Manus Island Governor threatens to block transfer of refugees to new facility


The Governor of Manus Island has threatened to stop the relocation of refugees from the Australian-funded detention centre unless concerns about a new accommodation facility are addressed.

Immigration authorities want to move 600 men from the detention centre to three other sites on the island when it is shut down on October 31.

But Governor Charlie Benjamin said he was never consulted about the construction of one of the new accommodation facilities in a residential area.

“This is disrespectful, very disrespectful,” Mr Benjamin said.

“I have no idea whether it was approved by the PNG Government and the Australians at the top, but don’t forget that I am in charge of this province.”

The new accommodation facility is being built in a residential area in Ward One on the outskirts of the island’s main town Lorengau.

Local residents are angry and say there was no prior warning or consultation before construction started earlier this month.

Some have threatened to arm themselves with knives, axes and other weapons and block access to the site.

Mr Benjamin shares their concerns.

“I am also worried about their safety,” he said.

“We also want them to assure us that when these people move around in Lorengau it will be a controlled movement.”

Referring to the refugees and asylum seekers who are due to be sent to the accommodation facility, Mr Benjamin said: “You know, I cannot also assure their safety because the people have shown their frustration already.”

Mr Benjamin said if safety concerns were not addressed, and his questions about who authorised the construction of the facility are not answered, access to the site would be blocked.

“We’ve been always trying to be diplomatic but this time we are going to show you that we are the leaders of this province and our people will be there to make sure it does not happen,” he said.


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