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Australia Asylum Seekers Protest Settlement Plan


Detention Camp Sites on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea

A rights group said asylum-seekers at a detention center in Papua New Guinea (PNG) protested a plan by Australia to permanently settle them on the Southeast Asian island.

The Refugee Action Coalition said Sunday that detainees at the Manus Island detention center had barricaded themselves inside the facility and prevented the delivery of food, on concerns that if they are settled in PNG, they would be attacked by locals and not be able to find employment.

The detention center on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea was the scene of riots in February 2014, in which one asylum seeker was killed and more than 70 injured after residents overran the camp, attacking detainees.

Journalists are barred from visiting Manus Island, so information about the protests cannot be verified independently.

A spokesman for Papua New Guinea's chief migration officer, Mataio Rabura, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that a peaceful end to the protests had been negotiated.

PNG Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato said in a statement “agitators” had been detained by private security personnel and an undisclosed number arrested by police.

Under Australian law, none of the asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea will ever be eligible for resettlement in Australia, even if they are found to be genuine refugees.

Several detainees reportedly swallowed razor blades or detergent as acts of self-harm, citing the despair of endless detention as a major factor in the protest.

“Every day... they're telling us something like 'tomorrow, we are going to release some people tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, the day after now,' - it's almost two years and nothing happened,” a detainee calling himself Dave told the ABC on Monday.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who did not respond to requests for comment, said protesters could be resettled in Cambodia under a controversial deal signed last year, but under no circumstances in Australia.

“We send a clear message, particularly those ringleaders on Manus at the moment and over the course of the last few days, that have been causing significant disruption, that those people will not be settled in our country,” Dutton told the ABC.

The policy is meant to stop the flow of boat people arriving in Australia.

Some material for this report came from Reuters.