A new memorandum of understanding was signed allowing Australia to continue to indefinitely detain asylum seekers at a facility on the Pacific island of Nauru. Since 2012, asylum seekers arriving by boat have been barred from settlement in Australia and sent to offshore detention centers instead. The deal extending use of the Nauru facility comes just as the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) finally reached an agreement to close the contentious Manus Island Regional Processing Center, which was found to be illegal by the PNG Supreme Court in 2016. Most of those held there are now to be transferred to Nauru. Both the Manus Island and Nauru facilities have been criticized by rights groups as “Australia’s Guantánamo.” (Photo of Nauru facility via Wikipedia)
Amid trade wars, diplomatic tiffs and propaganda sniping, the ugliness between China and Australia seems set to escalate as Beijing enters an agreement with Papua New Guinea to establish an industrial foothold within the narrow Torres Strait. Radio Australia reports that community leaders in North Queensland, just across the strait from New Guinea, fear that China’s plan to construct the facility will jeopardize border security and threaten the commercial fishing sector. There are also concerns that Beijing will attempt to militarize the outpost, seeking to counterbalance the new US-Australian naval base planned for PNG’s Manus Island. (Map: Torres Strait Regional Authority)
Mining giant Rio Tinto is responsible for multiple human rights violations caused by pollution from its former mine on the Pacific island of Bougainville, the Human Rights Law Centreconcludes in a new investigative report. For 45 years, the Panguna copper and gold mine on Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, was majority-owned by the British-Australian mining company, but in 2016 Rio Tinto divested from the mine, leaving behind more than a billion metric tons of mine waste. The report, After the Mine: Living with Rio Tinto’s Deadly Legacy, documents the devastating consequences of that action for the thousands of people living around the mine site. The report reveals communities living with contaminated water sources, land and crops flooded by toxic mud, and health problems ranging from skin diseases and respiratory ailments to pregnancy complications. (Image: Human Rights Law Centre)
In a referendum held over two weeks, the people of Bougainville, an archipelago in the South Pacific’s Solomon Sea, voted overwhelmingly to seek independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG). The referendum was the centerpiece of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement between the PNG government and Bougainville independence leaders to end a devastating decade-long war that claimed nearly 20,000 lives—nearly a tenth the territory’s total population. Negotiations between PNG and Bougainville about the road forward will now begin and could continue for years, with the PNG parliament having the final say. Control of the territory’s rich mineral resources has been a key issue in the conflcit. (Photo via UNPO)
The 18 member states of the Pacific Islands Forum held their 49th summit in Nauru, issuing a statement asserting that "climate change presents the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing of Pacific people." Leaders at the Forum urged all the world's countries to comply fully with their commitments to mitigate emissions. Among the projects discussed at the summit was redrafting the 2000 "Biketawa Declaration" on regional security in the Pacific as a "Biketawa Plus," with a greater emphasis on environmental security and climate-related disasters. Under the slogan "We are not drowning, we are fighting," community leaders across the Pacific Islands have been pushing for world action on climate change and adherence to the 2015 Paris Accords. (Photo: 350.org)
The push to re-open a controversial copper mine on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville was halted after indigenous residents blocked roads to prevent officials from reaching the site. (Image via Radio Australia)
Australia announced plans to close the controversial Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea following reports of rights abuses—but no time frame was given.
Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court ruled that Australia's detention of refugees on Manus Island is illegal—but Canberra stood by its policy of intercepting migrants at sea.