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Pacific News Minute: Australia, PNG Agree To Schedule Close Of Detention Camps On Manus Island

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Australia and Papua New Guinea have agreed to close the notorious detention camp on Manus Island. At a joint news conference, PNG’s James Marape and Australia’s Scott Morrison said they would establish a mutually workable timetable.

Six years ago, Australia opened two detention camps for refugees, one on Manus (in PNG’s Admiralty Islands), the other in the tiny island nation of Nauru. The facilities housed migrants who were intercepted at sea as they tried to reach Australia.

First labor, and then later conservative governments, declared that offshore camps deterred dangerous voyages in rickety vessels, and backed up the argument by vowing that seaborne migrants would never be allowed into Australia. Critics, including the United Nations, cited poor conditions, brutality and indifference, and said allowing refugees to languish without hope violated their human rights.

There have been dozens of suicides.

Two years ago, Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruled that holding men indefinitely without charge or trial violated the constitution and ordered the camp closed. The remaining men on Manus were relocated to what are termed “accommodation facilities.”

At the news conference, both Prime Ministers denied that “detention camps” even exist any longer; refugees who are locked up every night between six pm to six am called that a lie. Australian Greens Party senator Nick McKim, who was refused entry to one of the camps last week accused Prime Minister Morrison of using Orwellian language.

The Prime Ministers did not say when facilities may close or what will happen to the 450 men who currently live there, and the agreement does not cover the 400 or so men and women in Nauru.

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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