Papua New Guinea flag flies ahead of the Nov. 17-18 APEC
summit. Credit: James D. Morgan / Getty Images News.
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops
of Papua New Guinea have issued a renewed plea on behalf of
the nearly 500 refugees and asylum seekers being held in
indefinite detention in deteriorating conditions.
“These people have been away from their families for the sixth
Christmas… it was just another night of detention on Manus
Island,” said Fr. Ambrose Pereira, communication secretary for
the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and the
Facing conditions of trauma, overcrowding, and lack of food,
he said, “most of them survive thanks to medicines, mostly
anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, antipsychotics,” and many face
serious side effects from taking the medications long-term
without a prescription.
In a statement to Fides News Agency on Thursday, Pereira
called the refugees’ situation “abuse and neglect,” and said
it causes the Papua New Guinea bishops “great suffering.”
“This is not the way to treat human beings,” he said.
Australia has had a system of “third country processing” since
2012 for asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat without
a valid visa. The system transfers the asylum seekers to other
countries, where they are processed based on that country’s
Many of those seeking asylum in Australia come from
Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Iran, traveling by boat from
Indonesia. They are typically intercepted by the Australian
navy before reaching land, and are then sent to detention
camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, a small Micronesian
The government of Australia made an agreement with the
government of Papua New Guinea in 2013, providing that
migrants sent to Papua New Guinea from Australia would be
settled there if they are found to be refugees. Otherwise they
would be sent back to their country of origin or another
country where they have legal residence.
Ahead of the Nov. 17-18 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
summit in Port Moresby, the Papua New Guinea government sent
dozens of men who had been receiving specialized medical
attention back to Manus Island, citing security needs. These
men joined hundreds of other refugees and asylum seekers being
held on the island.
In November, a report from Amnesty International and the
Refugee Council of Australia documented serious declines in
mental and physical health among the refugees in detention on
Three men had committed suicide, and many others had attempted
suicide, the report said.
It decried the “brutal and illegal policy of offshore
detention.” It pointed to a decrease in mental health
resources and professionals available to the refugees and
asylum seekers, as well as incidents of assault and robbery
“The obvious answer to almost all health problems is to give
them freedom and to reduce the damage caused by stress,
trauma, overcrowding and malnutrition during their detention,
as highlighted by numerous reports,” said Fr. Pereira in his
“Refugees are waiting for the day they are released, and we
hope that 2019 will bring good news for them.”