The United Nations refugee agency has criticised Australia’s handling of its closure of the offshore processing facility on Manus Island, saying that the lack of food distribution and health and sanitation services is having a significant impact on the refugees who remain there
The United Nations refugee agency has criticised Australia’s handling of its closure of the offshore processing facility on Manus Island, saying that the lack of food distribution and health and sanitation services is having a significant impact on the refugees who remain there.
A substantial amount of rubbish and refuse has accumulated in the three weeks since the closure of the regional processing centre, which along with the termination of food and clean water distribution is causing an increasing number of physical and mental illnesses amongst refugees and asylum seekers.
Alternative accommodation and services are still being constructed, with estimates that they would not be ready for a further two weeks.
Under its offshore policy, Australia is forcibly transferring refugees and asylum seekers from Manus Island to Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
According to the UN refugee agency, Manus Island has been the Australian government’s main focus in its off-shore processing policy.
Of the 3,000 refugees forcibly transferred to Nauru and Manus facilities by Australia, over 1,200 remain in Nauru and 900 in Papua New Guinea.
This is putting additional strain on Australia’s fellow Commonwealth Pacific countries.
Nai Jit Lam, Deputy Regional Representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that a lack of security and interpreters on the island was contributing to safety concerns and tension with local communities.
Furthermore, local contractual disputes were hindering the staffing of caseworkers to look after the wellbeing of refugees and asylum seekers, he added.
Lam urged Australian authorities to adopt a more active role in resolving the situation, saying the country must take responsibility for protecting and assisting refugees on Manus Island.
He said: “The people that we have spoken to are extremely angry and they see this as an opportunity to tell the world and to show the world, years of anger about how they have been treated over the four years, after being forcibly transferred to Papua New Guinea.”