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Issue #1672      February 11, 2015

IOM prey on Manus asylum seekers

Officers from the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) visited jailed asylum seekers on Manus on February 4 looking for asylum seekers to agree to voluntarily return to their home countries.

IOM was the manager of the Manus Island detention centre under the Howard government. IOM have no protection mandate but are a mercenary outfit paid by the Australian government to arrange returns of asylum seekers. IOM contracts have sometimes included bounties paid for each asylum seeker returned.

The asylum seekers have been held in appalling conditions in the Lorengau jail since being shanghaied by Wilson security guards during the Manus mass hunger strike.

“To take advantage of asylum seekers who have been cruelly abused and are now unlawfully held in jail; is just despicable,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Many of those in jail have also been denied urgently needed medical assistance. Lorengau hospital is refusing to provide treatment saying that asylum seekers should be looked after by IHMS (International Health and Medical Services). Some of those in jail are also refugees entitled to international protection.

“It says everything about the priorities of the Immigration Department and the PNG government, that IOM gets access to the jail, but there are no lawyers, nor medical assistance.

“There is an urgent need for the asylum seekers to get medical attention. There is an urgent need for human rights observers on Manus Island – at the detention centre and in the jail. IOM and the Immigration Department are systematically violating the rights of asylum seekers.”

Meanwhile, a meeting between the 15 Darwin hunger strikers and the Northern Regional Manager, Robin Gray on February 5 ended in dismay.

A meeting with the regional manager has been one of the demands since the hunger strike began 20 days ago.

But according to reports, Gray dismissed the hunger strikers’ concerns in minutes, refusing to take questions or to have any discussion. “You asked to meet me. We won’t listen to you while you are protesting. If you have complaints or requests they can be sent to the Ombudsman,” said Gray before leaving.

After Gray left, another manager at the centre told the 15 hunger strikers, “We won’t do anything for you while you are on hunger strike. We don’t care if you die.”

Asylum seekers at the meeting said they wanted to ask Gray about possible appeals and why some people in the community were able to have their cases reviewed. But, they said, “We got nothing. One minute; no questions.”

One of the asylum seekers remains on 24-hour suicide watch after slashing his wrists two days ago.

“The contemptuous attitude of the Immigration Department is making a difficult situation worse,” said Ian Rintoul.

“Those who have been indefinitely detained are being mistreated in the hope that the Immigration Department can force other asylum seekers to voluntarily return. It is a form of torture that has already put the life of another hunger striker at immediate risk.”

Next article – Abbott gov’t must fully fund students with disability

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