By Paul Dobbyn
A BRISBANE refugee advocate who visited Manus Island twice last year has called on the Australian Government to close the strife-torn detention centre.
“There is no accountability; no journalists are allowed in to report what’s happening,” Romero Centre community engagement co-ordinator Rebecca Lim said.
“If Australia are doing everything right, why the secrecy?
“Also why are we spending millions in detaining these people offshore when it is so much cheaper onshore?”
Ms Lim visited Manus Island in February last year after the murder there of 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati.
She also visited in October for two weeks.
“Reports in the media that conditions are horrendous tallied with what I heard when I visited the island,” she said.
“There were stories of detainees receiving outdated medicine and food such as milk and dairy products.
“There were also stories of rape and sexual assault of detainees.
“It’s a prison with a hierarchy of power … the weak need protection from the strong.”
Ms Lim’s comments came in the wake of reported protests at the Papua New Guinea detention centre in recent weeks.
More than 200 detainees are now allegedly receiving medical treatment after going on a hunger strike.
Refugee advocates in contact with detainees estimated the protests have involved more than half the 1035 detainees.
There were reports of no running water being available in the centre with detainees being given bottled water to drink, wash with and to use to flush the toilets.
Ms Lim’s comments also followed statements from the new Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton of his “absolute resolve” to ensure “transferees will never arrive in Australia”.
Mr Dutton said he was “disturbed” by reports of the actions of some within the centre – including cases of self-harm.
One asylum seeker is believed to have swallowed razor blades, others are said to have sewn their lips together.
Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss said he wished “there weren’t tensions on those islands, but I wish the people weren’t there in the first place”.
“I wish we didn’t have a situation where people have paid people smugglers to try and come to this country to get around our immigration laws,” he said.
Ms Lim said asylum seekers were using a legal way to get to Australia.
“This is according to the UN Refugee Convention,” she said.
“The convention is designed for people needing protection who have to make their own way to a country that is offering protection.
“Entering a convention country and applying for asylum is a legitimate, and not a backdoor means, of getting protection.”