Early on Tuesday morning, in Port Moresby, a Citi Service apartment complex was ambushed by 6 to 8 men. These men had forced their way inside and covered themselves by holding guns up to the heads of security guards who would have been sleepily finishing a long night shift. These armed men went up to the rooms of 15 refugees (who have been housed in this apartment complex since 2019, following the closure of the detention center on Manus Island). Waking up the refugees, the armed men ransacked their rooms and stole most of their personal, and only, possessions. 

Three refugees are now receiving medical treatment from being assaulted, while the rest are recovering from shock and fear. An Iranian refugee detailed the experience to SBS news- “They start breaking into rooms … and they then put the gun on the head of people to prevent them from talking or yelling. Some guys also have family there. The gang broke into the rooms while their families were there and they stole everything: clothes, mobile phones, money, everything.”

The terrifying incident has not been an isolated experience of violence for the refugees in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Tensions intensified in 2014, when locals and PNG police entered a detention center on Manus Island, after a day of protests by the refugees inside. The trespassing locals and police force began to attack the refugees. One person was killed, and 77 were hospitalized. 

In PNG gang crime is frequently directed towards people of non-Melanesian descent. Asylum seekers and refugees within the community are vulnerable to racism and violence within the community, and cannot afford protection against it. Because they are perceived as being unable to integrate, access to legal or employment services is greatly reduced for refugees and asylum seekers, and local society remains impenetrable. Despite this reality, the Australian government refuses to protect the refugees they are holding in these foreign countries.  Recently, refugee rights groups across Australia have pleaded with the Australian government to resettle the 130 men in Port Moresby, in Australia, following a Covid-19 outbreak in Papua New Guinea. These groups are stating that because the refugees are being contained by the Australian authorities, their health and safety should be considered under the jurisdiction of the government. So far, the Australian government has failed to respond.


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