For six years, a group of people in Papua New Guinea have been living in fear and hope. Fear that, if they are abandoned, they will have nowhere to go, escaping their country’s dire conditions. Hope, that they may find, after days of struggle, a chance to begin again. These “asylum seekers” have been living without land and displaced identity on Manus Island’s detention center for six years and they were extended an olive branch, which may or may not be as promising as its projected to be for these men.
The Papua New Guinea (PNG) government announced that the refugees at Manus Island surviving in the detention center, will have the opportunity to transfer to Port Moresby. There they may get a chance to begin life, with financial, living and employment support from the government. This news is being received ambivalently by the asylum seekers and official support groups.
The notification from the Immigration and Citizenship Authority of Papua New Guinea also declared that there won’t be immigration detention for those who accept the offer to move. The notification also said with residential accommodation, one-off financial relocation support, a weekly living allowance, health services and employment support will also be part of the deal.
Amnesty International Australia’s Refugee Coordinator Dr. Graham Thom applauded the PNG Government for making the offer. “It is great news that these men, who have been trapped on Manus for six years are being offered the chance to escape their island prison and settle in Port Moresby. It is vital that there is a long-term plan for these refugees and that their rights are protected, ” Dr. Thom said in a statement. He expressed concern that the present living conditions of the people needs great improvement, with special emphasis on their health.
The people themselves took the offer with a pinch of salt, citing that even this is not a permanent solution. Manus refugee Behrouz Boochani articulated, “We don’t know what will happen with us. We don’t know what is their plan. Australian people — immigration officers — are living in Port Moresby under high security. They know better than us that we cannot start a new life in this country. It is impossible for us,” he said.
The refugees were located to Manus Island as the part of the Pacific Solution by Australia. “The Australian Government cannot wash their hands of responsibility for them once they have relocated. They put them on Manus, and they are responsible for ensuring they are suitably resettled, including bringing them to Australia where appropriate, “said Dr. Thom.