Weekly media wrap - 22 May 2017

Immigration minister Peter Dutton announced that approximately 7500 asylum seekers have until 1 October to formally apply for protection, or face deportation from Australia.  Refugee lawyers criticised the move, arguing that many of these asylum seekers were barred from lodging applications until late 2016, with legal centres now overwhelmed by demand.

The Guardian obtained internal working documents from the Manus Island detention centre revealing that a year-long plan has existed to make the site progressively more inhospitable for detainees. The documents, from camp manager Broadspectrum and security contractor Wilson, detail a strategy to pressure the 829 detainees to either resettle in PNG or abandon their asylum claims.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection confirmed that shots were fired into the Manus Island immigration detention centre on Good Friday. Department secretary Mike Pezzullo reported that nine people were injured in the shooting, including two refugees.

Senate Estimates heard further details about the United States resettlement deal.  While exact resettlement numbers have not been confirmed, the legal and constitutional affairs committee was told that 1440 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru have applied. 

Weekly media wrap - 18 May 2017

In a recording sent to Fairfax Media, a Papua New Guinea immigration official told asylum seekers held at Manus Island that the regional processing centre would be closed by 31 October. Refugees have been given the option to live temporarily at the East Lorengau camp while they wait for resettlement in the USA or to be permanently resettled in PNG. Immigration minister Peter Dutton reiterated that no asylum seekers would be resettled in Australia.

According to an Amnesty International briefing, there was digital verification this week of bullets being fired directly into the Manus Island regional processing centre on 14 April. While the Australian Government has not conducted an investigation into the incident, the PNG Police and PNG Defence Force have launched separate investigations.

In a new budget measure, the government will cut off income support and rental assistance from asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia by boat since 2012 and not lodged visa applications. The 90 days given to these asylum seekers in January to lodge their applications has run out and those who have not applied are set to lose their support.

Weekly media wrap - 8 May 2017

Immigration minister Peter Dutton’s claims about an altercation between asylum seekers and PNG police on Good Friday at the Manus Island detention centre were disputed again. An anonymous Border Force officer who witnessed the event said that there was no connection between the shooting and an earlier incident involving a young boy. The investigation is ongoing.

More than 1600 refugees and transferees on Manus Island and Nauru expressed interest in the Australia-US resettlement deal, which is expected to offer 1250 places. Immigration officials said that the most vulnerable of the group will be given priority, including women, children and families. Documents released by the immigration department reveal that the federal government has spent an additional $22 million in supporting the deal.

A report by the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law concluded that asylum seeker boat turnbacks practised in Australia and Europe are illegal under international law and do not deter people from making dangerous journeys. Turnback policies continue to have bipartisan support in Australia.

Former immigration minister Ian Macphee said that the power accorded to current ministers regarding asylum seekers is unjust and unchecked. The comments come in a report by Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project that warns against the dramatic rise in the personal discretions and legal powers of the immigration minister.

A Federal Court in Melbourne ordered that immigration minister Peter Dutton revisit the refugee application of a Syrian man he wanted to deport. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is considering whether to appeal the decision. 

Weekly media wrap - 1 May 2017

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection confirmed that 41 asylum seekers detained on Nauru had contracted dengue fever by the end of March. There is currently a general outbreak of the viral disease on Nauru, and the number of asylum seekers affected is likely to have risen during April. The immigration department deemed this an issue for the Nauruan government and has not commented on strategies put in place to deal with it.

The federal government agreed to compensate a nine-year-old girl who was detained on Christmas Island for almost a year for a range of medical and psychological issues developed as a result of her detention. Her case was originally part of a class action aimed at securing compensation for thousands of refugees, but this was halted by the Supreme Court last month on the basis that the individual claims were too different. 

Weekly media wrap - 24 April 2017

During a visit to Australia, US Vice President Mike Pence confirmed that Australia’s refugee swap deal will go ahead, saying that ‘The US intends to honour the agreement – subject to the US vetting process’.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton alleged that asylum seekers led a five-year-old Papua New Guinean boy into the Manus Island detention centre, causing ‘angst’ and leading to the altercation between asylum seekers and PNG police on Good Friday. PNG police dispute this account.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is using targeted advertisements via YouTube to discourage asylum seekers from attempting to reach their shores via people-smuggling boats.  


Weekly media wrap - 20 April 2017

Manus Island detainees reported that the PNG Defence Force fired approximately 100 rounds of bullets into the detention centre on 14 April in response to an alleged fight between detainees and PNG Defence Force personnel. The Australian immigration department confirmed that one detainee was injured by a thrown rock; however, the numbers and seriousness of injuries vary in other reports. In response to this incident, churches and refugee advocates called for the evacuation of asylum seekers on Manus Island to Australia while the resettlement deal with the US progresses.

According to the Fifth National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey, pro bono legal services increased by almost 10% from 2014 to 2016. Heightened demand from asylum seekers and refugees is cited as a key reason for this increase. 

Weekly media wrap - 10 April 2017

Officials from the US Department of Homeland Security visited Manus Island to fingerprint and photograph refugees for potential resettlement under the US-Australia refugee deal. Details of the deal, including what the ‘extreme vetting’ promised by President Donald Trump entails, remain unclear.

On an official visit to Papua New Guinea, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull endorsed the Manus Island detention centre closing by the end of the year. Neither he nor PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill gave further information on the process for the closure. Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton later clarified that refugees not accepted by the US would be settled in PNG and non-refugees would be returned to their home countries.

Amnesty International released a report accusing Spanish company Ferrovial and its Australian subsidiary Broadspectrum of failing to meet human rights obligations in running Australia’s offshore processing centres. Broadspectrum’s $2.5 billion contract with the Australian government ends in October.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled against fully disclosing many documents on Australia’s asylum seeker boat turnback operations, sought by The Guardian under freedom of information laws. Some previously classified documents were released during the legal proceedings.