Australia will finally stop its asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea. It is marking the end of its controversial detention regime in the country.
Canberra pays the PNG, which is one of the two countries that detain asylum seekers and refugees who attempt to reach Australia by boat. Australia said that it would end its arrangement with PNG at the end of the year. However, it will continue with its divisive offshore processing policy on its remote island Nauru.
The strong border policies of Australia have not yet changed. The Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said anyone who attempted to Australia illegally will have to go back to Nauru.
120 asylum seekers and refugees are remaining in PNG. They will have the option to resettle there or to move to detention in Nauru. During Australia’s 8 years of presence in PNG, some major incidents of violence have taken place. Incidents like hunger strikes, riots, and the murder of an Iranian Asylum seeker happened.
A total of 13 people have been detained in PNG and Nauru. They have died from violence, suicide, and medical inattention.
Former refugee and detainee Thanus Selvarasa said, “a good decision, but eight years is too long, and PNG is not safe for refugees to resettle”.
“We came to Australia seeking asylum; we were moved to offshore processing. They change policy each time; they are playing politics with our lives,” he said in a statement.
Other activists have called for Australia to offer safe resettlement for the remaining men. Australia has sent more than 1900 men to detention centers on the island. Their application for refugee status is still under processing. Many have already languished there for years. Australia hardened its immigration law in 2013 to deny resettlement visas to asylum seekers who arrive by boat.
Australia says that its policies prevent deaths at sea. But offshore indefinite detention faces much criticism.
In 2017, Australia paid A$70m settlement to more than 1900 detainees. It also forced to shut Manus Island detention center after the rule of PNG’s Supreme Court was illegal. Canberra has not yet sent new asylum seekers there in recent years.