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Refugee assaulted for missing curfew

Wednesday 3 June 2015 | Published in Regional


LORENGAU – Security guards on Manus Island have reportedly assaulted a refugee for not returning to the East Lorengau refugee transit centre by the imposed 6.00pm curfew.

The Iranian man was at a local restaurant at around 10.00pm when guards from the transit centre forcibly restrained him and took him back to his Australian-funded accommodation.

“Suddenly some Papua New Guinea immigration people injured him and very forcibly they took him to a car for going back to his accommodation,” said a source, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive matter of refugee issues on the island. “They hit him and his face become dark blue.”

Manus Island Provincial Police Commander Alex N’Drasal confirmed the assault took place and said he was interviewing the PNG guards believed to be involved.

The Lorengau General Hospital told the ABC on Tuesday it had not treated a refugee for assault-related injuries in the last 24 hours.

The refugee is one of a small group of men who have had their asylum claims processed, have left detention and are awaiting permanent resettlement in another part of Papua New Guinea.

However, the PNG Government has not yet formed a policy for resettling refugees and is giving them no indication how long they will be kept on Manus Island.

While free from the Australian-run detention centre on the Lombrum Naval Base, the refugees are expected to return to the East Lorengau transit centre between 6.00pm and 6.00am.

The legal basis for such a curfew is unclear.

“Where is the law, I don’t know?” asked one refugee at the East Lorengau centre.

The ABC is seeking comment from PNG’s Ministry of Immigration and Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Last week, PNG passed amendments to laws dealing with foreigners in immigration detention.

“The Migration Amendment Bill provides expanded powers to manage refugee relocation centres and places of immigration detention, and introduces for the first time a clear definition of immigration detention,” Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato said in a statement released on May 28.

Minister Pato also stated that the government is “working to ensure that public servants and officers, as well as contracted security staff, have the powers and legal certainty necessary to discharge these responsibilities”.

The night curfew on Manus Island is part of wider restrictions for the refugees awaiting resettlement.

In March, Iranian refugee Reza Mollagholipour was denied permission to leave Manus Island to attend job interviews he had organised in PNG’s capital Port Moresby.

Earlier this year Mollagholipour expressed optimism about finding a job and starting a new life in Papua New Guinea but in recent weeks has told the ABC he is losing hope.

PNG’s prime minister Peter O’Neill said last month that 129 asylum seekers had been granted refugee status, while more than 400 had returned to their home countries.

To date, no refugee has been resettled in PNG.

In other related news, people working in Australia’s detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, including NGOs and doctors, could soon face jail time for speaking out about what they have seen in the course of their work.

The Australian Border Force Act 2015 will come into effect on July 1.

The law makes it a criminal offence for any person who works directly or indirectly with the immigration department to disclose information about the facilities to any organisation, except the department, police, courts and coroners.

That means any worker or contractor who speaks to the media could face prison for up to two years.

The Act also requires immigration workers to subscribe to an oath, but the contents of that oath are not detailed in the legislation.

Meanwhile, the Refugee Action Coalition says refugees resettled on Nauru aren’t getting the healthcare they need.

The group has highlighted the case of an Iranian boy who’s broken arm needs to be reset after he was treated at Nauru’s hospital.

It’s calling for Australia’s Immigration Minister to send him to Australia for treatment.

The coalition says the boy is a victim of Australian government policy that provides different levels of care to asylum seekers in detention and those found to be refugees and living outside the camps.

The group says when it was discovered the boy had been classed as a refugee his parents were told he would have to be treated on Nauru.

The Coalition says a 36-year old-woman refugee needs an MRI scan but those facilities don’t exist on Nauru while another woman has gynaecological problems which have been left untreated.

Meanwhile Nauru’s health minister, Valdon Dowiyogo, has asked Australia to send a specialist medical team to treat the boy as soon as possible.