Australia agrees to close controversial Papua New Guinea migrant centre

Australia has agreed to close its controversial asylum-seeker detention centre in Papua New Guinea. The move was announced by PNG prime minister Peter O'Neill after a meeting with Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton. It follows April’s ruling by Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court, which said the centre, where 800 men were housed, was unconstitutional. “Both PNG and Australia are in agreement that [Manus Island] centre is to be closed,” a statement from Mr O'Neill said.

A series of options are being advanced and implemented. It is important that this process is not rushed out but carried out in a careful manner

PNG prime minister Peter O'Neill

Under Australian law, anyone intercepted trying to get into the country by boat is sent to camps on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru or to Manus Island for processing. They can never be resettled in Australia, which says its policy stops asylum seekers dying at sea on the dangerous boat journey across from Indonesia. Some asylum-seekers have spent years in the camps, with a number of reports of abuse and self-harm among the detainees, including children. The closure has been welcomed by refugee support groups. Elaine Pearson, of Human Rights Watch, said: “Nearly a thousand men on Manus have already lost three or more years of their lives locked up in limbo for no good reason.”

They’ve endured dirty, cramped conditions, inadequate medical care and violence. Finally, it is time to let them move on with their lives in safety and dignity.

Elaine Pearson, of Human Rights Watch