Protests over points and food as tensions rise on Manus Island as court challenge looms

| March 1, 2016 | Reply

Around 9.00am this morning (Tuesday, 1 March), people found to be refugees staged a protest at the canteen in Oscar Compound.

The protest stopped the opening of the canteen, and local staff were withdrawn to the gates of Oscar Compound, as staff faced a crowd of refugees fed-up with being denied “privileges” like excursions or access to the canteen as a way of trying to force them to leave the detention centre and live outside in the so-called transit accommodation in East Lorengau.

Refugees, or “double positives”, as they are known in the detention centre are tired of the injustice.

Asylum seekers and those who have been rejected obtain 50 points each week – 25 from involvement in certain activities and 25 from the Immigration Department.

Points can be used at the canteen, run by Broadspectrum, to obtain such things as phone cards, shampoo and cigarettes. Fifty points gets you six packets of cigarettes.

Those who are found to be refugees get no points.

Refugees are given the choice – accept the unfair treatment or agree to leave the centre. There are only around 50 refugees who have been willing to leave the detention centre and live at the transit accommodation at East Lorengau.

Tensions are rising as the injustice has continued as the months drag on. Conditions at the East Lorengau detention centre are also deteriorating as refugees there are subject to a curfew and have recently been told they now have to pay for their own prescriptions.

A major standoff erupted later, at lunchtime in Delta Compound over the food. More than half the 200 detainees in Delta Compound have been found to be refugees. There have been increasing complaints over the food over the last weeks as food presented is out of date and is the same day after day.

More than 30 security guards are now in Delta Compound after a confrontation between detainees and the detention manager who told the detainees to put their complaint in writing before having to be escorted from the compound.

The deteriorating food and the increasing pressure on refugees to leave the detention centre comes as Broadspectrum seem to be cutting costs as the PNG Supreme Court hearing, regarding the constitutionality of the detention centre and the issues of alleged human rights abuses of the detainees, draws closer.

At a status conference yesterday (Monday 29 February), a hearing before Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, set down the matter for 4 April in order to set the date for the hearing in the next sittings of the Supreme Court between 25 and 29 April.

“The conditions of detention on Manus Island are intolerable. The situation is not very different in East Lorengau. Many refugees fear for their safety since Reza Berati was killed in Mike Compound on February 2014,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Most detainees are prescribed sleeping pills or sedatives to deal with the torture inflicted on them. Denying points to refugees is another form of the torture that is part of the offshore detention regime. It has to stop.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713


Category: Press releases

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