This report argues that current arrangements at Manus Island do not meet international protection standards for the reception and treatment of asylum-seekers.
UNHCR acknowledges a number of positive developments since its January visit, including the transfer of children and their families back to Australia, and was also impressed by the obvious sensitivity, dedication and good will of staff and officials on site.
Despite these efforts, conditions remain below international standards for the reception and treatment of asylum-seekers. Physical living conditions remain harsh, in particular for asylum-seekers living in the single adult males’ compound.
While the ongoing development of excursions and activities available to asylumseekers is welcomed, freedom of movement remains extremely limited.
The current PNG policy and practice of detaining all asylum-seekers at the closed Centre, on a mandatory and indefinite basis without an assessment as to the necessity and proportionality of the purpose of such detention in the individual case, and without being brought promptly before a judicial or other independent authority amounts to arbitrary detention that is inconsistent with international human rights law.
Transfer arrangements remain problematic and do not appear to reflect the required procedural safeguards under international law, or under the bilateral agreement between Australia and PNG.
Pre-transfer assessments do not appear to assess the individual needs of children or persons of heightened vulnerability, or the nature of the facilities and services that would be available to them at the RPC. UNHCR welcomes the commencement of refugee status determination (RSD) processing, but notes the shortcomings in the legal framework, including PNG laws and regulations.
UNHCR considers changes to these laws and regulations need to be implemented to ensure that a fair and efficient process, which meets international standards and is accessible to all asylum-seekers in PNG, regardless of their means of arrival, is put in place.
UNHCR also reiterates the need for durable solutions for those found to be refugees or otherwise in need of international protection, within a reasonable time, consistent with both States’ obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention.