Asylum-seekers get 24-hour reprieve from Papua New Guinea camp eviction

In this Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 image supplied by Hass Hassaballa, asylum seekers sit on the ground as they refuse to leave the Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea. An Australian minister on Friday, Nov. 10 predicted a conflict between Papua New Guinea police and hundreds of asylum seekers who have refused to leave a decommissioned immigration camp where many hold out hope of resettling in the United States. (AP)
Updated 11 November 2017
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Asylum-seekers get 24-hour reprieve from Papua New Guinea camp eviction

SYDNEY: Papua New Guinea will delay by at least 24 hours a plan to forcibly evict hundreds of men from an abandoned Australian detention center, three asylum seekers said on Saturday.
Hundreds of men have barricaded themselves into the Manus island center for more than 11 days without regular food or water, defying closure bids by Australia and Papua New Guinea in what the United Nations calls a “looming humanitarian crisis.”
Rejecting United Nations calls to restore utilities to the camp, Papua New Guinea this week said it would “apprehend” those responsible for the stand-off when it forcibly evicted the men on Saturday.
But several asylum seekers said Papua New Guinea officials told them detainees could remain until Sunday.
“Police are talking on a microphone outside prison,” Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish journalist from Iran, who has spent more than four years detained in the camp, told Reuters.
“They’re telling the refugees to leave, saying tomorrow will be the last day you are here,” he said in a text message.
It was not immediately clear what caused the postponement.
Pressure on the asylum seekers, drawn largely from Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Syria, has grown in recent days as Papua New Guinea tries to get them to move to three transit centers.
The asylum seekers fear reprisals if they move to the transit centers, pending possible resettlement in the United States. The main camp was closed on Oct. 31 and water and power have been cut off.
Some island-dwellers are angry at what they perceive as preferential treatment for the asylum seekers, many of them well educated, in a poor, rural society, and some detainees have come under attack when on release from the camp.
The patience of Papua New Guinea authorities has begun to wane, however, and they moved this week to remove camp fences and dismantle rainwater collection bins and makeshift shelters built to ward off the tropical sun and rain.
Under pressure, groups of men have elected to move to the transit centers. But the exact number left is difficult to ascertain, though Manus Island police commander David Yapu told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about 400 remain.
Several of those remaining told Reuters they would not move, setting the scene for a potential clash, which would further stoke international criticism of Australia.
Australia has used the center, and a camp on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru, to detain asylum seekers who try to reach its shores by boat. It says boat arrivals will never enter Australia, even if found to be refugees, as this would encourage people smugglers in Asia.
Australia says the policy prevents people drowning at sea, but it has been widely condemned.
Acting Prime Minister Julie Bishop said there was no reason for the remaining men to choose to stay, rejecting criticism of inadequate facilities at the transit centers.
“Over the last few months they have traveled to East Lorengau on many occasions and never raised any concerns,” Bishop told reporters in Perth.


South Sudan foes in new peace talks to end deadly war

Updated 58 min 16 sec ago
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South Sudan foes in new peace talks to end deadly war

  • A first round brokered by Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa on Thursday failed to achieve any breakthrough
  • The war has killed tens of thousands of people and driven about four million others from their homes

KHARTOUM: South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and arch-foe Riek Machar were set to hold a new round of peace talks Monday after a first meeting last week faltered.
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir is hosting in Khartoum the second round of talks between the two bitter rivals, aimed at ending South Sudan’s four-and-a-half year brutal civil war.
A first round brokered by Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa on Thursday failed to achieve any breakthrough.
Regional East African leaders have launched new efforts to secure peace in South Sudan where warring factions face a looming deadline to avert UN sanctions.
The war has killed tens of thousands of people and driven about four million others from their homes.
It erupted after Kiir fell out with his then deputy Machar in December 2013, dashing the optimism that accompanied independence of South Sudan just two years earlier from Sudan.
“In this round of talks we are looking for a breakthrough to this thorny issue,” Sudanese Foreign Minister Al-Dierdiry Ahmed told reporters on Sunday.
Kiir and Machar’s meeting in Addis Ababa was their first face-to-face encounter in nearly two years.
Their meeting in Khartoum will be the first since fighting erupted in South Sudan.
It comes after South Sudan’s government declared that it “had enough” of Machar, dashing hopes of any breakthrough at the Addis Ababa talks.
“As the people of South Sudan, not the president alone, but as the people of South Sudan, we are saying enough is enough,” South Sudanese government spokesman Michael Makuei said Friday.
Makuei rejected Machar’s presence in any transitional government but did not rule out the involvement of other rebel figures.
His remarks show the personal enmity between Kiir and Machar, that lies at the heart of the conflict, is as strong as ever.
Before the start of talks in Ethiopia, Machar’s SPLM-IO rebel group had also dismissed the latest peace efforts as “unrealistic.”
South Sudan descended into civil war after Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup against him, sparking violence between the two factions that was fueled by brooding ethnic tensions.
Since a 2015 peace deal collapsed in July 2016 with Machar fleeing to South Africa, Kiir’s government has gained the upper hand militarily as the opposition has splintered into a myriad of factions.
Initially largely fought out between South Sudan’s two largest ethnic groups — Kiir’s Dinka and Machar’s Nuer — smaller groups have since spawned their own militias raising question marks about the ability of either leader to halt the war.
In May, the UN Security Council gave the two warring sides a month to reach a peace deal or face sanctions.
A landlocked state with a large ethnic mix, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after a long and brutal war.