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Pacific News Minute: Tensions Build in Australian Detention Camp on Manus Island

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In 2016, after Papua New Guinea’s supreme court ruled that the Australian offshore detention camp on Manus Island was unconstitutional, hopes rose that the  nearly 900 asylum seekers there would be transferred to Australia… or to Nauru… or most recently, to the United States.  But as another year begins with no change in sight, tensions are building at the remote camp…more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

On New Year’s Eve, two Iranian men said they were beaten by 10 police officers, held for 36 hours without food, water or medical treatment.  They deny charges that they were drunk and disorderly. The day before, award winning cartoonist Ali was told his claim for asylum had been rejected and that he must return to his native Iran, even though he suffers from mental illness and Iran refuses repatriation to asylum seekers with mental illness.  On Christmas, detainees briefly took over their compounds to protest the death of 27 year old Faysal Ishak Ahmed. The Sudanese refugee had been medivaced to a hospital in Brisbane.  Officials said he died there from head injuries suffered in a fall.  His fellow detainees said he’d collapsed in the latest in a series of seizures they said had been ignored.

Manus is the largest of the Admiralty Islands; a major American Naval base during the Second World War, taken over by Australia afterwards, now a remote part of Papua New Guinea.  It’s Member of Parliament, Ronnie Knight, told ABC radio that inadequate medical facilities and hopelessness contribute to rising frustration. “Our hopes were pinned on this American deal“ Knight said, referring to an agreement to send at least some refugees to the US. “Now I can see that’s probably just more propaganda to keep people placid and just while the time away.”

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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