Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Jan 5, 2019 / 04:28 am
The bishops of Papua New Guinea have issued a renewed plea on behalf of the nearly 500 refugees and asylum seekers being held in indefinite detention in deteriorating conditions.
“These people have been away from their families for the sixth Christmas… it was just another night of detention on Manus Island,” said Fr. Ambrose Pereira, communication secretary for the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
Facing conditions of trauma, overcrowding, and lack of food, he said, “most of them survive thanks to medicines, mostly anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, antipsychotics,” and many face serious side effects from taking the medications long-term without a prescription.
In a statement to Fides News Agency on Thursday, Pereira called the refugees’ situation “abuse and neglect,” and said it causes the Papua New Guinea bishops “great suffering.”
“This is not the way to treat human beings,” he said.
Australia has had a system of “third country processing” since 2012 for asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat without a valid visa. The system transfers the asylum seekers to other countries, where they are processed based on that country’s laws.
Many of those seeking asylum in Australia come from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Iran, traveling by boat from Indonesia. They are typically intercepted by the Australian navy before reaching land, and are then sent to detention camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, a small Micronesian nation.
The government of Australia made an agreement with the government of Papua New Guinea in 2013, providing that migrants sent to Papua New Guinea from Australia would be settled there if they are found to be refugees. Otherwise they would be sent back to their country of origin or another country where they have legal residence.