Manus Island Closure

This week, the Manus Island Detention Centre was closed down. The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruled the centre illegal many months ago. Since then, the refugees held there have been transported to the United States, Nauru, or even offered money to go back to their home country. Nevertheless, 600 men remain and refuse to leave, saying they fear for their safety if they stay in the Lorengau community – which is the current plan for them. The Australian government says they’re PNG’s problem. PNG says they’re Australia’s problem.  The men have been ordered to move into community accomodation, but the UN has said at least one of the three compounds that they’re supposed to live in is not ready.

Lawyers acting for the men are hoping their case will be heard by the PNG Supreme Court. But right now, it’s all a waiting game. Electricity and water has been shut off from the centre. The men have built devices to try and capture rainwater, and have dug a well.  The men are on rotating shifts of sleep, as they feel the need to keep watch at all times.

The newly elected Prime Minister of New Zealand said that New Zealand would happily take up to 150 of the men.

The United Nations says that the men on Manus are Australia’s responsibility, and the situation is tense and unstable.

You can write to your local member of Parliament to voice your concern. Amnesty International has a template here. We’ve also done previous deep dives on Australia’s refugee policy here.

The Citizenship Saga Continues

There is growing calls for a Parliament-wide audit of all MP’s citizenship this week after Stephen Parry, the President of the Senate, admitted he may have dual citizenship with the UK. He has quit Parliament, but reports have since emerged that senior Coalition members knew that he was unsure of his citizenship and told him to remain silent. There is also some uncertainty around Josh Frydenberg, the Energy Minister, who may or may not have Hungarian citizenship. We did a deep dive into the most recent citizenship upsets earlier this week.

Queensland is having an election

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has called a Queensland election for November 25th. We’ll do a deep dive into the main issues surrounding the campaign next Tuesday. The election is likely to be a close call, with all eyes on how much ground One Nation picks up. (Spoiler alert: it’s probably going to be a lot.)

A Terror Attack In New York

On Tuesday, a man by the name of Sayfullo Saipov drove a truck through pedestrians in Manhattan. He killed eight people and badly injured a dozen. He was shot and apprehended by police. He is charged with the murder of eight people, and providing material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organisation, the Islamic State. Saipov was radicalised while residing in the States. Trump has tweeted that Saipov should face the death penalty, which has angered law experts, saying such public calls makes the job of both defence and prosecution more difficult in the long run.

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Spain and Catalonia Crisis continues

We’ve done a deep dive into Spain’s independence crisis here. Catalonia is seeking independence from Spain, but this week saw a brutal crackdown on the movement. Eight members of the Catalonian government – which has now been officially dissolved by Spain – have been jailed. Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont has travelled to Brussels, but there is a warrant out for his arrest in Spain. His lawyer says they may be seeking asylum in Belgium, but it’s a politically delicate situation.

Trump Trouble

Earlier this week, three Trump campaign officials were arrested by the FBI for laundering money, tax evasion and for lying to federal investigators. The charges comes from the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s influence on the election, but do not prove any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. The three men are:

  • Paul Manafort, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of laundering $18 million into the US and hiding it from the government. He also allegedly lied to the FBI about previous involvement in consulting work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. There is no public evidence of links between this work and the work of the Trump campaign, but nevertheless Manafort is charged with conspiracy against the United States for lying about it in the first place. Manafort was dumped from the Trump campaign in 2016 when his ties to the Ukraine became public.
  • Rick Gates, an associate of Manafort, has also pled not guilty to very similar charges, including the laundering of $3 million. Gates and Manafort met in their work for Yanukovych. Most damningly, the two worked at a private equity firm – Pericles Emerging Partners LP – designed to invest in business in the Ukraine. They only ever made one investment, backed by a wealthy Russian businessman by the name of Oleg Deripaska, into a telecommunications firm called Black Sea Cable. The $19 million investment went sour, however, and the money vanished. Deripaska filed a lawsuit in attempt to recoup some of the money, saying that Gates and Manafort simply disappeared. Trump has defended both men by saying this was ‘years ago’ before the campaign. The Deripaska deal and the work for Yanukovych was happening in 2014. (Also, Rick Gates was famously the campaign official who plagiarised Michelle Obama’s speech and gave it to Ivanka during the campaign.)
  • George Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to allegations he lied to the FBI about meeting a professor with ties to the Russian government.

At home, Trump’s promise to deliver the largest tax cuts ever are facing significant challenges, after the detail of his policy revealed that homeowners and small businesses were be worse off, while the top 1% of income earners would be better off.

Rohingya Refugees Stranded

The United Nations has warned that around 14,000 Rohingya refugees may be stranded in Indonesia, where they have no legal ability to work or own a home. Thanks to tougher immigration policies from countries like United States and Australia, the refugees, who have fled violent and well-documented persecution in Myanmar (read our deep dive here) face extremely limited options.

Kenyan Election

The Supreme Court of Kenya ruled an election that took place on the 8th of August was improper after a string of irregularities. Kenyans went back to the polls this week and got the same result – with President Uhuru Kenyatta winning 98% of the vote. The opposition has called the election a farce. Small protests broke out when the election results were announced.

A new ape

Scientists have discovered a new species of great ape in northern Sumatra, part of the orangutan family. How long the species survives is an urgent question, as their forest habitat continue to shrink. A large section of forest is currently under threat from plans to build a hydro electric plant. Nevertheless, the Tapanuli orangutans have lighter coloured hair than their Sumatran counterparts, and are slightly smaller.

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Photo by Ulet Ifansasti.

If you like this blog, share it around.
Photos courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd.

We’ll be back next week with a summary of the key points surrounding the Queensland election.

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