In early July, all the asylum seekers in Hillside Compound on Manus Island received a notice, saying that they would have to temporarily re-located to Port Moresby while Hillside underwent repairs.
The notice indicated that they even had some freedom to look around Port Moresby; an offer that, after six years on Manus Island, seemed too good to refuse.
The notice said the Hillside repairs were expected to be finished by 7 August. But there were no repairs to the compound.
Instead, in the early hours of 12 August, 52 asylum seekers were rounded up by PNG immigration and police and taken to the new detention centre annexed to the Bomana Prison on the outskirts of Port Moresby.
The transfer had been an elaborate ruse to lure the asylum seekers—all deemed to be failed refugees—to Port Moresby. The newly completed detention centre has been built by Australia for $20 million. It will be guarded by “Controlled Outcomes” another shady security company that is a joint venture between Australian security firm C5 Management Solutions and PNG company Tactical Solutions International. C5’s owner is the former Australian federal police agent Ty Clark, and the company’s lobbyist is Greg Rudd, brother of former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Enough said.
Bomana detention is the latest twist in a six year-long torturous saga. The new PNG Prime Minister and other politicians have called on the Australian government to commit to a timeline to end offshore detention on Manus. But the use of Bomana detention shows how much the PNG government remains captured by the machinations of the Australian government.
The so-called negatives are supposedly being held pending removal from Papua New Guinea, but most are from Iran and Pakistan, who will not accept forced removals.
Worse, around half of those now in Bomana have never applied for refugee status in PNG. Others have not told their full story because of fears their safety would be compromised if they were resettled in PNG.
Meanwhile, despite Coalition government cries for the Medevac legislation to be repealed, the medical crisis on Manus and Nauru is no better. Well over 100 have been accepted, and around 80 have already been transferred to Australia under the legislation.
The on-going detention of those already in Australia for medical treatment—some have been held in closed detention for nine months—is looming as another urgent issue for the refugee movement.
The repeal legislation has been referred to a Senate committee and is due to come back to the Parliament in November. Demonstrations have been called to oppose the repeal of the Medevac legislation and to finally close Manus and Nauru.
By Ian Rintoul