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Asylum seekers in Asia

New PNG refugee centre on Manus Island is still a building site, says aid official

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 November, 2017, 5:58pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 November, 2017, 10:37pm

Fifty-seven men formerly detained on Manus Island have spent the night on mattresses in a classroom because they could not be housed in the new but unfinished Lorengau centre, despite claims to the contrary by the immigration minister, Peter Dutton.

“The West House, which is meant to accommodate 300 is clearly unfinished and has no kitchen facilities and is still a construction site,” said Reverend Tim Costello, chief advocate of World Vision.

“The bathroom in the unfinished wing only has squat toilets and the shower block is currently under an inch of water,” he said, having been shown photos taken by men at the centre. “It clearly requires more than just polishing the tiles as Peter Dutton has suggested.”

Costello is in the Manus township for the Australian Council for International Development, which is funded by World Vision.

He said he met refugees on Friday night and again on Saturday morning and saw photographs they had taken of the facilities. He was not allowed to enter.

More than 300 refugees and asylum seekers – who had been living without running water, electricity, or regular food supplies for three weeks in the old detention centre – were moved on Friday to alternative accommodation at Lorengau township.

Costello said he had been shown pictures of people with lumps, bruises and scratches where refugees were allegedly hit with iron bars, but as far as he was aware there were no cases of broken bones.

Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish journalist and detainee on Manus.

Despite completion of the relocation by the PNG police, the atmosphere on the island remains tense.

Costello said local police and immigration authorities had told the men they were looking for alternative accommodation for the 57 but it was not clear what would happen. There was also resentment among the local population about Australia’s actions.

“Most people are friendly but there are elements who resent what’s going on, including one community leader who expressed to me the view that Australia had just walked away from its responsibilities. Even the police commissioner feels that way: that the Australian government has just left,” he said.