Thursday, 9 February 2017
At five o'clock this morning, under the cover of darkness on Manus Island at the Lombrum detention centre, Papua New Guinea police and private security guards stormed the centre and began the forced deportation that was the subject of my questions to Senator Brandis yesterday. In doing so, they have trashed the human rights of detainees, who remain Australia's moral and legal responsibility in the context of international law. We have seen at least one detainee frogmarched out of the detention centre and allegedly private guards threatened other detainees that they would be back to take them out later.
This is a situation that has inflamed tensions which already were at very high levels. I want to say very clearly that the Australian government needs to intervene here with the Papua New Guinea government, ensure that detainees have all opportunity to exhaust legal remedies before they are forcibly deported from Papua New Guinea and ensure that actions taken by Papua New Guinea police and private security guards do not, as we have heard this morning, unnecessarily inflame tensions. We do not want to see violence in these centres. But I do have to say that tensions are running very hot in the Lombrum centre and I urge the Attorney-General to uphold the law and use all available opportunities to make sure that things are done properly and in accordance with international law.
What Senator McKim failed to inform the Senate was that the people who were the subject of this action today are not refugees. They are not refugees. He chose his words carefully by describing them as 'detainees'. I am advised that every single individual the subject of these removal proceedings is a person whose claim to refugee status has been processed and rejected. It is quite wrong, therefore, for Senator McKim to claim as he does that rights are being violated. When a person claims to be a refugee and then their claim to refugee status is rejected, the country to which they have made that claim has every right in international law to return them to their country of origin in accordance with its own domestic laws. That is what the New Guinean authorities are doing.
When we speak of Manus Island, we should remember two things. The Manus Island detention centre was created by the government of New Guinea as a result of an agreement entered into between that government and the government of Mr Kevin Rudd. The other thing is that every person in the Manus Island detention centre, whether they have been assessed to be a refugee or, as in this case, their refugee claim has been refused, was put there by the Labor Party. The second thing we should remember is that under this government we have attempted to empty those centres, most recently by entering into an agreement with the administration of the United States of America. (Time expired)