The Politics of Manus Island: Refugees, Responsibilities and Contracts

In what has been a nightmare at Christmas, the plight of refugees relocated to other sites on Manus Island after the closure of the facility at Lombrum Naval Base has worsened.  The latest scenes at East Lorengau Transit Centre, where 300 men have been since December 19, have been ugly and pitiable.  In the broader scheme of things, they have been far from surprising, expected with the dread that has become all too natural.

Local landowners have been none too pleased at the political machinations of the Papua New Guinea government and officials in Canberra.  They were the ones frozen out of negotiations about how best to solve the refugee problem.  They were the ones side-stepped in another arrangement that sees Australia ignore those responsibilities outlined in the Refugee Convention.

From November 29, they have been engaged in a campaign of protest against staff management and the refugees, notably JDA Wokman, the contractor charged with resettlement services.  They, so goes the argument, want compensation for not getting the necessary contract for running the new detention facilities.  The company in question there is Peren Investments.  Keep it brutal, but keep it local.

The scenes on that day in November worsened.  Access to the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre was blocked.  The police were called in.  As Manus Province police commander, David Yapu, explained, “Because the situation was tense and level of threats was high, Police intervened…

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