Manus Island: 'It makes no sense for them to stay', says Bishop

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Julie Bishop
Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop meets with the Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, U.S. September 22, 2017. Reuters/Stephanie Keith

Amid ongoing stand-off between immigration officials and men who refuse to leave Manus Island detention centre, Julie Bishop slammed claims they could not leave due to safety concerns. She reportedly said refugees will not be resettled in Australia.

The acting prime minister said that even those who were not genuine refugees had been provided with alternate accommodation. “It makes no sense for them to stay where they are and they will not be resettled in Australia,” she told ABC radio, adding they have several options available to them.

She added that the Papua New Guinea government is responsible for its own law, order and security. Refugees and asylum seekers are expected to be transferred into purpose-built accommodation in the nearby town of Lorenga.

However, one of the sites is not yet ready, a UNHCR representative on Manus Island said. The representative told ABC that West Lorengau Haus still had machinery on the site and that there were no fences in place as yet. The East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre could only house 400 men.

On Tuesday, Greens senator Nick McKim spoke with centre occupants, saying believe that the detention centre remains the least unsafe place for them. McKim added seeing firsthand how 600 people suffer, and that anybody who would cause harm “easily qualifies” as a monster.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was under attack over the closure of the Manus Island detention centre. McKim supposedly said he was ready to stake his political credibility against Dutton’s.

On Wednesday, McKim tweeted that PNG officials had told him there were no plans to remove detainees. “We are not going to move the refugees by force, it’s going to be a voluntary movement by refugees and non-refugees out of Manus Regional Processing Center,” Immigration Minister Petrus Thomas told the Post-Courier newspaper on Tuesday.

Senator Di Natale was concerned about a possible outbreak of disease if the situation continued. Meanwhile, Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the asylum seekers were storing water in garbage bins. Human Rights Watch released a report last week saying the Manus asylum seekers faced “unchecked violence” and that they “have been getting stabbed, beaten and robbed.”

The Lombrum centre closed after the PNG Supreme Court ruled last year that Australia’s detention of refugees and asylum seekers there was illegal. Since the Manus Island reopened in 2012, six detainees have died, including one who was killed.