Some Manus Island asylum seekers not coping well | Pacific Beat

Some Manus Island asylum seekers not coping well

Some Manus Island asylum seekers not coping well

Updated 8 January 2013, 11:46 AEDT

Six weeks after the first asylum seekers arrived on the Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, the man charged with looking after the welfare of the detainees, says there are some tensions within the group and some people aren't coping well with the conditions.

Australia's offshore immigration processing centre on Manus Island reopened in November.

Since then there have been reports of hunger strikes by detainees and even a fight on Christmas Eve.

Presenter: Emily Bourke

Speaker: Major Paul Moulds, the director of offshore missions for the Salvation Army


EMILY BOURKE: The Salvation Army's Paul Moulds has been managing the Manus Island immigration detention facility in Papua New Guinea since it reopened at the end of November. (*EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Moulds is the director of offshore missions for the Salvation Army. This transcript has been amended as the original phrasing implied he was the director of the Immigration Detention Centre itself.)

PAUL MOULDS: The heat and humidity obviously is still very trying and still has a severe effect on many people. I think some of the conditions are far as the access transferees have and asylum seekers have to air conditioned spaces is improving.

There is adequate and plenty of water at the moment.

EMILY BOURKE: What's the main concern of those who are there?

PAUL MOULDS: There are some people who are just so grateful to be in a place where they feel protected, they express their happiness and their thanks to us every day.

There are others who are really struggling with the conditions here, the heat. And I guess there's another group who feel quite unfairly treated. They can't understand why they've been transferred here while some of the people they came on the same boat with are given bridging visas in the Australian community.

EMILY BOURKE: How would you characterise the mood of this group?

PAUL MOULDS: It's variable. I mean, we've had New Year's Eve on Manus Island and it was a wonderful celebration. People I think thought for a moment about all the harshness and their situation and really they celebrated with us.

We had a dance party as if you would have in Australia and we had music, and today may be a different experience as the reality of their situation hits them again.

EMILY BOURKE: Is there tension within the group itself?

PAUL MOULDS: There are tensions that emerge when people live together in a confined space, absolutely, and again we're working on those in a positive way all the time.

And was there tension at the New Year's Eve night - and I can tell you that every group danced together and celebrated together and today there's a great mood.

What it will be tomorrow or next week? We have to be here and be prepared for that.

EMILY BOURKE: But he says the immigration process itself is causing constant anxiety and frustration.

PAUL MOULDS: The Papuan New Guinean government obviously is responsible for that and they've met with the asylum seekers and they've spoken to them, and they've been able to give them some information and some hopes that that will commence early in 2013.

So I think that's helped them to at least understand that that process will begin. What happens following the process I guess is still a bit uncertain and we're hoping that those things too, there will be more clarity on in the days ahead.

EMILY BOURKE: Refugee advocates who've slammed the revived offshore immigration processing policy have also rounded on the Salvation Army for being involved in the management of the detention facilities.

But Paul Moulds denies the Salvation Army's work amount to support for government policy.

PAUL MOULDS: We were on the front line during World War One, World War Two and the other wars. It doesn't mean that we in any see violence or war as a way of resolving conflict, but where there is suffering, someone needs to be.

And the other question I'd say is, if not us, who? Who would deliver these services? A security firm, a facilities management company?

What we need is an organisation who is able to deal with the human condition, who can sit with people through the pain that they feel, through the angst they feel, who can encourage them not to self harm but to express themselves in other ways.

We don't support the policy of offshore processing but we know that these people need someone in this centre to stand by them and that's our role.

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