Uniting Church in Australia President Stuart McMillan has called on the Australian Government to ensure the safety of refugees on Manus Island as the main detention facility is due to close today.
Around 600 refugees have refused to leave because they fear their safety outside of the Regional Processing Centre.
“Australia cannot walk away from its responsibility to guarantee the safety of these men who have already suffered so much uncertainty and fear,” said Stuart.
Water and electricity will be turned off and food and medical services will no longer be provided as the centre is shut down today.
The Australian Government plans to transfer the refugees to other accommodation closer to the island’s main town of Lorengau.
However, the refugees are refusing to leave with some of the men repairing wire security fences to the compound to protect themselves inside the centre.
The UNHCR has also expressed its concerns about the lack of planning in the closure of the facilities and insufficient consultation with the Papua New Guinean community.
There remains no long-term solution for the refugees on Manus Island who are not included in the relocation arrangement with the United States of America.
“It is clear the refugees inside the Manus Island processing centre hold grave fears for their safety and security in the other locations,” said Stuart.
“The Government must take immediate steps to ensure the refugees remain safe and continue to have access to water, food and critical medical and mental health services,” said Stuart.
The Uniting Church has long advocated for refugees to be processed fairly, onshore in Australia and for an increase in Australia’s humanitarian intake.
“We pray for the safety of these men as the centre is shut down today and all refugees who continue to be deprived of hope.”