Manus Regional Processing Centre

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Department of Immigration photograph of the Manus Regional Processing Centre in 2012
First arrivals at Manus Island Airport

The Manus Regional Processing Centre was one of a number of offshore Australian immigration detention facilities.[1] The Centre was operated by Broadspectrum (formerly known as Transfield Services) on behalf of the Government of Australia, until Ferrovial bought out the company and its contract in April 2016.[2] The Centre was located on the PNG Navy Base Lombrum (previously a Royal Australian Navy base called HMAS Tarangau) on Los Negros Island in Manus Province, Papua New Guinea. It was formally closed on 31 October 2017, however hundreds of detainees refused to leave. 12 Australians of the Year protested the government's handling of the problem.[3] The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has cited the centre as an "indictment of a policy meant to avoid Australia's international obligations."[4] On 23 November 2017, all remaining men at the centre were removed, hundreds by force, to new accommodation.

History[edit]

The Pacific Solution[edit]

The centre was originally established on 21 October 2001, as one of two Offshore Processing Centres (OPC). The other OPC was the Nauru detention centre. The OPC facilities were part of what became known as the "Pacific Solution", a policy of the Howard Government in Australia, which was implemented in the wake of the Tampa affair. The policy involved the excision of Australian external territories (Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier Islands and Cocos (Keeling) Island) and other islands in the Pacific Ocean—from the Australian migration zone. Asylum-seekers arriving by boat without visas in these excised territories to seek asylum in Australia) were transferred to the OPC facilities where they would stay while their claims for asylum were processed. The centres were managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).[5]

Disuse[edit]

The Manus Regional Processing Centre fell into disuse in preference to the Nauru centre. In July 2003, the immigration department announced that the centre would be wound down and the remaining detainees would be granted asylum and resettled in Australia, however the centre would continue to be maintained in case the need for reactivation arose.

Aladdin Sisalem, a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian, fled Kuwait in 2000 and in December 2002 arrived at an island in the Torres Strait where he claimed asylum, and was sent to the Manus centre. For ten months, Sisalem was the sole detainee at the centre, with a small staff of guards and cleaners for company. In May 2004, he was resettled in Melbourne.[5]

2008 closure[edit]

With the election of the Rudd Government (Labor) in 2007, the Manus Regional Processing Centre was formally closed in early 2008,[citation needed] fulfilling an election promise by Rudd to end the offshore processing system.[citation needed]

Regional Resettlement Arrangement[edit]

In 2012, a significant rise in the number of irregular maritime arrivals saw the "asylum issue" become a political liability for the government. The Gillard Government commissioned Angus Houston, former Chief of the Defence Force, to lead an expert panel to conduct a review of asylum arrangements. Among the 22 recommendations made in the Houston report was one to re-open the OPC facilities on Nauru and at the Manus Regional Processing Centre.

2012 re-opening[edit]

In November 2012, the Manus Regional Processing Centre was re-opened by the Labor government, due to the large volume of irregular maritime arrivals. Then Immigration Minister Chris Bowen stated "At this stage, family groups are best accommodated on Manus Island, as opposed to Nauru." The British services company G4S was responsible for its operation.[6] In March 2014, the contract with G4S expired, and the Australian government entered into a 20-month contract worth AUD $1.22 billion with Broadspectrum (which operates the facility in Nauru) for facilities management including building maintenance and catering,[7] with security provided by Wilson Security.[8]

Death of Hamid Kehazaei[edit]

On 24 August 2014, 24-year-old Iranian asylum seeker Hamid Kehazaei sought medical treatment at the detention centre's clinic for an infected wound. Kehazaei's condition worsened and he could not be treated on the island. Medical staff sought his immediate evacuation, but permission was not granted until 26 August. Kehazaei was declared brain dead in a Brisbane hospital on 2 September 2016. With his family's permission, his life-support was switched off on 5 September 2016.[9] An inquest into Kehazaei's death began in the Coroner's Court in Brisbane on 28 November 2016.[10] The article "The day my friend Hamid Kehazaei died",[11] written by Behrouz Boochani, tells the story of Kehazaei's death.

Declared illegal[edit]

On 26 April 2016, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea found that the Centre breached the PNG constitution's right to personal liberty, and was thus illegal.[12] It said:

Late on 27 April 2016, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill announced that the processing centre would be closed, saying his government "will immediately ask the Australian Government to make alternative arrangements for the asylum seekers" and that "we did not anticipate the asylum seekers to be kept as long as they have been at the Manus Centre." He said that Papua New Guinea was proud to play an important role in stopping the loss of life due to people smuggling. O'Neill said negotiations with Australia would focus on the timeframe for the closure and for the settlement of legitimate refugees interested in staying in Papua New Guinea.[14]

United States resettlement deal[edit]

In November 2016 it was announced that a deal had been made with the United States to resettle people in detention on Manus (and Nauru) Islands.[15]

Alleged Defence Force attack[edit]

On 14 April 2017, asylum seekers and centre staff alleged they had been shot at by locals. Ray Numa, Chief of Staff of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, confirmed that staff at Lombrum Naval Base were investigating the involvement of PNG defence personnel in the attacks, stressing that misuse of weapons was a serious breach of military discipline, and that the police would prosecute any members breaching civil laws.[16]

Class action suit[edit]

A class action suit on behalf of persons detained on Manus Island from 21 November 2012 until 19 December 2014, and 21 November 2012 until 12 May 2016 was brought by lead plaintiff Majid Karami Kamasaee against the Commonwealth of Australia, G4S Australia and Broadspectrum.[17] The claim was in negligence and false imprisonment. Kamasaee was represented by law firm Slater and Gordon.[18]

Slater and Gordon reached a settlement with the Commonwealth of Australia, G4S Australia and Broadspectrum on 14 June 2017 for $70 million plus costs (estimated at $20 million), with no admission of liability.[19] Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the settlement was not an admission of liability and the Commonwealth strongly refuted and denied the claims brought in the class action.[20]

2017 closure[edit]

The Centre was formally closed on 31 October 2017.[21] However, nearly 600 men refused to leave the centre claiming "to fear for their safety", according to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. A notice posted during the night by PNG Immigration authorities said "The Manus RPC will close at 5 pm today" (31 October), and that all power, water and food supply would cease.[22] The PNG military took control of the area.[23] Alternative accommodation has been provided at the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre and West Lorengau Haus.[24]

On 22 November 2017, Papua New Guinea Police moved in to try to get the more than 350 men remaining in the centre to leave.[25] By 23 November 2017, all remaining men had been removed, more than 300 by force, to new accommodation.[26]

2014 riots[edit]

On 17 February 2014, a series of protests by detainees at the centre escalated into a serious disturbance, during which and subsequent events resulted in the death of one detainee: 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati was murdered.[27] Two detention centre workers, Joshua Kaluvia and Louie Efi, were sentenced for Berati's murder in April 2016.[28]

Cornall Review[edit]

Robert Cornall was appointed in February 2014 to conduct 'a review into the circumstances surrounding the Manus centre disturbances' leading up to Berati's death[29] with the primary focus on management of security at the centre.[30][31][32][33] Cornall presented his review to the Immigration Department on 23 May 2014.[32]

Cornall previously conducted an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse at the Manus Regional Processing Centre.[34] He presented this report to the Department in late September 2013.[32][35]

Numbers[edit]

Chart of the centre's population at the end of each month since the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders to May 2017.

As of 31 October 2017, there were 690 asylum seekers held in the processing centre.[36] The highest population was 1,353 in January 2014.[37] On 1 March 2017, it was reported that some were choosing to return to their countries of origin in response to offers of up to A$25,000 from the Australian government to leave voluntarily.[38] The centre was closed formally on 31 October 2017, but hundreds of detainees refused to leave. On 23 November 2017, all remaining men at the centre were moved to new accommodation.[26]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Manus Regional Processing Centre". Australian Border Force. Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  2. ^ Davidson, Helen (29 October 2017). "Manus Island: dark chapter of Australian immigration poised to close". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 October 2017. 
  3. ^ Richard Flanagan 'Australia built a hell for refugees on Manus. The shame will outlive us all,' The Guardian 24 November 2017
  4. ^ Helen Davidson, 'Manus humanitarian crisis a 'damning indictment' of Australia's refugee policy: UNHCR.' The Guardian 21 November 2017.
  5. ^ a b Jackson, Andra (1 June 2004). "Aladdin Sisalem released from Manus Island". The Age. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  6. ^ Cullen, Simon (21 November 2012). "First asylum seekers arrive on Manus Island". ABC News. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  7. ^ Smyth, Jamie (24 February 2014). "G4S to hand over Australia asylum centre contract to Transfield". Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  8. ^ Farrell, Paul (24 February 2014). "Manus Island and Nauru centres to be run by Transfield in $1.2bn deal". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  9. ^ Doherty, Ben (10 December 2016). "Hamid Kehazaei's last days – a timeline". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  10. ^ Doherty, Ben (28 November 2016). "Hamid Kehazaei inquest: asylum seeker needed urgent transfer, medical staff agreed". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  11. ^ Boochani, Behrooz (27 November 2016). "The day my friend Hamid Kehazaei died". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  12. ^ a b Tlozek, Eric; Anderson, Stephanie (political reporter) (26 April 2016). "PNG finds detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island illegal". Australia: ABC News. Retrieved 26 April 2016. 
  13. ^ Namah v Pato [2016] PGSC 13; SC1497 (26 April 2016)
  14. ^ Anderson, Stephanie (27 April 2016). "Manus Island detention centre to be shut, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill says". Australia: ABC News. Retrieved 27 April 2016. 
  15. ^ Anderson, Stephanie; Keany, Francis (13 November 2016). "PM unveils 'one-off' refugee resettlement deal with US". ABC News. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  16. ^ "PNG authorities investigate allegations soldiers shot at Manus Island detainees". ABC News. 18 April 2017. Retrieved 19 April 2017. 
  17. ^ "Manus Island Detention Centre class action" Supreme Court of Victoria
  18. ^ Younger, Emma; Florance, Loretta. (14 June 2017) 'Commonwealth agrees to pay Manus Island detainees $70m in class action settlement" ABC News, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  19. ^ Neil, Megan. "Manus class action settled for $70 million" News.com.au, 14 June 2017
  20. ^ "Manus detainees to receive $70 million compensation" Sky News, 14 June 2017
  21. ^ Manus refugees given ultimatum as Turnbull government comes under pressure
  22. ^ Fox, Liam (31 October 2017). "Manus Island detention centre to permanently close today, 600 men refusing to leave". ABC News. Retrieved 1 November 2017. 
  23. ^ Riordan, Primrose; Brown, Greg. "Manus Island detention centre closure sets off 'looting' and protests". The Australian. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 1 November 2017. 
  24. ^ Fox, Liam; Yaxley, Louise (1 November 2017). "PNG army prepares to enter Manus Island centre, 600 men still inside". ABC News. Retrieved 1 November 2017. 
  25. ^ "PNG police move in to Manus Island detention centre". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 23 November 2017. Retrieved 30 November 2017. 
  26. ^ a b Baxendale, Rachel. "Manus Island: last of asylum seekers removed from detention centre". www.theaustralian.com.au. News Limited. Retrieved 30 November 2017. 
  27. ^ "Manus Island riot: interactive timeline". The Guardian. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  28. ^ "Two men jailed for murdering asylum seeker Reza Barati in Manus Island". ABC. 19 April 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  29. ^ Farrell, Paul (21 February 2014). "Manus Island inquiry will be led by Robert Cornall, says Scott Morrison". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. 
  30. ^ "Terms of Reference Review into the events of 16–18 February 2014 at the Manus Regional Processing Centre". Canberra: Department of Immigration and Border Protection. 27 February 2014. Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. 
  31. ^ Farrell, Paul (27 February 2014). "Consultant investigating Manus Island unrest insists he is independent". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. 
  32. ^ a b c "Independent Reviews into Incidents at Offshore Regional Processing Centres". Department of Immigration and Border Protection. 23 May 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  33. ^ Cornall, Robert (23 May 2014). "Review into the events of 16–18 February 2014 at the Manus Regional Processing Centre" (PDF-6 MB). Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  34. ^ Farrell, Paul; Laughland, Oliver (1 November 2013). "Sex assaults at Manus Island centre appear likely to go unpunished". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 21 November 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  35. ^ Cornall, Robert (30 September 2013). "Review into allegations of sexual and other serious assaults at the Manus Offshore Processing Centre [July 2013]" (PDF-130 KB). Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  36. ^ "Operation Sovereign Borders, Monthly Operational Update: October 2017". Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. 30 October 2017. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  37. ^ "Monthly Operational Update: JANUARY 2014". newsroom.border.gov.au. Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2017. 
  38. ^ Packham, Colin; Bunch, Aaron (2 March 2017). "Scores of detained asylum seekers take Australian cash and return home". Sydney. Reuters. Retrieved 2 March 2017. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 2°2′16″S 147°22′9″E / 2.03778°S 147.36917°E / -2.03778; 147.36917