Green tents set close together. There are trees and the sky is blue.

Manus Regional Processing Centre, PNG

The Manus Regional Processing Centre, located on a former Papua New Guinea and Australian naval base on Manus Island, was one of 2 offshore processing sites opened in 2001 under the Australian government’s “Pacific Solution”. After falling into disuse it closed in 2008, but reopened under a Labor government in 2012.

In July, 2013, after Kevin Rudd was elected Prime Minister for a second time, the Labor government announced that refugees arriving by boat would never be allowed to settle in Australia. They  implemented the Regional Resettlement Arrangement between Australia and Papua New Guinea, which gave PNG AUD$400 million in aid in exchange for resettling refugees. In September, 2013, the Liberal/National coalition government won the election and instituted “Operation Sovereign Borders”, reinforcing the policy of no maritime arrivals being resettled in Australia.

Refugee men sit on the ground with their arms crossed over their heads.
Manus Island refugees protest their removal from the detention camp (Source: The New York Times)

Over the following years at Manus RPC there were riots, mass hunger strikes, murders, assaults, and deaths through medical negligence. In 2014, Reza Barati, a 23-year old Kurdish Iranian asylum seeker, was killed by detention centre staff and locals during a riot. In 2015, 24-year old Iranian asylum seeker Hamid Kehazaei died after he received inadequate care for an infected wound. That same year, over 500 men went on a hunger strike to protest conditions at the centre, with 20 men sewing their lips shut in protest. The protests resulted in violent clashes between detainees and local police. At least 8 Manus detainees have died from various means, including suicide and medical neglect.

In 2016 the PNG Supreme Court found that the Manus RPC breached the PNG constitution’s right to personal liberty and demanded that the center be closed. The RPC was not formally closed until October, 2017, however, nearly 600 men refused to leave because of fears for their safety and the hostility of locals. Power, water and food were cut off to the detainees inside the RPC, and the PNG military, and then police, took control of the facility. By November, all men had been removed from the RPC and into housing in East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre, West Lorengau Haus, and Hillside Haus.

From August, 2019 onwards, men were moved to Port Moresby, PNG and the Manus facilities were closed. Around 50 men were initially held in Bomana Immigration Detention Centre in Port Moresby. Most are being held in hotels and apartment buildings in Port Moresby. There have been reports of reduced food rations and allowances and refugees have been subject to attacks.

As of May 2021 there were 125 people still left in PNG.

Documentary short film on Manus by Angus McDonald
Life on Manus: how Australia transformed a tropical island into a prison
Life on Manus: How Australia transformed a tropical island into a prison (Source: The Guardian)

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