Pact indefinitely keeps open 'Australia's Gitmo'

A new memorandum of understanding allowing Australia to continue to indefinitely detain asylum seekers at a facility on the Pacific island of Nauru was signed on Sept. 24. 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. In the deal announced Oct. 6, Australia and the PNG finalized a Regional Resettlement Arrangement in which detainees on Manus Island will either be transfered to Nauru or allowed to remain in Papua New Guinea with a "migration pathway" allowing eventual legal residency.

The Australian-run detention center on Manus Island was found to be illegal and ordered closed by the PNG Supreme Court in 2016. Australia was forced to pay more than $70 million in compensation to those detained. But five years later, at least 124 asylum seekers remain in the center on Manus. Both the Manus Island and Nauru facilities have been harshly criticized by rights groups, and both have been dubbed "Australia's Guantánamo."

Despite these criticisms, several European countries—including the UK and Denmark—have expressed interest in establishing similar systems, in which asylum seekers will be forced to wait at offshore locations in an arrangement with a third country. (TNH, Jurist)