April 30, 2013
Labor Senator Doung Cameron says the federal government’s Manus Island asylum seeker processing centre is no place for women and children and should be closed down.
As pressure on the government ramps up after a scathing assessment by former staff, the NSW MP said reopening the Papua New Guinea facility was a mistake and called for more onshore processing.
Senator Cameron said women and children should not live in conditions where they lacked proper medical care and accommodation and where mosquitoes and malaria were rife.
“The women and children should be removed from there immediately. And I am calling on the minister to do that as of today,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.
“This is not treating asylum seekers as human beings.”
Former staff at the detention centre have painted a bleak picture of the Manus facility, telling the ABC TV Four Corners program of an appalling lack of medical support for women and children living in tropical conditions.
Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor defended conditions on the island, denying it lacked proper medical supplies and was unfit for children.
Mr O’Connor acknowledged the centre didn’t provide “five-star” accommodation, but he said he was confident it was adequately supplied with medical equipment.
“I’ve said all along that they’re adequate,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Mr O’Connor said the main problem for people on Manus was the sense that they would be detained indefinitely.
“That’s why I’ve been engaging with the PNG government to make sure that they are processed as quickly as can be done so that they know their fate,” he said.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, who visited the Manus Island facility in March, agreed the centre was not suitable for children.
“The coalition had always questioned the government’s decision to put families on Manus Island,” he said.
“We’ve always said that the better place to do that would be on Nauru.”
But he said the medical facilities he inspected were up to standard.
Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the government must urgently bring asylum seeker families back to Australia and stop processing people offshore.
The Australian Council for International Development called for the immediate removal of children from Manus.