Greens Senator To Be Deported From Manus Island After Visiting Refugees
A federal senator claims he was confronted by heavily armed police and told he would be deported from Papua New Guinea after visiting refugees on Manus Island.
Nick McKim, a senator for Tasmania and the Greens spokesperson for immigration, is in Papua New Guinea this week. Just days after arriving, he claimed he was told by PNG officials that he will be served with a deportation notice, after attempting to visit refugees and asylum seekers in Australian facilities on Manus Island.
"It's been very strange," he told 10 daily from PNG.
McKim, on a solo trip partly paid for under parliamentary allowances, arrived in the country's capital Port Moresby on Tuesday, and travelled to Manus -- a remote island off PNG's northern coastline -- the following day.
He attempted to visit the East Lorengau transit centre, the major accommodation facility for refugees on the island, on Thursday morning but said was denied entry by the guards.
The senator said he had entered PNG on a visa that allowed him multiple entries for 12 months, and that he had noted on his visa that he planned to visit refugees on Manus Island.
"I asked politely if I could come in to see the conditions. I explained I was a senator from Australia, and since it was our money being used to fund this facility, this was part of my official duties as a senator," McKim recounted.
He said the guards at the centre asked for his passport, then refused to give it back and told him to leave. Following negotiations, he got his passport back, then departed to walk back to his hotel.
Just 10 minutes later, as he was walking, McKim claimed a four-wheel-drive carrying an immigration official and four "heavily armed" police pulled up next to him, and demanded he get inside so they could take him to a nearby police station.
"I asked whether they were arresting me, they said no, so I said I wasn't getting in. I had done nothing wrong and was free to walk down the road... I said I would walk [to the police station]," he said.
McKim claimed the official again asked for his passport and his accommodation details and then told the senator that he would be issued with a deportation notice and forced to leave PNG.
In two videos posted on Twitter later on Thursday, McKim repeated the story.
"I'm respectful, I'm in their country so I know I have to obey their laws. I just politely asked if I could go in, but it's blown up now to where they're apparently going to issue me with a deportation notice in the near future," McKim said.
"This is a continuation of the veil of secrecy that has been laid over refugees on Manus and Nauru. My purpose here is to lift that veil, expose the lies people tell about the way refugees are treated here, and to get the truth."
Iranian refugee and journalist, Behrouz Boochani, confirmed McKim's account.
10 daily has contacted the Australian Department of Home Affairs for comment.
McKim travelled to Manus to mark six years of Australia's policy of indefinite offshore detention for boat arrivals, enacted on July 19, 2013 by then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. He has visited before, taking part in protests alongside refugees.
A spate of suicide attempts and self-harm have been reported on Manus in recent months, with refugees and asylum seekers despondent over a lack of resettlement options as the United States 'swap' deal draws to a close with hundreds of people still in immigration limbo.
"I've been unable to get into any of the facilities, but I have spoken to a number of refugees able to come out and meet with me. It's almost beyond belief," McKim said of the current situation on Manus.
"Over the past six years, there has been murders, riots, assaults, refugees attacked by drunk members of the armed forces, shotguns and rifles fired in crowds, but I truly believe the situation is a bigger crisis right now than it has been at any time in the last six years."
McKim said he had spoken to refugees who had "lost all hope for the future" and "cannot see a way to get the freedom and safety they need".
"The removal of hope from humans is a thing incredibly damaging for mental health. These are mental health illness factories. Some of these people will never recover," he said.
"This is a devastating situation."