Papua New Guinea police start removing refugees from Australia camp

Above, police enter the immigration camp on Manus Island on Thursday, November 23. Papua New Guinea authorities on Thursday ratcheted up pressure on more than 300 asylum seekers to abandon a decommissioned immigration camp. (Refugee Action Coalition via AP)
Updated 23 November 2017
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Papua New Guinea police start removing refugees from Australia camp

SYDNEY: Papua New Guinea police raided a shuttered Australian detention camp Thursday, removing dozens of refugees in an effort to end a stand-off that has drawn global attention to Canberra’s tough asylum-seeker policies.
Hundreds of men sent to the remote camp on PNG’s Manus Island have refused to leave the site for new, PNG-run centers since Australia closed it on October 31.
Over the past three weeks only around 200 out of approximately 600 men held in Manus have agreed to leave voluntarily for three nearby transition centers, with the others insisting they should be resettled in third countries.
On Thursday, police moved in and took 50 men to alternative camps, PNG Police Commissioner Gari Baki said.
“We are doing the best we can and the refugees cannot continue to be stubborn and defiant,” Baki said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
“The fact is that we are not moving them into the jungle. They are being relocated to two centers where there is water, electricity, food and medical services.”
Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton indicated the police operation would continue, saying “there is a lot of work that is ongoing.”
“A number of people... have been moved and we would expect the number, which up until this morning had been about 370 people within that center, would drop obviously well below that now,” he told Sky News.
He added that a “small number” of men were arrested during Thursday’s action, including Iranian refugee and journalist Behrouz Boochani, who has been acting as a spokesman for the detainees.
Boochani was later released. Police commissioner Baki said he was neither arrested nor charged but moved to one of the transition centers.
Detainees had earlier tweeted and posted photos and videos on social media of PNG authorities sweeping through the camp, saying police had pulled belongings from rooms and shouted at them to get into buses.
Boochani tweeted that police had destroyed their shelters and water tanks, and said the refugees were on “high alert” and “under attack.”
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reaffirmed his government’s stance Thursday that none of the refugees, who were sent to the camp for trying to reach Australia by boat, would be brought to his country.
The men are barred from resettling in Australia, and Turnbull said their actions were meant to push Canberra into changing its mind.
“They think this is some way they can pressure the Australian government to let them come to Australia. Well, we will not be pressured,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“The people on Manus should go to the alternative places of safety with all of the facilities they need.”
Global rights group Amnesty International said Thursday there were “risks of serious injury if the authorities use force,” and called for the refugees to be brought to Australia.
The government has tried to resettle the refugees in third countries, including the United States, with little success.
Just 54 refugees have been accepted by Washington, with 24 flown to America in September.
Despite widespread criticism, Canberra has defended its offshore processing policy as stopping deaths at sea after a spate of drownings.
The camps’ conditions have been slammed by the United Nations and human rights groups amid reports of widespread abuse, self-harm and mental health problems.
Amnesty said the refugees’ safety fears were also “well-founded,” adding that some had previously been “attacked and seriously injured” by locals “who have made clear they do not want the men on Manus.”
The Australian Medical Association has called on Canberra to allow doctors to help the refugees, warning there was a “worsening and more dangerous situation emerging on Manus.”


North Korea, Eritrea have world’s highest rates of modern slavery — report

More than 40 million people were enslaved around the world as of 2016. (Shutterstock)
Updated 46 min 27 sec ago
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North Korea, Eritrea have world’s highest rates of modern slavery — report

  • China, Pakistan, North Korea and Nigeria rounded out the top five nations with the largest number of slaves
  • Two years ago, the index showed 18.3 million people living in modern slavery in India

NEW YORK: North Korea and Eritrea have the world’s highest rates of modern slavery, said a global survey on Thursday that highlighted how conflict and government repression are the main drivers of a crime estimated to affect more than 40 million people worldwide.
The Central African nation of Burundi also has a high prevalence of slavery, according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index published by the human rights group Walk Free Foundation.
“Each of these three countries has state-sponsored forced labor, where their government puts its own people to work for its own benefit,” said Fiona David, research chair of Minderoo Foundation, which led the data collection.
More than 40 million people were enslaved around the world as of 2016, according to an estimate by the Walk Free Foundation and the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO).
India was home to the largest total number with an estimated 8 million slaves among its 1.3 billion population, according to Walk Free’s 2018 calculation.
Two years ago, the index showed 18.3 million people living in modern slavery in India. The difference is due to changes in methodology, Walk Free said, reflecting ways of counting people enslaved on any given day or over a longer time period.
China, Pakistan, North Korea and Nigeria rounded out the top five nations with the largest number of slaves, accounting for about 60 percent of victims globally, according to Walk Free.
But North Korea had the highest percentage of its population enslaved, with one in 10 people are in modern slavery and “the clear majority forced to work by the state,” the index said.
Researchers interviewed 50 North Korean defectors who spoke of long hours and inhumane conditions in forced unpaid labor for adults and children in farming, construction and roadbuilding.
“This index makes us visible,” said Yeon-Mi Park, a defector who spoke at a news conference at United Nations headquarters.
“These people simply were born in the wrong place, and that’s what they are being punished for,” she said, describing being trafficked into China where she was sold as a child bride.
Another defector Jang Jin-Sung said North Koreans do not consider themselves slaves.
“They’ve been indoctrinated all their lives to think that whatever they do for the state is a good thing,” he said.
In Eritrea, the report said the government is “a repressive regime that abuses its conscription system to hold its citizens in forced labor for decades.”
Burundi’s government also imposes forced labor, Walk Free said, while rights groups including Human Rights Watch have implicated its security forces in murders and disappearances.
Other countries with the highest rates of slavery were the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Pakistan.
“Most of these countries are marked by conflict, with breakdowns in rule of law, displacement and a lack of physical security,” the report said.
With more than nine million people living in slavery — nearly eight in every 1,000 people — Africa had the highest rate of enslavement of any region, according to the report.
The researchers also warned that consumers in affluent countries may be purchasing billions of dollars worth of products manufactured with slave labor, including computers, mobile phones and clothing.
“Modern slavery is a first-world problem,” said Andrew Forrest, a co-founder of Australia-based Walk Free. “We are the consumers. We can fix it,” he added.
Slavery is likely more widespread than the research suggests, activists and experts say. The report noted gaps in data from Arab states, as well as a lack of information on organ trafficking and the recruitment of children by armed groups.