NEWS

Manus Refugee Resettled In Canada As Australia Ignores His Friends

Amir has been taken in by big-hearted Canadians "as PM Turnbull dithers", advocates say.

06/11/2017 7:51 PM AEDT | Updated 06/11/2017 7:52 PM AEDT
Stringer . / Reuters

An Iranian refugee detained on Manus Island for four years has been whisked to safety in Canada by a big-hearted family, as hundreds of his friends and fellow refugees languish in abysmal conditions in Papua New Guinea.

Amir Taghinia is 24, and until last week he was among the 600 refugees and asylum seekers in the Australian-run centre on Manus Island.

The centre has since been officially closed, with power, water and food cut off in an attempt by local PNG authorities to force residents to move to other nearby accommodation complexes. The United Nations reported last week that at least one of these three new facilities is not finished, while the other two still lack security fences.

Taghinia was last week flown to Coquitlam, near Vancouver, where he will be resettled under a novel Canadian policy which allows private sponsorship of refugees. He was sponsored by the family of Chelsea Taylor, an Australian aid worker who formerly worked on Manus, who have agreed to aid him for one year. Under the Canadian program, the sponsoring family or organisation takes responsibility for providing food, accommodation and living expenses, assisting with enrolling in healthcare and education, finding local doctors, and helping with employment searches.

"I am glad some good people of Canada have brought me to safety, but my heart aches for the many brothers I have left behind in the absolute hell that is Manus Island," Taghinia said.

"That ordinary citizens can bring me to safety, with their meagre resources, shines a light on the shameful practices of this government in keeping these other innocent men trapped in such a terrible situation.

"There are clearly many options the Australian Government has to resettle my friends on Manus, it is inhuman that the Australian Government would not take action to give them safety."

In an interview with Canada's CBC News, Taghinia said "I still cannot believe that I am in Canada... People are so welcoming ... they are so lovely, especially my sponsors."

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said that Taghinia's case showed why Australia needed to urgently explore third-country resettlement options for the men on Manus, and decried the Turnbull government's refusal to consider the offer of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to take 150 of the refugees. The ASRC said the Canadian example was "a precedent it could and should extend to those suffering on Manus and Nauru."

"Amir's Canadian sponsorship demonstrates clearly that it is entirely possible for third countries to step in and provide a workable solution to the current crisis on Manus," said ASRC director of advocacy and campaigns, Jana Favero.

"The Turnbull government must get out of the way. Allow food, water and power to be restored. Allow medical services in and then allow third countries to take the refugees, where they will be welcomed to a new life."

The ASRC said it was a case of "PM Turnbull dithers while crisis deepens". Tim O'Connor, communications director at the Refugee Council of Australia, accused Turnbull of "playing games with peoples lives".

"Prime Minister Turnbull is saying 'we don't want these refugees, but you can't have them either'," O'Connor said.

"It's an absolutely bizarre situation Prime Minister Turnbull has got himself into. New Zealand is prepared to take Australia's refugees from Manus, caring members of the Australian community are putting their hand up, even people in Canada have gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of people whose lives are in jeopardy."

"Prime Minister Turnbull should be putting human lives in front of short term political point scoring".

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