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1810 Academics, 100 Nauru And Manus Staff, And 26 Former Refugee Workers Call For Change

UPDATE: PNG prime minister Peter O'Neill announced the Manus detention centre will close.

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UPDATE: Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill and Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton have agreed the Manus detention centre will close.

The announcement comes months after PNG's Supreme Court found the centre was illegal and unconstitutional in April.

“Both Papua New Guinea and Australia are in agreement that the centre is to be closed,” O'Neill said in a statement reported by Guardian Australia.

More than 1800 Australian academics, 100 staff on Nauru and Manus Island and 26 former Save The Children workers have called for Australia's detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island to close.

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The 1810 academics from universities across Australia released an open letter on Wednesday endorsing a policy paper calling for a "just and humane approach for refugees".

The policy paper sets out key objectives on refugee policy, including shutting down the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres, initiating law reform ensuring Australia upholds its international obligations, and working with other nations in our region to implement an international response to the ongoing refugee crisis.

The paper calls for a complete re-think of Australia's refugee policies, which currently rely on harsh measures including off-shore processing and boat turnbacks, to act as a deterrent.

"A framework of deterrence has not and does not ‘save lives’," the paper states. "It has not addressed the underlying reasons why people embark on dangerous journeys in search of refuge, nor has it contributed to improving the global humanitarian situation."

"Rather, it has created serious and increasingly intractable new problems, by attempting to shift responsibilities elsewhere, and created prolonged suffering for individuals seeking asylum."

The paper calls on the government to institute a national refugee summit of asylum seekers, refugees and former refugees, migrant and refugee advocates, policy experts, community representatives and politicians from all parties, to address the issue.

The letter comes on the same day 100 current and former detention centre workers signed a letter calling for the refugees who are currently held in off-shore detention centres to be brought to Australia, Guardian Australia reported.

“This has reached crisis level and requires an immediate response,” said Toby O’Brien, a former child protection officer for Save the Children. “The evidence is already overwhelmingly clear.”

The letters come in response to the publication of thousands of files highlighting the full extent of child abuse in Australia's off-shore detention centres.

Of the 2116 incident reports published by Guardian Australia, more than half involved children.

Last week, 26 former Save The Children workers said the files were "the tip of the iceberg".

"The content of these reports does not surprise us," former Save the Children child protection worker Alyssa Munoz said.

“It is simply the documentation of the extreme harm caused to children that we saw every day. In all my years as a child protection specialist, I have never seen such intense harm caused to children on such a large scale as I saw occurring in the Nauru [regional processing centre].”

Immigration minister Peter Dutton responded to the reports by saying some refugees self harm in order to make it to Australia.

“I won’t tolerate any sexual abuse whatsoever. But I have been made aware of some incidents that have reported false allegations of sexual assault, because in the end, people have paid money to people smugglers and they want to come to our country,” he said.

Labor has called for a parliamentary inquiry into Australia's off-shore detention system, saying the government hides abuse and has a "secrecy fetish".

Rob Stott is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Rob Stott at rob.stott@buzzfeed.com.

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