UN tells Aust 'take responsibility for refugees'

Protesters at Sydney's Hyde Park on the weekend demanding the evacuation of refugees from Manus Island.
Protesters at Sydney's Hyde Park on the weekend demanding the evacuation of refugees from Manus Island. DANIEL MUNOZ

A UNITED Nations refugee official visiting Manus Island has urged Australia to resume its responsibility for the hundreds of asylum seekers stranded in Papua New Guinea.

UNHCR deputy regional representative Nai Jit Lam said the situation on the ground was very serious and deteriorating by the day following the closure of the island's regional processing centre on October 31.

He said 300 refugees and asylum seekers continued to remain in the decommissioned processing centre, where there had been no distribution of food and water for three weeks and medicines ran out last week.

"The people that we have spoken to are extremely angry and they see this as an opportunity to tell the world and to show the world, years of anger about how they have been treated over the four years, after being forcibly transferred to Papua New Guinea,” Mr Lam said.

The lack of clean water and the associated risk of disease were becoming a major concern, he said, as was the replacement accommodation on the other side of the island.

"After three weeks and constant announcements that alternative accommodation outside the centre and together with the services are ready, what we have observed so far actually represents a very different picture,” he said.

"The accommodation outside of the former centre is still under construction.”

Mr Lam said the most basic services were still not adequately provided for outside the centre, such as medical care and mental health services.

With refugees expressing fears for their safety outside the camp, Mr Lam noted a blockade of a road by local people at the main relocation site and "concerning issues” regarding security and the lack of interpreters on the island.

"That brings about the issue of how they would communicate with local people or even the police as well,” he said.

"Australia must take responsibility for the protection, assistance and solutions for the refugees here on Manus Island.”

- staff writer

Topics:  asylum seekers manus island nai jit lam papua new guinea refugees unhcr united nations

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