The Federal Government is hiding behind a claim of public interest immunity in order to avoid releasing any documents relating to the services being provided to asylum seekers at Manus Island’s newly built West Lorengau Haus.
On December 7, the Senate endorsed an Order for the Production of Documents (OPD) made by NXT immigration spokesman Stirling Griff, and co-signed by Senator Nick McKim, requesting any documents and parts of contracts detailing the health, construction and security services to be provided at West Lorengau Haus by contractors.
But the Government has tabled a response today saying it will not provide these documents because it could damage its relationship with Papua New Guinea.
“That reasoning stretches credibility," Stirling said. "How does, for example, releasing details of the hours medical staff will work, or the range of medical services to be provided by contractor IHMS (International Health and Medical Services) risk diplomatic relations?”
“We had sought the OPD because we want the truth about what is happening at West Lorengau Haus and the conditions the men are facing there. We wanted to get to the facts.
“A number of questions have been raised about conditions at the transit facilities since the Manus Regional Processing Centre closed in October – for instance, have health and medical services been scaled back? What work was outstanding at West Lorengau Haus at the time the men were scheduled to move in, and what is still underway? When were all the security arrangements for West Lorengau Haus and nearby Hillside Haus, including perimeter fencing, complete?”
The Government has maintained that West Lorengau Haus accommodation was completed in time and to an acceptable standard but eyewitness accounts and observations from those on the ground – including the UNHCR and Tim Costello – contradict this and raise serious concerns about the ongoing situation there.
“This was an opportunity for the Government to clear the air, and put the facts on the table. Instead it is claiming that the release of ANY documentation relating to services at West Lorengau Haus could jeopardise its relationship with PNG.”
According to the UNHCR's December update, IHMS is providing a reduced service compared to what it had provided at the Manus Regional Processing Centre until its closure in October. The UNHCR also says asylum seekers are now also expected to fill their own medical prescriptions, and no torture and trauma counselling or interpretation services are being provided on site.
Media reports also showed that fences around the West Lorengau complex were still incomplete weeks after the men were meant to have moved in, and on-the-ground reports indicate ongoing issues with plumbing and sewerage.
"These documents would have helped put the matter to rest by detailing exactly what services are being provided – or not - following the closure of the Manus Regional Processing Centre. Instead, we are left with a 'he said, she said' situation.”