Weekly media wrap - 17 October 2017

Immigration minister Peter Dutton told 2GB radio that the government had cut off welfare payments to 71 asylum seekers after they failed to lodge claims for Australian protection by 1 October. Asylum Seeker Resource Centre CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis said that the centre’s lawyers would challenge the legality of the move. He added that he was worried that due to the deadline, claims had been rushed and might therefore be rejected by the government. 

Asylum seekers held on Manus Island sent a letter to PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neil asking PNG authorities to oppose Australia’s plans to resettle them in surrounding PNG communities and instead help them relocate to ‘safe’ countries. This comes after a note allegedly appeared in the Manus Island Processing Centre stating that asylum seekers in the US resettlement process were able to apply for transfer to Nauru, which was taken as a sign by Refugee Action Coalition’s Ian Rintoul that Australia had no faith in the US deal. The Manus Island Processing Centre is due to close on 31 October. 

Weekly media wrap - 9 October 2017

Immigration minister Peter Dutton reiterated his description of the first tranche of refugees to be transferred from Manus Island to the United States as ‘economic refugees’. On Sydney radio, Dutton claimed that many of those who ended up in the island camps had not come from war-ravaged areas but were instead seeking economic advantage.

US President Trump’s administration will accept 45,000 refugees in the next financial year, down from almost 85,000 in FY2016. Refugee advocates say that this lower limit ignores growing humanitarian crises around the world that are causing people to flee their countries in greater numbers, and represents a departure from US global leadership.

The Rohingya crisis continues as the UN warns of cholera risk. A boat carrying Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh capsized and at least 12 people, most of them children, drowned. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that people smugglers have begun targeting distressed Rohingya Muslims fleeing what the UN describes as a violent campaign of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

Weekly media wrap - 6 October 2017

A 32-year-old Sri Lankan asylum seeker who was detained on Manus Island was found dead in the grounds of Lorengau Hospital on 2 October. Manus Island Police Commander David Yapu has called it a suicide. Shamindan Kanapadhi, another detainee and a friend of the man, said that his friend had not been given adequate care after cutting his own neck three days before. The death is the second on Manus Island in the past two months.

The Australian Government will cut off the welfare payments of hundreds of asylum seekers who arrived by boat between 2008 and 2013. These asylum seekers may also be deported now that 1 October, the cut-off date to apply for protection visas, has passed. The immigration department website now reads that those who did not apply are ‘expected to depart Australia’ and risk being detained and removed from Australia if they do not comply. As of 29 September, about 500 asylum seekers still had not applied for protection.

Fifty-four refugees left Manus Island and Nauru for the USA, under the resettlement deal agreed upon by the Obama administration and the Turnbull Government. The US government will resettle the refugees across the country in states including Texas, Georgia and Oregon.

Weekly media wrap - 25 September 2017

Fifty-four men, refugees currently on Manus Island and Nauru are to be permanently resettled in the United States, as part of the Australian government’s deal with the United States struck in November 2016. The refugees on Manus Island, who come from Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, are expected to fly to the United States this week.

More than 2000 people remain in Manus Island and Nauru and 1783 of those have been found to be refugees.  In both islands, refugees who applied for resettlement in the United States remain uncertain of their prospects. Daily protests are continuing on Manus Island.

Liberal MP, Russell Broadbent, has publicly criticised the government’s asylum seeker policies. Mr Broadbent delivered a critical assessment of successive governments' detention of refugees offshore, predicting an imminent ‘tipping point’ in what the public would accept.

The Australian government has faced criticism over settlement packages offering thousands of dollars to Rohingya refugees in offshore detention centres as inducements to return to Myanmar. Guardian Australia reported that up to seven Rohingya return to Myanmar from Manus Island.

Australia has been urged to pressure Cambodia, a regional refugee resettlement partner, to halt the ‘imminent return’ of 29 Montagnard refugees to Vietnam where they could face persecution. The Montagnards are part of the hundreds that fled Vietnam in 2014 and 2015. 

An asylum seeker will stand trial at the County Court of Victoria after he allegedly set fire to a Melbourne bank.

Weekly media wrap - 20 September 2017

Immigration minister Peter Dutton stated that approximately 200 asylum seekers held at the Manus Island detention centre will be moved to an ‘alternative place of detention’ in Papua New Guinea after 31 October. This will include those whose refugee status applications have been denied, and those from countries to which they cannot be forcefully deported.

Dutton also introduced a bill to Parliament on Wednesday that would see phones and other items deemed to pose a ‘risk’ prohibited inside detention centres. This comes after a February Federal Court injunction that stopped immigration officers confiscating detainees’ mobile phones.

An Afghan asylum seeker will have his case reviewed after the full Federal Court found that the Refugee Review Tribunal (now known as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal) had denied the man a protection visa on the basis of incorrect facts. The Court heard evidence that the tribunal used templates, or cut and pasted paragraphs from other asylum seeker applications, in its determination of the man’s case. It is believed that this practice has occurred on several occasions.

The NSW Supreme Court rejected the legal case filed by eight families of asylum seekers who were killed and injured when their boat smashed into Christmas Island in December 2010. The families had argued that the government failed to fulfil its duty of care by intercepting arrivals.

Weekly media wrap - 11 September 2017

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a $600,000 package to support asylum seekers in the state who have been moved to a final departure Bridging E Visa. The package will provide accommodation and basic living costs for more than 100 asylum seekers who will lose federal income and housing support under the new visa.

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Cameron Macaulay approved a $70 million compensation settlement to be paid to current and former detainees of Manus Island for their illegal detention in dangerous conditions. The law firm that ran the class action, Slater and Gordon, aims to have compensation paid before the detention centre closes at the end of October. Immigration minister Peter Dutton admitted no culpability, stating that ‘settlement is not an admission of liability in any regard’.

In Myanmar, Rohingya insurgents declared a month-long ceasefire, urging the government to reciprocate. The ceasefire comes after weeks of violence which has caused more than 270,000 refugees from the Rohingya Muslim community to flee to Bangladesh. 

Weekly media wrap - 4 September 2017

In a radio interview with Alan Jones on 2GB, immigration minister Peter Dutton defended the introduction of ‘final departure Bridging E Visa’, claiming that people were ‘ripping the system off’. Meanwhile, Australian Greens senator Nick McKim stated that his party was looking into how to reverse the decision to create the new visa in the Senate.  

Dutton also reported to the Nine Network this week that Indonesian authorities had found a vessel holding 33 asylum seekers en route to Australia or New Zealand. He labelled the finding a ‘really significant wake-up call’ that showed that Australia had to remain vigilant.

Over 100 asylum seekers were moved from the Manus Island Detention Centre to Port Moresby. They were told that the move was so that they could receive specialist treatment for medical conditions, but some are worried that it is part of the government’s efforts to close the centre by 31 October. Ben Moghimi, a moved Iranian refugee, fears that he and the other patients will be left in Port Moresby if the centre closes.

A Rohingya insurgency continues in Rakhine state, in Myanmar’s west. Since 25 August , tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have attempted to cross into Bangladesh, as Myanmar troops have fired upon them and Bangladeshi authorities have turned them away.