Manus refugee centre finally closes

The East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre in Manus is now closed after six years of detention, processing in Lombrum and later transiting of boat people brought in from Australia’s Christmas Island back in 2013.

All contracts to service providers on the island have also been terminated as of September 1st.

Minister for Immigration and Border Security, Petrus Thomas, announced this, saying it is the most significant milestone to date in ending regional processing in Manus Province, with the termination of lead Australian Government service provider on 1 September 2019.

With the termination of contracts to service providers in Manus, including the controversial Paladin deal, the remaining 64 persons housed at the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre will be transferred to Port Moresby.

They will be accommodated in hotels around the city, and not the Bomana Immigration Centre as they are refugees.

“In line with Prime Minister Marape’s commitment to end regional processing in Manus Province, ICA and Australian government officials notified Australian service provider in early August of the intention to transition out of Manus Province,” stated Thomas. “In ending the processing in Manus Province, I would like to recognise how the support of the Manus Province community over the past six years has been critical in delivering regional processing.

“In their attempt to criticize regional processing, the international media and advocacy groups have inaccurately and unfairly characterised the Province as unwelcoming. With the end of regional processing the Manusian community will be able to rebuild their identity separate to this issue. The repurposing of the ELRTC (East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre) also provides the opportunity for a dedicated education facility for the Manus community.”

In the resolution of regional processing caseload, Minister Thomas said: “I wish to thank the Prime Minister for his leadership on this issue. Through the clear mandate provided by the Prime Minister, ICA is building increased momentum to end regional processing.

“There are now only 64persons in Manus and 280 refugees have departed to the US; there are less than 200 refugees not engaged in settlement. Under the newly announced arrangements to allow refugees to transfer to Port Moresby, they will be supported to either await their resettlement to the United States or supported to make the personal decisions regarding their future.

“Importantly, refugees will have a visa and be free to move around the country and will be subject to all the same laws as every other person in the country. PNG is a welcoming, Christian country – that is assisting those in need. Through ICA, we will continue to promote the opportunity to settle here in PNG.

“Many of the refugees have skills and expertise that would allow them to make a valuable contribution to PNG.

“ICA will soon commence a tender process for a PNG led solution to service delivery to the remaining refugee cohort. This tender process will be for services to support refugees as they transition to settlement in the PNG community or other durable solutions outside of the country.”

(File picture)

Sally Pokiton