Resettlement Solutions Needed For Refugees on Manus Island

New York, N.Y. mid news of an agreement to close the Australian immigration detention centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today underscored the importance of finding permanent and sustainable resettlement solutions that address the needs of the refugees.

                                                                       01-11-2011detentioncentreVillawood Immigration Detention Centre outside Sydney, Australia, which houses asylum-seekers. Photo: IRIN

In a news release, the agency’s Australia office urged Peter Dutton, Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, to seriously consider resettlement options in credible third countries which are equipped to respond to the complex issues facing the refugees and their families.

“[The refugees] became adults under the some of the harshest conditions imaginable,” said Nicole Breeze, Director of Policy and Advocacy, UNICEF Australia in the press release.

Many of the now grown men arrived on the island as boys, without their parents or families, and have grown up in an unsafe, institutionalized setting surrounded by highly distressed adults, she added.

She further said that Australia’s offshore processing regime has created conditions in which already vulnerable people have been at risk of greater harm and that severe violence and self-harm have been frequently reported.

“It’s what happens next that matters for this group […] Pressuring them to move into the Papua New Guinea community or shifting them to Nauru would only relocate the crisis,” she added.

The news release further noted that over the last three years, UNICEF Australia has expressed serious concerns regarding the safety of the unaccompanied children who were held in the Regional Processing Centre on Manus Island.

Noting that the agency has an appreciation of the challenges facing both refugees and the Governments seeking to assist them, Ms. Breeze said that it looks forward to a continued constructive partnership with Government that seeks to find the best possible outcome for children and families on Manus Island and Nauru.

“The Australian Government has an opportunity to fully consider sustainable options that properly prioritise the well-being of this group,” she added.

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