Refugee issue at Manus Island, PNG : Govt disinclined to get involved | Sunday Observer

Refugee issue at Manus Island, PNG : Govt disinclined to get involved

The Sri Lankan Government indicated that they may not get involved in the refugee issue at Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, to bring back any Sri Lankans, where a crisis had erupted after the Australian government withdrew support for the prison camp on October 31.

The camp was maintained by the Australian government to detain unsuccessful illegal immigrants to the country since 2012. An unknown number of Sri Lankans was also being held at the camp and it was not clear how many of them are still there. The Foreign Ministry or the Australian High Commission in Colombo did not confirm a figure, but media reports said there were over 20 Lankans stranded due to the situation.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maheshini Kolonne told the Sunday Observer that these people have ceased to be Sri Lakans since they have abandoned their citizenship here to seek asylum down under.

“If people are asylum seekers or refugees they cease to be Sri Lankans unless they want to return to Sri Lanka,” the spokesperson said. She said these refugees cannot be brought back by force.

Shortly after the LTTE war ended many Sri Lankans headed for Australia in rickety boats. Most of these asylum seekers who were identified as economic migrants were detained in Manus and Nauru, two offshore detention centres maintained by the Australian government during Prime Minister Tony Abbots administration.

The local authorities of Papua New Guinea have informed the detainees to leave the closed camp. However, some 400 people are currently occupying the site refusing to leave citing security concerns. Media reports quoting the local Police Chief said people were gradually leaving the camp in batches and they were not going to use force on the remaining people.

ABC reported the refugees are currently without fresh water, food and power. 

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