Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
Earlier this month, our video team posted a long harrowing animation that “explores Australia’s controversial immigration policy of transferring asylum seekers arriving by boat to remote detention centers on Pacific islands.” The video features voices of detainees who were present for the February 2014 riots on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, during which Iranian refugee Reza Barati was killed. “Reza tried so hard to achieve his dream,” says a fellow detainee:
The incident sparked a parliamentary inquiry in Australia, which—back in December—found that “the Australian government failed in its duty to protect asylum seekers including Mr. Barati from harm,” The New York Times reported. However, in February, an Australian court upheld the government’s right to detain refugees abroad. Krishnadev detailed that development:
Australia’s high court has rejected a challenge to the country’s practice of holding asylum-seekers at a camp on Nauru, the Pacific island nation, a decision that paves the way for the return of more than 250 people—including dozens of babies—who are now in Australia.
At issue is a case brought by the Human Rights Law Center (HRLC) on behalf of a Bangladeshi woman who entered Australia by sea. She was detained by Australian officials and taken to Nauru, which along with Manus Island, part of Papua New Guinea, is where Australia processes its asylum-seekers. The woman was returned to Australia for medical treatment during the late stages of her pregnancy, but appealed her return to Nauru. Lawyers for the woman challenged Australia’s right to detain people on foreign soil. On Wednesday, the court said the government’s actions were both legal and constitutional.
Early this month, in a tribute to the detainees housed on Manus, scientists named a newly discovered rat species Rattus detentus—the latter word meaning “detained” in Latin. On Tuesday, The Guardian reported that a court in Papua New Guinea sentenced two men to “10 years in jail, with five years suspended,” on charges related to Barati’s death. “Taking into account time served, both men will be free in a little over three years.”
Update: The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea says the Manus Island detention facility will close. Wes reported the big news here.
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