Nationwide Protests in Support of Manus Island Refugees

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Nationwide Protests occurred at at Labour Offices in Support of Manus Island Refugees on Friday 17 November.

Protests in support of the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island are taking place nationwide today. People are sitting in at Labour MP offices across the country to urge the government to take immediate action on the Manus Island refugee crisis.

In a demonstration of solidarity for the men trapped on Manus Island, Peace Action Wellington and other refugee supporters have today occupied Grant Robertson’s office in Wellington. Protests have also taken place at Labour MP offices in Auckland, Dunedin and New Plymouth in an urgent demand for Jacinda Ardern to bring all the refugees to Aotearoa.

Ardern has expressed grave concerns for the refugees and claims that she believes that the situation is unacceptable. However, Alex Davis noted, “For a government that campaigned on having empathy and compassion for people, their response to the crisis hasn’t helped the men on Manus at all.”

Jacinda Ardern's offer to Australia to take 150 refugees remains unaccepted by Australian PM Malcomn Turnball. Turnball is using a refugee agreement with the US as an excuse not to negotiate further.

Papua New Guinea have so far refused to talk to the New Zealand government directly, as they believe that the refugees are Australia's responsibility. Ardern has also started using delaying tactics by stating that any processing of possible refugees will take months, and that she can't negotiate with PNG while Australia's offer is still 'on the table'.

It's a political stalemate. The NZ government have done nothing to alleviate the situation. In the meantime, these men enter their 17th day without food, clean water, power and medication.

“Ardern has left all the power in Australia's hands. We believe we can do better than an offer to take 150 refugees when there are 700 men in desperate need of resettlement. They have been indefinitely detained for far too long. It looks like the Government is trying to wait out the public pressure until these men have been unsafely housed elsewhere on Manus Island,” said Alex Davis, spokesperson for Peace Action Wellington.

“But it's not enough for Aotearoa to take these people: we need to condemn Australia for their illegal and racist border policies that created this problem in the first place.”

The situation on Manus Island is dire. On October 31st, the detention centre on Manus was closed after the Papua New Guinean courts ruled it unconstitutional.

Since then, the Australian government has essentially abandoned the refugees and asylum seekers.

On Monday PNG Immigration Officals and police entered the Manus Island camp and destroyed shelters, emptied water tanks and filled in a well the refugees had dug with rubbish and sand. The men are holding strong but are without food, clean water, power and medical care.

The people in the detention centre are now being threatened with being forcibly moved by the PNG army and police to incomplete accommodation in a nearby town. Locals of the small town have not been consulted about the move of around 700 people into their community and are understandably unhappy about it.

Alex Davis said, “We don't need Australia's permission to take these people. These refugees and asylum seekers have fled war and persecution in their homelands, and only want freedom and a safe country to finally restart their lives. Shame on Australia for creating this horrific situation."

"Some people have called upon NGOs and activists to do what they did 30 years ago, when the people from Rongelap Atoll were evacuated by the Rainbow Warrior after nuclear testing there. Either way, what is needed is action now. This is an Australasian crisis and the refugees need to be evacuated immediately."

ENDS

Further Info: Peace Action Wellington

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