Humanitarian emergency at 'Australia's Guantanamo'

Humanitarian emergency at 'Australia's Guantanamo'
From Al Jazeera - November 5, 2017

Perth, Australia - "Australia's Guantanamo" detention centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) officially closed a week ago, but nearly 600 desperate refugees are refusing to leave.

The facility once formed the cornerstone of Australia's controversial refugee resettlement policy, but had been ruled illegal by PNG's Supreme Court in 2016.

A year later, the Australian government complied with the decision to shutter it.

It turned off the power, cut the water supply, and pulled its people out - leaving behind 587 men who have barricaded themselves inside the camp, saying they fear attacks from locals if they are relocated.

Of them, 447 are confirmed refugees while the other 140 have had their applications rejected and are waiting on the Australian government to return them.

Ever since the group has been in a stand-off with PNG officials, triggering a political crisis around what to do with the men who wo not leave, but ca not stay.

Refugee on Manus with severe kidney stones, crying from pain. Govt obviously violating human rights. I am witnessing a tragedy, a disaster.

Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) November 5, 2017

"[The Australian government] left us here in this jungle. It is a jungle. A jungle and an ocean," Behrouz Boochani, a refugee detained on Manus Island, told Al Jazeera over the phone from the detention centre.

"There are no medical services, no food, no water. Nothing here. And yet they left us here."

Boochani is an Iranian journalist who founded the Kurdish newspaper Werya, but was forced to flee in 2013 when its offices were raided by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

He was picked up by the Australian government while attempting a boat crossing from Indonesia and detained on Manus Island as a refugee.

Since then, he has become a spokesman for the men who have spent the last four years in limbo while they waited on the Australian government to make a decision about their fate.

Having been left to fend for themselves, Boochani says the situation is growing desperate.

On Saturday night, one man collapsed with chest pains but did not receive medical treatment, and starvation is starting to set in as police and navy personnel stopped all deliveries of food and medicine.

"We are prepared to stay here and die in this prison camp," says Boochani.

In response to the crisis, the Australian government has defended itself by pointing out it has offered alternative accommodation for the men, though two of the facilities on offer are currently still under construction.

The only operational facility is in Lorengau, which the detainees say is not equipped to handle 600 men, lacks proper medical services, and is located among a community that is hostile towards them.

Inside Australia, the series of events have triggered rallies calling on the Australian government to end the crisis by resettling the men.

Jonno Revanche attended a rally in Sydney and was involved in an earlier sit-in at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection offices. He told Al Jazeera supporters fear the government will leave the men to die.

"[This government] does not represent what even a lot of 'traditional' Australians would even deem acceptable," Revanche said.


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