The U.N. Human Rights Committee has condemned Australia’s treatment of asylum-seekers at an offshore detention center on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, while underscoring Canberra’s responsibility for the fate of migrants remaining at the facility.
In a periodic country review released on Nov. 9, the Committee demanded that Australian authorities acknowledge “the rights of refugees and asylum seekers” and guarantee their resettlement in Australia or “appropriate safe countries.”
Australia closed the detention center on Manus Island on Oct. 31 after a PNG Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional last year, and has sought to relocate the remaining 606 asylum-seekers to new facilities that U.N. officials say are “not ready” for residents.
Australia’s “effective control over this situation” designates its “responsibility for the fate of these individuals” panel vice chairman Yuval Shany told reporters.
The Committee’s review panel also lambasted conditions in Australia’s detention facilities, which include “inadequate mental health services, serious safety concerns and instances of assault, sexual abuse, self-harm and suspicious deaths.” Australia also operates offshore detention centers on Nauru and Christmas Island.
Canberra has attempted to renounce responsibility for the remaining refugees, who no longer have access to food, water or electricity and report deteriorating conditions. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has accused the detainees attempting to “force” a change to Australia’s notoriously stringent immigration policy, dismissing their complaints of dire conditions as ““nothing more than subterfuge.”
Authorities in Papua New Guinea have threatened to forcibly remove the remaining migrants, who fled conflict in countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Myanmar, if they have not agreed to relocation by Nov. 11. Earlier today, migrants reported that PNG police and immigration forces dismantled shelters and makeshift water collection containers.
On Nov. 9, police arrested five activists for attempting to scale Sydney’s iconic Opera House and unfurl a banner protesting Australia’s treatment of the asylum-seekers.