There are standoffs, threats and continuing tensions over the imminent closure of the Manus Island Detention Centre. (The politically palatable term here is “processing centre”.) This closure, instigated by legal ruling by the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court in April 2016, has led to a degree of window dressing, prevarication and stalling by all parties connected with the institutionalised barbarism that has been inflicted on refugees and asylum seekers.
A vital stumbling block in this involves the removal of 718 men from the Lombrum Naval Base to alternative, purpose-built accommodation in the town of Lorengau. Even CNN decided the crisis was newsworthy: “Powder keg on Manus Island as refugees refuse to leave immigration centre.”
Central to the PNG tactics of removal will be the deployment of the PNG mobile squad, famed for their brutality and expert mishandling. Extra personnel are being deployed ahead of the closure on the pretext that they are the ones to protect the populace. The actual ones in danger are the refugees and asylum seekers in the camp itself who fear marauding locals indifferent to the dark deals done between PNG and Australia.
As Kurdish refugee Behrouz Boochani, who has made a name for covering the camp’s accretions of wearing brutality and tedium over the years explained, “The refugees don’t feel safe in the community, because the local community is not ready to accept them.”
The social nightmare that has arisen was a…