Australia will stop sending asylum seekers from Papua New Guinea to Australia (PNG), marking the end of its controversial detention system in that country.
PNG is the second Pacific country that Canberra pays to keep asylum seekers in PNG.
Australia stated that its agreement with PNG will be completed by the end the year.
However, it will not abandon its divisional “offshore Processing” policy for Nauru’s remote island nation.
“Australia’s strong border protection policies… have not changed,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said on Wednesday.
“Anyone trying to enter Australia illegally via boat” she said, but did not clarify that it was legal to seek asylum.
Remaining 120 refugees and asylum seekers in PNG have the choice to either resettle or be detained in Nauru.
There have been many violent incidents during Australia’s eight year presence in PNG. These include riots, hunger strikes and the assassination of an Iranian asylum-seeker by guards.
13 of the people held by Australia in PNG, Nauru, have been killed from suicide, medical neglect, or violence.
Thanus Selvarasa, a former detainee who was also a refugee said that the closure was a “good decision”, but eight years was too long. PNG is unsafe for refugees to settle down.
“We arrived in Australia looking for asylum. We were transferred to offshore processing. He said that they change their policy every time and play politics with our lives.”
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- A refugee author, who was six years lang imprisoned in PNG.
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Others called on Australia to offer safe resettlement of the men remaining.
During processing of refugee applications, Australia sent over 1,900 Australian men to the detention centers on the island.
Many people have been there for many years due to Australia’s 2013 immigration laws that deny resettlement visas of asylum seekers coming by sea, which was a major change.
Australia believes its policies are valid because they protect seafarers from drowning.
Offshore and indefinite detention are often criticized for being inhumane and harmful and in violation of international law.
UN rights group and Rights Groups have often criticised Australia’s Nauru centres and PNG for their poor conditions.
In 2017, Australia paid a A$70m (£37m; $50m) settlement to over 1,900 detainees who had sued for harm suffered in detention.
The Supreme Court of PNG ruled that Manus Island was unlawful and forced it to close.
Experts agree that it was normal for the PNG facilities to close because Canberra hadn’t sent any new asylum seekers there recently.