture from earlier this month were erroneous.

A report in The Guardian in mid-January displayed what it called leaked photos revealing torture of a group of foreigners detained at Bomana.

Dozens of asylum seekers had wound up at Bomana after enduring seven years detention on Manus Island where Australia had sent them.

However, Mr Kennedy denies that there has been any torture, saying he is backed up by full daily surveillance records of operations at the facility.

He claims various media reports distorted what is seen in the photos to unfairly portray the immigration facility in a negative light.

Mr Kennedy said no-one had died while in immigration detention in PNG, unlike what occurred in other countries.

"The Bomana Immigration Centre was not built to torture anyone," Mr Kennedy said in a statement.

"The photographs taken shows parts of an exceptionally clean facility run by Immigration with its engaged contractors who jointly have a high standard of operation".

The Immigration and Citizenship Authority, he said, engaged contractors to take duty of care "very seriously to ensure unlawful non-citizens who are detained temporarily awaiting removal are provided with adequate support".

These include the provision of necessary support services including onsite health care, nutritional meals provided three times daily, a separate room for devotion and sports and recreational activities among others.

"Each detainee is provided a decent room and space," Mr Kennedy said, adding that they also had access to water.

Meanwhile, it was confirmed last week that the last 18 asylum seekers held at the Bomana immigration detention centre in Papua New Guinea have been released.

These asylum seekers are understood to be staying at a Port Moresby hotel, with Mr Kennedy saying they were released to participate in the US resettlement process.

According to him, if those non-refugees are successfully integrated into the resettlement programme, they can be resettled and move on with their lives in the US.

"The PNG government does not want the non-refugees to be stuck in limbo but rather go get on with their lives in a third country," Mr Kennedy said.

Mr Kennedy further explained that non-refugees who had agreed to voluntarily return to their home country were released from Bomana but their return depended on how fast their government process and release their travel documents.

Bomana prison, PNG

Bomana prison, PNG Photo: Supplied

However, refugee advocates say it's ludicrous for Papua New Guinea officials to deny refugees were mistreated in the Bomana detention centre.

Refugee Coalition spokesman, Ian Rintoul, said they faced starvation, with one prisoner losing 20kg in five months, and there were no exercise facilities.

"They weren't even allowed to play cards, they weren't allowed writing materials, they could not make phone calls, could not receive phone calls, they are cut off from legal support and friend support, they were denied medication, the list goes on and on and both the Australian government, and the PNG government for overseeing it, still need to face the consequences for having and running such a facility."