Magazine of the Socialist Party, Australian section of the CWI

PNG: Demolition increasing pressure on Manus refugees

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Around 800 refugees from the soon-to-be closed Manus Regional Processing Centre are resisting immigration officials’ forcible attempts to relocate them to the nearby East Lorengau transit centre because they fear attacks by local residents and a lack of protection.

Four violent robberies of Manus refugees during June and July have been reported, including one where a Bangladeshi refugee was sent to Australia for treatment for injuries sustained during a machete attack.

These incidents support the refugee’s fears and are indicative of the growing tensions in the Lorengau community about the rehousing of up to 800 single male refugees there. While the Australian government spends billions on its cruel offshore processing regime, very few extra resources have been provided to the already poor Lorengau community. With this being the case, many Manus locals fear that an influx of people will mean less to go around.

The Australian government has now begun demolishing the detention centre buildings, shutting down essential utilities and cutting back on food supplies. The dismantling of the detention centre, and warnings that a refusal to co-operate could affect their applications to resettle in the US, enable the Australian Border Force to coerce the refugees to move, thus putting them in danger.

The refugee swap deal made with the US government is quickly proving to be a fake solution. Already the Trump administration has halved this year’s intake of refugees. Any refugees not accepted by the US will be forced to settle against their will in PNG. It will be very expensive to transport the refugees to the US. A much cheaper, and more humane solution, would be to let them settle in Australia.

The refugee policies of both the major parties perpetuate racist scapegoating both in Australia and in PNG. The real cause of the lack of jobs, rising living costs and housing unaffordability is capitalism. If the wealth created was instead used for the benefit of the majority rather than a rich few there would be more than enough resources for everyone, including refugees fleeing war and persecution.

By Robyn Trott

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