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Australia abandoned refugees, must take responsibility

22 December 2017 16:49

The UN refugee agency on Friday accused Australia of abandoning hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and said it must take responsibility for the mess it created with its “offshore processing” system.

About 800 refugees are still in a precarious situation on Manus Island, having been forcibly removed from a holding camp last month when Australia decided to close it, UNHCR spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly told a regular UN briefing in Geneva.

“We are talking here about people who have suffered tremendously, extreme trauma, and are now feeling so insecure in the places where they are staying. There are many victims of torture, people who have been deeply traumatized, having no idea what is going to happen next to them,” she said.

“In light of the continued perilous situation on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island for refugees and asylum seekers abandoned by Australia, UNHCR has called again this week on the Australian government to live up to its responsibility and urgently find humane and appropriate solutions.”

Conditions in the camp, and another on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru, have been widely criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups.

The two camps have been cornerstones of Australia’s contentious immigration policy under which it refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores.

The policy, aimed at deterring people from making a perilous sea voyage to Australia, has bipartisan political support.

The closure of the Manus Island camp, criticized by the United Nations as “shocking”, caused chaos, with the men refusing to leave the compound for fear of being attacked by Manus island residents.

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