NEWS of the death of one asylum seeker on Manus Island and serious injuries sustained by dozens of others is extremely distressing and must prompt an urgent, independent investigation by the Australian authorities, Amnesty International said.
The Australian government is holding more than 1,000 asylum seekers in shameful conditions in a processing centre on the island in Papua New Guinea.
“We are extremely concerned by events that have taken place over the past few days at the Manus Island detention facility,” said Graham Thom, Amnesty International Australia’s Refugee spokesperson.
“We are calling for an immediate, independent investigation to find out more about the incidents, and how this tragedy occurred.”
“The tragic death of the asylum seeker, who was sent to Papua New Guinea by Australian authorities, is a result of Australia and Papua New Guinea’s unlawful policy of offshore processing.”
The safety and protection of asylum seekers is the joint responsibility of both Australia and Papua New Guinea under a formal agreement between the two governments.
Both must ensure that government officials and private contractors exercise caution and use force only as a last resort when dealing with asylum seekers, many who have experienced trauma and torture.
There are more than 1, 200 people detained indefinitely on Manus Island under deliberately harsh and humiliating conditions, many for up to seven months, with no information about their future.
Many of these men have now passed the critical six month mark, and their indefinite detention is a significant contributing factor to the deterioration of the mental health of such vulnerable people who have fled war, terror and persecution.
“During our visit to the facility late last year we received firsthand testimony from asylum seekers and service providers that this system was breaking people,” said Graham Thom.
“Our report made a range of recommendations that processing begins and resettlement plans are put in place, and improvements are made at the facility, and we have yet to receive a response from the Government.
“We call on the government to end the cruel and unlawful policy of offshore detention, and close the Manus Island detention centre,” Thom added. “Until this happens, both the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments need to progress resettlement plans and provide asylum seekers held at Manus Island with some certainty about their futures.”