On Tuesday, the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Supreme Court ruled that the detention of 850 men on Manus Island breaches the detainees’ right to personal liberty under the PNG constitution.
Ms Poulos urged the Australian government to end its “brutal and immoral” policy of offshore detention.
“Barely a week goes by without new evidence of the damage we are doing to people,” Ms Poulos said.
“The tragic and unnecessary death of Hamid Khazaei, highlighted on ABC TV’s Four Corners program this week; desperate detainees on Nauru attempting suicide; riots, physical and sexual assaults – report after report reinforces the devastating effect of these policies on people’s lives.”
The five judges of the Supreme Court said the men are currently detained on Manus Island against their will. They ordered the Australian and PNG governments to immediately “cease and prevent the continued unconstitutional and illegal detention” of asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island.
On Wednesday, PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill confirmed that the Manus Island detention centre will be closed.
Immigration minister Peter Dutton said none of the refugees on Manus Island will be resettled in Australia, a stance supported by his Labor counterpart, Richard Marles.
Ms Poulos said the Australian government needs to respect PNG law and close the camps.
“The latest news from PNG confirms that this policy is not only unjust and inhumane, but unsustainable,” Ms Poulos said.
“The centres, on both Manus and Nauru, must be closed. People must be brought here to Australia to have their protection claims processed while they live in the community.”
The Uniting Church has been calling for the closure of the Manus Island and Nauru detention facilities since their establishment in 2001.
The Assembly last year adopted a new policy on asylum seekers and refugees, Shelter from the Storm, which outlines an alternative approach to offshore detention.
“Australia has to work more constructively with countries in our region to develop a genuine multilateral protection solution,” Ms Poulos said.
“We must invest more resources in our work with the UNHCR and regional partners like Indonesia, so that we can achieve a shared regional solution that protects asylum seekers and refugees.
“The PNG Supreme Court decision is a significant opportunity for Australia to draw a line under our national shame and move towards a more compassionate framework to deal with the global issue of the movement of people.”