Escalating crisis for asylum seekers on Manus Island, UNHCR warns

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A  social centre for refugees on Nauru, where Australia has an offshore detention facility for asylum seekers. Photo: UNHCR/N. Wright

Refugees and asylum seekers are facing deteriorating conditions and an "escalating crisis" on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, where they are being housed in an Australian detention facility.

That's according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in a statement on Tuesday, which said that refugees are suffering "acute distress" ahead of the planned closure later this year of the offshore facility.

More details from Matt Wells.

Known as the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, the Australian authorities are seeking to relocate refugees and asylum seekers who have been held there, elsewhere in Papua New Guinea.

UNHCR said that the "absence of appropriate alternatives" and the "tragic death" of a young refugee from Iran on Monday, whose body was found close to the centre, highlighted "the precarious situation for vulnerable people."

The asylum seeker, Hamed Shamshiripour, had been suffering from mental health issues, according to news reports, and the circumstances of his death remain unclear.

Australia established the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru to hold asylum seekers while their applications were being processed, but Papua New Guinea has ordered the close closure of Manus, declaring it unconstitutional.

UNHCR said that the planned closure in October, including medical care and trauma support, was exacerbating a highly stressful situation for the 773 people still detained, who also fear for their safety outside the centre.

The agency renewed its call for Australia to "urgently find viable, humane solutions outside of Papua New Guinea and Nauru,” for those who remain.

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 1’06″

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