UNHCR undertook a visit to Manus Island from 23 to 25 October 2013 to assess the progress by Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) in implementing their commitments under the 1951 Refugee Convention since UNHCR’s June 2013 visit and to review the reception conditions at the Regional Processing Centre (RPC).
Summary of key findings
UNHCR welcomes some positive developments since its June 2013 visit. These include the commencement of refugee status determination (RSD) assessments, the transfer of children and their families back to Australia, the accommodation of asylum-seekers in hard-walled buildings rather than tents and the on-going development of excursions and activities available to asylum-seekers. However, UNHCR notes that there has been little or no progress in addressing fundamental concerns identified in UNHCR’s June report.
Overall, UNHCR was deeply troubled to observe that the current policies, operational approaches and harsh physical conditions at the RPC do not comply with international standards and in particular:
a) constitute arbitrary and mandatory detention under international law;
b) do not provide a fair, efficient and expeditious system for assessing refugee claims;
c) do not provide safe and humane conditions of treatment in detention; and
d) do not provide for adequate and timely solutions for refugees.
Further, the ‘return-orientated environment’ observed by UNHCR at the RPC is at variance with the primary purpose of the transfer arrangements, which is to identify and protect refugees and other persons in need of international protection.