Last asylum seekers held in Papua New Guinea detention centre released

Josh Taylor

Eighteen men who were held in isolation and poor conditions in Papua New Guinea’s Bomana immigration detention centre have been released.

In August, PNG authorities arrested 52 men who had previously been detained on Manus Island on behalf of the Australian government after seeking asylum by boat.

As of January this year, just 18 of the 52 men remained in the detention centre, after the others had been removed having agreed to return to their country of origin.

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Many of those who were detained had spent up to seven years in Australia’s offshore detention system, but say the conditions inside Bomana broke them into signing the agreements.

The 18 men were released last night and moved to three boutique hotels in Port Moresby, Guardian Australia understands.

Refugee advocate and Port Moresby Catholic priest Father Giorgio Licini told Guardian Australia he had attempted to visit one of those who had been detained on Thursday night.

Even though he is now in a hotel where conditions are better than in Bomana, the man was too tired and weak to see him.

“In the hotel, I think, they have good rooms and everything is OK,” Licini said.

“What we hope is one way or another through UNHCR they will be resettled somewhere, because they can’t be resettled here.”

Shaminda Kanapathi, a refugee in Port Moresby, tweeted that the men had lost a lot of weight during their detention, and their physical and mental health had deteriorated.

Photos obtained by Guardian Australia earlier this month reveal the poor conditions those kept in the centre experienced. There was no shade, and the men were forced to sleep in demountables on hard plastic mattresses with no pillows.

“The fact that they’re out is fantastic. I’m really happy about that. I was crying all day yesterday,” refugee advocate Anne Moon said.

Moon has spoken to some of the men since their release, and said that some of the men had lost as much as 15 kilograms while detained.

“They’ve all lost a great deal of weight,” she said.

“Of course what is happening now is they’ve been without food for so long they actually can’t eat,” she said. “They’re not getting the help they need, not at all.”

The Australian government has said it has no involvement or visibility inside Bomana.

Moon said, however, Australia bears responsibility for the treatment of the men in Bomana.

“They’re broken. We’ve broken them. And some of these men will never recover. That’s on us, that’s on Australia.”

Both the Australian department of home affairs and the PNG immigration department were contacted for comment.