Nov. 24, 2017
PNG Removes Asylum Seekers
An Australian-run detention center for asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea has been the site of a stand-off for 3 weeks.
But there's been a sudden move, with authorities evicting hundreds of men who resisted leaving after the facility was officially closed.
Papua New Guinean authorities transferred about 330 men to 3 other facilities, also on Manus Island.
The detention center housed people from the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere, who tried to enter Australia illegally to apply for refugee status. The center was accused of human rights abuses and Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court ruled it violated its constitution. It was declared closed on October 31, but some asylum seekers refused to leave, citing safety concerns.
Video footage shows authorities holding batons and dragging asylum seekers from the facility. An Australian refugee support group says the action resulted in injuries. The United Nation's refugee agency is calling for Australia to provide the refugees with protection and safety.
NHK World's Lisa Komiya has been following this story from Sydney.
Raksawong: Lisa, what's the latest?
Komiya: The asylum seekers have been moved to 3 other facilities. The Australian Government says these sites have food, water, security, and medical services. But the men already seem to be having difficulties.
Some say that one of the facilities doesn't have enough room for everyone there. We also know that some of the equipment has been sabotaged. And reports suggest that local people may be responsible.
The main reason the men had been refusing to move was fear of reprisals from the community. The detention center that has been closed was inside a naval base that provided protection. The alternative facilities are in areas where asylum seekers could encounter local people, who do not necessarily welcome them. There have been reports that some asylum seekers have been injured or robbed by locals.
These men were so afraid, they chose to stay in unhygienic conditions at a place with no food, water or power. Their refusal to leave was also an expression of their anxieties, and a plea to the international community for help.
Raksawong: These are people who have already left their own countries. What will happen to them?
Komiya: The Australian government is saying that people recognized as non-refugees will be sent back to their home countries. Those recognized as refugees will be resettled in Papua New Guinea or elsewhere, but not in Australia. The men clearly do not want to live in Papua New Guinea. So that means they will have to be accepted by a third country.
Under such circumstances, many of the men are pinning their hopes on an agreement between Australia and the United States that allows up to 1,250 refugees to settle in the US. So far, only 54 people have been approved.
New Zealand has also told Australia that it will accept some of the men.
But Australian Immigration and Boarder Protection Minister Peter Dutton said on Friday that the offer is not being considered. He said if people are transferred to New Zealand, that could prompt future asylum seekers to try to enter Australian waters.
In any case, no timeline has been given for the men's resettlement process, so we don't know how long they will be staying at the facilities. It could be months, or even years.
Humanitarian organizations are calling for the asylum seekers to be moved to a safe place, where they can be treated fairly under international law.
Mumbai Terror Suspect Released
The Islamist leader accused of masterminding the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai has been released from house arrest in Pakistan.
Hafiz Saeed co-founded the militant group which India blames for organizing the attacks that killed over 160 people. He has been under house arrest since January.
After his release, he said the allegations against him were fabricated and based on hatred of Islam.
Over several days in November, 2008, a group of men carried out shooting and bombing attacks at luxury hotels and landmarks across Mumbai. India believes Saeed was involved but Pakistan says there is insufficient evidence. The move has sparked outrage in India.
"His release confirms, once again, the lack of seriousness on the part of Pakistani Government." says Indian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Raveesh Kumar.
The attacks remain a thorny issue between the two countries, and there are concerns that Saeed's release could further strain ties.
Van Crash Kills Migrant Workers
A van accident in central Thailand has left the driver and all 13 passengers dead. The passengers were migrant workers from Myanmar.
The vehicle rear-ended a 10-wheeler truck and burst into flames early Friday morning in Sing Buri province.
The van reportedly started the trip in the town of Mae Sot near the border with Myanmar, and was on its way to Bangkok. Police suspect the Thai driver fell asleep at the wheel.
Traffic accidents are a major issue in Thailand. The World Health Organization ranked the country's roads the second-deadliest in the world. It cited poor safety standards and law enforcement, as well as distracted drivers.
Earlier this month, four Japanese tourists and their Thai guide were killed in Ayutthaya province when their van crashed into a truck.