Australia will close controversial refugee detention center

Australia will close controversial refugee detention centerControversial Australian-funded asylum seeker detention center on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) would be closed, PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said on Wednesday.

The decision comes after talks between Australia’s immigration minister Peter Dutton and Papua New Guinea officials over the offshore detention of asylum seekers on the Pacific island.

“Both Papua New Guinea and Australia are in agreement that the center is to be closed,” O’Neill said in a statement.

The timeframe for closure is still to be announced.

Earlier this year, in April, Papua New Guinea’s high court ruled the offshore detention center to be illegal and against the constitution.

But the ultimate decision was taken after the leak of more than 2,000 case reports describing pure living conditions and physical and sexual abuses of asylum seekers living in the Australian detention camps on Nauru.

The ultimate fate of 800 refugees held in the camp on Manus Island remained unclear. Under Australian law, anyone intercepted trying to reach the country by boat is sent for processing to camps on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru or to Manus Island off Papua New Guinea. They are not permitted to be resettled in Australia.

Dutton on Wednesday confirmed Australia's position that it would not accept any of the refugees detained in Papua New Guinea.

"It has been the longstanding position of this government to work with PNG to close Manus and support those people as they transition into PNG or return to their country of origin," Dutton said in a statement.

Meanwhile, more than 100 former staff from Australia’s offshore detention facilities on Wednesday called for the asylum seekers and refugees to be brought to Australia. Other human rights activists welcomed the move to free refuges.

"Nearly a thousand men on Manus have already lost three or more years of their lives locked up in limbo for no good reason. They’ve endured dirty, cramped conditions, inadequate medical care and violence. Finally, it is time to let them move on with their lives in safety and dignity." Elaine Pearson, Australia Director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
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