Pacific News Minute: Australia's Offshore Refugee Detention Center To Close Later This Month

Sep 11, 2019

After more than six years, it looks like Australia’s notorious detention center on PNG’s Manus Island will be closed later this month. Almost all of the remaining 350 migrants have been relocated to Port Moresby, some awaiting resettlement to the United States.

The key decision came earlier this summer, when James Marape, Papua New Guinea’s new Prime Minister visited Canberra and reached agreement to finally close the facilities on Manus. Over the past few weeks, charted aircraft have ferried all but about 20 of the migrants to Port Moresby, and, Australia’s ABC reports that, the rest are expected to follow soon.

About 280 men from Manus have already resettled in the U.S.; another 100 or so are in a hotel in Port Moresby in the final stages of the assessment process.

Under a deal negotiated by the Obama Administration, the U.S. agreed to accept as many as 1,250 refugees from Manus and from Australia’s other offshore detention camp in Nauru. The process has been extremely slow, but, while it long looked as if the number accepted would fall short, a change in policy suggests the U.S. will eventually reach the cap.

Including Nauru, the total now is about 610.

That will leave two groups from Manus in limbo – those rejected by the United States and those who failed to qualify as refugees. 53 men in that later category are reportedly being held in an immigration detention center attached to Port Moresby’s Bomana Prison.

There are also about 300 refugees still in Nauru; their fate may be affected by last month’s election there. President Baron Waqa lost his seat and parliament subsequently elected Lionel Aingimea as Nauru’s new president.