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Press briefing note on Manus Island

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Rupert Colville
Location:  Geneva
Date:  3 November 2017
Subject:   (1) Manus Island
                       
(1) Manus Island

We are concerned by events in the past week at Australia’s offshore Regional Processing Centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea where refugees and asylum seekers are holding out after the Australian Government’s decision to close the facility and pull out its support staff. We share the concerns of other UN agencies, including UNHCR, about what is an unfolding humanitarian emergency. We have serious concerns about the welfare, safety and well-being of the roughly 600 men who remain in the accommodation compound, who are too frightened to leave.

We call on the Australian Government, as the Party who interned the men in the first place, to immediately provide protection, food, water and other basic services which have been cut off since authorities shuttered the facility on 31 October. Australian contractors/service providers have now left the island.

We remind the Governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea of their responsibilities under international human rights law and the 1951 Refugee Convention, to protect the men from harm; to ensure their right to seek and enjoy asylum; to guarantee access to fundamental economic, social and cultural rights, including adequate housing, water, food, sanitation, and health care; as well as to fulfil other humanitarian obligations. Moreover, the men have said they fear they will be subjected to violence at the hands of locals if they leave the compound – and, given there have been violent incidents in the past, we believe these fears should be respected and satisfactorily addressed.

All migrants, including refugees and asylum-seekers, are human beings. Like all of us, they have a right to a safe and secure environment, a right to an adequate standard of living and to participate in the decision-making process that is affecting their future. Human dignity should be ensured throughout the entire processing of their asylum claims. We urge the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea to fully respect their human rights, including their specific rights under international refugee law, and to enter into a dialogue with the men to ensure these rights are duly respected, protected and fulfilled.

We repeat our overall concerns about Australia’s offshore processing centres, which are unsustainable, inhumane and contrary to its human rights obligations. We urge the Australia Government to transfer the men to mainland Australia where their claims can be processed.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Liz Throssell  ( +41 22 917 9466/ ethrossell@ohchr.org ) or Jeremy Laurence: + 41 22 917 9383  / jlaurence@ohchr.org

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