Claims of torture refuted

The Acting Chief Migration Officer, Robert Bara Kennedy, has refuted claims of torture and ill treatment of unlawful non-citizens held temporarily at the state-of-the-art Bomana Immigration Centre (BIC).

He has labelled media reports published recently as “erroneous” and negatively portrays the facility.

Kennedy’s comments came after The Guardian posted an article online on 14 January 2020 with two distorted photos with the title “Leaked photos of PNG prison reveal torture of 18 asylum seekers”. The same article was reprinted in one of the dailies with the title “Photos reveal torture at centre”.

“The Bomana Immigration Centre was not built to torture anyone,” Kennedy said. “The photographs taken show parts of an exceptionally clean facility run by Immigration with its engaged contractors who jointly have a high standard of operation.

“The Immigration and Citizenship Authority (ICA) has full surveillance and records of day to day operations at BIC to deny any claims of ill treatment. Importantly, in ICA’s records, no one died while in immigration detention unlike what occurs in other countries.”

BIC, where unlawful non-citizens are held awaiting removal from PNG, is a declared permanent place of immigration detention, by way of a structural facility, in accordance with Section 15B of the Migration Act 1978. It was published in the National Gazette No. G718 on 12th September 2018.

ICA with its engaged contractors takes its duty of care very seriously to ensure unlawful non-citizens who are detained temporarily awaiting removal are provided with adequate support. These include the provision of necessary support services including onsite health care, nutritional meals provided three times daily, a separate room for devotion and sports and recreational activities, among others.

Each detainee is provided a decent room and space. Anti-rip single mattress with embedded pillow is provided in all rooms. Air conditioning is provided in a specific compound based on the structural aspect of the building while all others have fans. All detainees, ICA staff, the contractors and subcontractors and the health care provider use tap water for drinking. Relevant tests were done to vet it as WHO standard potable water and in accordance with PNG community standards.

Furthermore, the Acting Chief Migration Officer announced that ICA has recognised the rights of non-refugees and has released on Thursday 23 January, the remaining 18 non-refugees from BIC to participate in the US resettlement process. The US process runs independently and if those non-refugees are successful they can be resettled and move on with their lives in the United States. Some men have departed and have moved on with their lives in Canada and Europe through individual assistance provided by private sponsors.   

“The PNG Government does not want the non-refugees to be stuck in limbo but rather, go get on with their lives in a third country,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy further explained that non-refugees who had agreed to voluntarily return to their home country were released from BIC but their return depends on how fast their governments process and release their travel document.

Besides, Kennedy clarified that asylum seekers under the Regional Resettlement Arrangement (RRA) are no longer qualified for medical transfer to Australia since the Australian Parliament repealed the Medevac law late last year.

(One of the pictures that was published in The Guardian)

Press release