MOVES TO CLOSE MANUS ISLAND ASYLUM SEEKER CENTER

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 12, 2002 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Legal moves are under way in Australia that could result in closure of the Manus Island asylum seeker processing center in Papua New Guinea.

It could force Australia to relocate the 465 mainly Iraqi asylum seekers currently in the camp, a PNG navy base.

Vadarlis & Associates, a law firm that has handled previous asylum seeker cases, is preparing a case to be filed in Melbourne.

It will allege that the Australian government took no steps or precautions to prevent the asylum seekers from contracting malaria.

Lawyer Eric Vadarlis said the Australian government should not have allowed the asylum seekers to go to Manus, adding that it seems no steps or precautions were taken to prevent them from catching malaria.

He said that their case would charge the Australian government of breach of duty and negligence in exposing the asylum seekers to malaria and not giving medication in time.

They will argue for the asylum seekers to be relocated to a place that is malaria free.

"All we are doing is trying to get a humanitarian outcome for these poor souls," he said.

A Sydney Morning Herald reporter who circumvented a media ban by entering Papua New Guinea as a tourist and went to Manus reported problems at the camp, including malaria.

Local media were then given an Australian-organized guided tour, but were not allowed to spend time with the asylum seekers. They reported all seemed calm at the camp.

Mr. Vadarlis said that they would like independent medical inspectors to visit, examine and advise on the malaria situation and other health-related matters.

Mr. Vadarlis alleges that Australia had exercised a strong bias because they had allowed 212 boats to land prior to the arrival of the Tampa.

The Tampa is the Norwegian ship that picked up asylum seekers from a sinking boat and tried to land them on Australia's Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

When the Tampa arrived with darker people -- many of them not Christian -- the Liberal Party was behind in the election polls and they stopped the Tampa and other boats carrying asylum seekers, he said.

The Government’s ratings subsequently increased, resulting in Prime Minister John Howard and his Liberal Party's election victory.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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