Weekly media wrap - 14 October 2019

Some asylum seekers who have been approved for medevac transfers to Australia are among a group of 52 men who have been detained in Bomana immigration detention centre in Port Moresby for the past two months, without access to phones or lawyers. The Australian Government confirmed that approvals for medevacs have been ‘communicated’ to Port Moresby, but said the management of detainees inside the detention centre is a matter for the PNG Government.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged the Australian and Papua New Guinea Governments to work together to find a solution for the men who were denied refugee protection and who remain in Port Moresby. In Australia this week, Bachelet said no one was ‘taking responsibility’ for the more than 50 men who have been transferred to Bomana immigration detention centre in Papua New Guinea's capital, after failing in their bid for asylum in Australia. 

More than 95,000 people have sought asylum in Australia after arriving by plane in the past five years, but more than 84% were found not to have a valid claim. Figures revealed this week show that 4037 people who flew to Australia sought asylum in the first seven weeks of this financial year. This rate indicates a record high if the trajectory continues. However, the Australian Government commented that on annual comparisons there has been a decline. The Labor opposition raised concern that the refusal rate of applicants was an indicator that people making claims for asylum were at risk of labour exploitation. 

Average processing times for refugee applications has more than doubled in less than three years, to a peak of 786 days. Commentators are raising concerns that this is creating incentives for further arrivals. The number of active migration and refugee cases at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has also increased to 63,576 at the end of September 2019, up from 24,462 at the end of June 2017.

Internal emails from within the Department of Home Affairs revealed that the Australian Government reportedly considered cancelling the visa of refugee Hakeem al-Araibi, who was recently detained in Thailand. The emails, released under freedom of information laws, also showed that the Border Force officials initially failed to notify the Australian Federal Police of al-Araibi’s refugee status.

The UNHCR launched the Joint Data Centre this week, in collaboration with the World Bank. The Centre ‘aims to combine the former’s knowledge and data on refugees and displaced persons, with the latter’s global experience of poverty reduction, and socio-economic analytical experience’.