Media sources reported that thousands of people gathered in Melbourne and Sydney on Saturday, November 4, in support of refugees being held at the Manus detention center in Papua New Guinea. Demonstrators gathered near the Flinders Street Station, blocking traffic and public transportation in the area. Local media sources also reported that the crowd rallied outside of the State Library of Victoria. A smaller protest also took place in Sydney. Expect localized traffic disruptions around the rallies. Further protests are likely in the coming days.
Activists are demonstration in support of the some 600 asylum seekers and refugees who are refusing to leave the Australian-operated Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea. The center has reportedly been without electricity from Wednesday, November 1, after being closed on Tuesday, October 31. According to media reports, the refugees have no access to electricity, potable water, or sanitation, and some are in poor health. Refugees and asylum seekers have held daily protests against the planned closure of the center and relocation to Lorengau for over three months, per media reports.
The emerging humanitarian crisis at Manus Island's detention center comes is also exacerbated by an impasse between the Papuan and Australian governments over the responsibility of each to the refugees: each country claims that fulfilling further resettlement and humanitarian obligations vis-à-vis the refugees is the responsibility of the other.
Australia opened the Manus Island detention center in 2001 to process refugees migrating to Australia offshore and reduce "illegal maritime arrivals." After closing in 2008, it was reopened in 2012. Control of the Australian-run center is now being transferred to Papuan military forces.
Individuals in Australia are advised to avoid all demonstrations as a precaution and allow additional time to travel.