Australia to close controversial Manus Island asylum centre

It is believed none of the people at the facility will be settled in Australia

Australia to close controversial Manus Island asylum centre

A view of the Manus Island asylum centre | Image: Amnesty International

A controversial Australian asylum centre based in Papua New Guinea is set to close.

News of the closure comes following a meeting between officials from the two countries.

The Manus Island regional processing centre is currently holding 854 men, according to the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

The centre, which was opened on August 23rd 2013, has seen allegations about sexual and other serious assaults.

Two independent reviews have been undertaken at the facility following allegations.

The first in 2013 concluded several alleged events did not occur - including transferees being sexually abused, raped and tortured with the full knowledge of staff, victims being returned to single adult male compound to be raped again and weapons being held by transferees.

But the review did find that - among other things - there were self-harm incidents, guards were being assaulted, two men sewed their lips together and transferees were swimming away from the centre.

A second review was carried out in February 2014 following protests.

In a statement, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said he met with Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

Mr O'Neill said: "Both Papua New Guinea and Australia are in agreement that the centre is to be closed."

"A series of options are being advanced and implemented. It is important that this process is not rushed but carried out in a careful manner."

"This must take into account the interests of the people of Papua New Guinea and the well-being of asylum seekers and refugees," he added.

While Mr Dutton said no-one from the centre would be re-settled in Australia.

"It has been the longstanding position of this Government to work with PNG to close Manus and support those people as they transition into PNG or return to their country of origin," he said.

"Our position, confirmed again today with PNG, is that no one from Manus Island Regional Processing Centre will ever be settled in Australia," he added.

"Cruel, inhuman, and degrading"

The centre has been steeped in criticism over what is seen as 'offshore processing.'

Amnesty International visited the centre in 2013 and provided the Australian government with a report on the conditions they found.

It found that the combination of detention practices and the lack of options for integration into Papua New Guinea society "combine to create a serious risk of refoulement, the return of individuals to places where their lives or freedom is likely to be threatened or where they are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment."

"Asylum seekers are detained in the absence of any individualised assessment of the need for detention, with no definite date for their release, apparently without any framework in Papua New Guinea law for their detention, and no clear means to seek review of the lawfulness of their detention."

"The result is arbitrary detention, prohibited by customary international law and by treaties to which both Australia and Papua New Guinea are party."

It also found that: "Contrary to international law, the Regional Resettlement Arrangement with Papua New Guinea discriminates against asylum seekers on the basis of their means and date of arrival, treats as suspect all asylum seekers who arrive by boat, and penalises them for their manner of arrival."

"The combined effect of the conditions of detention on Manus Island, the open-ended nature of that detention, and the uncertainty about their fates to which detainees are subjected amounts to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment", it added.