Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has once again denied claims that facilities for the 600 asylum seekers detained on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island are uninhabitable, despite the UN’s declaration that alternative housing still isn’t ready.
Dutton has railed against the “lies” he says are being spread by refugee advocates, who are concerned about the wellbeing of asylum seekers who refuse to leave the now-shuttered processing centre.
For over a week, the men have refused to leave the Lombrum centre, despite a lack of food, water, electricity, and medical supplies. They claim the alternative housing facilities in Lorengau are unsafe, due to lacking security provisions and the threat of local community reprisals.
That claim has been backed up by the UN’s refugee agency. Catherine Stubberfield of the UNHCR told The Guardian that “substantive parts of the planned alternative accommodation are still not ready.”
The publication also pointed out that Hillside Haus has been completed, but still isn’t large enough to safely accomodate all of the asylum seekers who’ve been directed there.
Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian journalist and asylum seeker detained on the island, says those who have voluntarily left the processing centre for Hillside are facing “harsh conditions.”
The refugees who already left RPC for Hillside are in harsh conditions, imprisoned in their rooms. Hillside is a real prison worse than RPC.
— Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) November 9, 2017
Despite those assertions, Dutton yesterday told Sky News that complaints about the alternative accomodation have a political motive.
“There’s a lot of myth around this because it’s in the best interests of the advocates — and you know professional advocates like [Greens senator] Nick McKim and others — to distort the facts here and frankly just lie because they’re trading on the people’s situation here,” Dutton said.
He also said criticisms of the new facilities were also raised in an attempt to leverage a move to Australia – a claim that Boochani has previously denied.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) November 8, 2017
So, there you have it: not even eyewitness accounts from those on the island, and the UN’s own spokesperson, can convince our immigration minister that things are really that bad.