back to top

Papua New Guinea Just Randomly "Closed" A Refugee Centre Despite 861 Men Still Being Detained There

The PNG chief justice made the surprising finding that the Manus Island centre was now closed, despite hundreds of refugees still being detained there.

Posted on

Amir is a 24-year-old Iranian asylum seeker who has been living at Papua New Guinea's Manus Island detention centre for the past four years.

Behrouz Boochani /Supplied

Over a messaging app, BuzzFeed News asked Amir what had changed now that the detention centre had been officially "closed", following an order from the country's Supreme Court in 2016.


"I am still sleeping in the same bed now the same compound in the same center in the same area," Amir replied.

"To say it's closed and make people think it's closed!," Amir said when asked why officials would say the centre is closed.

"They want to keep things quiet."

Papua New Guinea's chief justice Sir Salamo Inija said earlier this week that he accepted the PNG government had now complied with a legal order to close down the centre.

Refugee Action Coalition

“The transferees were allowed to move freely in and out of the [centre], and later when the [Manus Island regional island processing centre] was shut down completely, they were accommodated at the nearby PNG defence force navy base,” Injita said, according to ABC News.

Refugee Action Coalition

The latest figures suggest there are 861 men still living on Manus Island. But according to the chief justice's ruling, the men are now no longer living at a refugee processing centre. Instead, they're at a naval base.

Behrouz Boochani /Supplied

"The say the center was closed and we were accommodated in the naval base near where the center was closed!" Amir told BuzzFeed News.

Refugee Action Coalition

"It doesn't make sense at all."

PNG supreme court completed the tyranny . So cruel to be in prison and the court says you are free. No justice for refugees in #Manus prison

US officials have visited the men on Manus Island in recent weeks, as part of the controversial resettlement deal struck between the US and Australia.

But there are still questions left unanswered about the so-called "extreme vetting" that will be applied to the refugees on Manus Island — the overwhelming majority of whom come from Iran.

Amir said the hope for US resettlement for many on the island is "fading".

“Almost half of the refugees have not been interviewed by the US officials who left the island on the 9th of this month.”

Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at

Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Gina Rushton at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.