The chair of the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce (ACRT) has called for the recognition that offshore detention has failed, even according to its original charter, and called for detainees to be immediately settled in Australia.
A stand-off continues at the site of the Manus Island facility where the detained men are refusing to be moved out of the centre despite water, power and food being cut off.
“The outcome of offshore detention for a second time in Australia’s history has created a serious breach of human rights and a devastating fear for those who are experiencing it,” ACRT chair the Very Rev’d Dr. Peter Catt said.
“There are times when we have to face that harm has been done and that restitution is necessary.”
The Taskforce noted that the original purpose of offshore detention in 2012 was for it to be only a temporary measure until permanent safe resettlement could be arranged in the region.
Achieving safety is the core purpose of the Refugee Convention, the taskforce said, and clearly the situation on Manus Island is clearly not safe for the refugees living there.
However, as the deal to resettle refugees in the US shows, there is no reason similar arrangements cannot be made for the rest of those detained in Australia without weakening the original deterrent intent of offshore detention.
“There is a strong system in place to prevent boats coming to Australia, so achieving safe re-settlement for those in Nauru and the Manus Island reception centre is an imperative,” Dr Catt said.
The Uniting Church is a member of the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce and has long called for the processing of all refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.
As the stand-off enters its second day, refugees on Manus Island have been digging into the ground overnight in an effort to find water.
The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, has called on the Australian government to stop the “humanitarian emergency” unfolding on the island.
The agency has two staff members monitoring the situation on the ground and said there is insufficient alternative accommodation for the refugees outside the detention centre.
The East Lorengau Regional Transit Centre has limited capacity and there is no security fence at West Lorengau Haus and Hillside Haus in Lorengau.
Image: Ezatullah Kakar/Twitter