Government under fire

November 14, 2017

Chris Hazelman says it’s time to decide the asylum seekers’ future.


The Federal Government’s handling of asylum seekers in the Manus Island Detention Centre has been labelled as a great shame by the manager of one of the region’s biggest migrant resource agencies.

City of Greater Shepparton councillor and Shepparton Ethnic Council manager Chris Hazelman said the government had failed to take responsibility for the 600 refugees still at the centre was shut down on November 1.

The asylum seekers have refused to leave, left at the centre without food, clean water, electricity and medicine.

Reports last week claimed Manus Island locals armed with machetes were allegedly looting the immigration detention centre ahead of its closure.

Although offered accommodation in the country, many of the asylum seekers have told international media they fear for their safety.

Mr Hazelman, who had been upset and disturbed by the visions coming out of Manus, said it was the responsibility of the Federal Government to make sure the 600 detainees were safely relocated.

‘‘At the present time we’ve got a stand-off with hundreds of people who are Australia’s responsibility, but they’re not being supported,’’ Mr Hazelman said.

‘‘They are being ordered to go to another facility that’s half constructed, and there is some safety issues in relation to the local population, so it’s a totally chaotic situation with no impression that anyone is in charge or managing it.’’

Australia rejected a standing offer from New Zealand’s to accept 150 refugees from its offshore detention islands and progress on the vaunted United States resettlement deal, which has taken 54 refugees so far, has ground to a near standstill.

Despite repeated calls from the United Nations to resettle the refugees, the government has continued to push back.

But Mr Hazelman believed it was the time all governments stepped up and made humane decisions.

‘‘We know that 80 per cent of the people on Manus have been approved and declared to be genuine refugees and they are awaiting resettlement,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve placed these people here, we’ve had a finding from the PNG Supreme Court that the centre is unlawful, and there is an expectation that Australia will take some responsibility.

‘‘Overall it’s a very distressing and disturbing circumstance and a lot of people are looking for some leadership.’’

Mr Hazelman said the numbers of refugees Australia took annually was relatively small in comparison to other countries, and that resources were available to settle the asylum seekers.

‘‘If you think about everyone put on Manus, we are paying millions of dollars per year, so that’s equated to around $5billion since 2012,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m sure we could spend that money in more efficient ways on humane settlement support on shore, rather than leaving these guys in limbo.’’

Manus facts

●More than 600 detainees have refused to leave the Manus Island offshore detention centre, fearing for their safety in Lorengau. They have no access to water or electricity.

●The refugees holding out in Papua New Guinean detention centre have been given at least another day to leave.

●The centre was officially closed on November 1 and services were cut, but hundreds of detainees have refused to move to alternative accommodation.

●New Zealand has been among a number of countries offering asylum for the refugees, but has been knocked back by the Australian Government amid concern the refugees could enter Australia. Resettlement deals with the United States have seemingly stalled.

●At the time of going to print, about 90 men have opted to go to the alternative accommodation which refugees and some human rights groups say is unsafe.

●It has cost $1 million each for every detainee imprisoned on Manus Island since 2012, according to the Parliamentary Library. That one detention centre alone has cost Australia around $2 billion during the period.

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