‘Words fail us’: Hiking cannabis smokers rescued from England’s highest mountain

Mountain rescue, along with air support and ambulances, were deployed to help bring home a group of hikers who became stuck on Scafell Pike in the Lake District, in England’s north, on Saturday.

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Cumbria Police confirmed the rescue but were left unimpressed at the incident.

“Persons phoning Cumbria Police because they are stuck on a mountain after taking cannabis. Now having to deploy M’tain Rescue, Air support and Ambulance to rescue them. Words fail us,” a Facebook post read.

Persons stuck on mountain, after taking cannabis. Having to deploy M’tain Rescue, Air support and Ambulance to rescue them…..

— Cumbria Police (@Cumbriapolice) September 23, 2017Persons rescued after becoming incapable of walking due to cannabis use. MRT volunteers putting themselves at risk to prevent harm.

— Cumbria Police (@Cumbriapolice) September 23, 2017

“Persons rescued by MRT, after becoming incapable of walking off mountain due to cannabis use. MRT volunteers putting themselves at risk to prevent harm,” another post read.

Scafell Pike has a peak of 978 metres and the group were safely rescued by Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team at 9:45pm local time.

North Cumbria Superintendent Justin Bibby said taking drugs before taking a difficult hike was asking for trouble.

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“The mountain rescue team had a particularly busy day yesterday dealing with this incident,’ Superintendednt Bibby told UK paper The Telegraph.

“They are volunteers, they do an amazing job and are always there to assist those who get into difficulty.

“Taking alcohol or any other substance that could impair your judgment significantly increases your risk of getting into trouble. It has no place on a mountain.”

Same-sex marriage support drops: poll

Support for same-sex marriage has fallen ahead of a national survey on the issue, according to Newspoll.

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The proportion of voters who support same-sex marriage now stands at 57 per cent, compared to 63 per cent in August and 62 per cent in September last year.

The no vote has lifted to 34 per cent, from 30 per cent in August and 32 per cent a year ago.

About nine per cent are uncommitted.

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Newspoll, published in The Australian on Monday, collated its results from a survey of 1695 voters polled across the nation over four days from Thursday.

Support for same-sex marriage was highest amongst Labor and Greens voters, at 70 per cent and 85 per cent respectively.

But conservative voters are trailing, with coalition backers polling 47 per cent, alongside 35 per cent for One Nation supporters.

0:00 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Lucy Turnbull post their same sex marriage survey Share Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Lucy Turnbull post their same sex marriage survey

Newspoll also found the federal coalition government is behind the Labor opposition in two-party preferred terms, at 46 per cent to 54 per cent.

Malcolm Turnbull has again lost ground to Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister and now sits on a 42 per cent approval rating against 31 per cent for the opposition leader, a four-point fall since the last poll.

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Merkel wins fourth term in Germany but far right leaders congratulate rise of AfD

It comes after Chancellor Angela Merkel clinched a fourth term in Germany’s election on Sunday, but her victory was clouded by the hard-right AfD party winning its first seats in parliament.

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“Bravo to our AfD allies for this historic score,” tweeted Le Pen, defeated by Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential election run-off four months ago.

“Angie! Angie! Angie!” #BTW17 @SBSNews pic南京夜生活,/zB0KEp9mBX

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) September 24, 2017

Le Pen hailed the AfD after its breakthrough score of 13 percent, enough for close on 90 seats, saying the party was a “new symbol of (the) reawakening of European peoples.”

Wilders, head of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), also tweeted his congratulations.

“The PVV is number two in the Netherlands, the FN is number two in France, the (far right) FPOe is second in Austria, AfD is third in Germany. The message is clear. We are not Islamic nations,” wrote Wilders, whose party captured 20 seats in a March election.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaves the stage at the headquarters of the Christian Democratic Union CDU in Berlin, Germany.AAP

One AfD (Alternative for Germany) Euro MP already sits alongside five FN lawmakers and four PVV colleagues in the European Parliament.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he called German Chancellor Angela Merkel to congratulate her on winning a fourth term in office and said France and Germany would forge ahead with their cooperation.

“I called Angela Merkel to congratulate her. We continue with determination our vital cooperation for Europe and for our countries,” Macron tweeted.

Fourth term

Chancellor Angela Merkel clinched a fourth term in Germany’s election Sunday, but her victory was clouded by the entry into parliament of the hard-right AfD in the best showing for a nationalist force since World War II.

Ms Merkel, who after 12 years in power held a double-digit lead for most of the campaign, scored about 33 per cent of the vote with her conservative Christian Union (CDU/CSU) bloc, according to preliminary results.

It was their worst score since 1949.

Its nearest rivals, the Social Democrats, and their candidate, Martin Schulz, came in a distant second with a post-war record low of 21 per cent.

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But in a bombshell for the German establishment – the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) – captured about 13 per cent, catapulting it to become the country’s third biggest political force.

Commentators called the AfD’s strong performance a “watershed moment” in the history of the German republic.

The top-selling Bild daily spoke of a “political earthquake”.

AfD supporters gathered at a Berlin club, cheering as public television reported the outcome, many joining in a chorus of the German national anthem.

First German election exit poll:

CDU / CSU – 32.5%

SPD – 20%

AfD – 13.5%

FDP – 10.5%

Greens – 9.5%

Left – 9%@SBSNews pic南京夜生活,/MRGefxbuhB

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) September 24, 2017

Hundreds of protesters rallied outside shouting “Nazis out!” while smaller AfD demonstrations were held in other cities across the country.

The four-year-old nationalist party with links to the far-right French National Front and Britain’s UKIP has been shunned by Germany’s mainstream but was able to build on particularly strong support in the ex-communist east.

It is now headed for the opposition benches of the Bundestag lower house, dramatically boosting its visibility and state financing.

Alarmed by the prospect of what Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel branded “real Nazis” entering parliament, the candidates had used their final days of campaigning to implore voters to reject the populists.

Turnout was markedly higher than four years ago, up to around 76 percent from 71.5 percent.

Angela #Merkel has reappeared at the #CDU election party in #berlin to thank campaigners and supporters @SBSNews #BTW17 pic南京夜生活,/J6IuTcgfB5

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) September 24, 2017I just asked #Merkel’s Chief of Staff if she accepts her handling of the 2015 humanitarian crisis contributed to tonight’s result #BTW17 1/2

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) September 24, 2017“If we have suffered some losses, I believe it was justified. This is the distinction between a populist party and a responsible party” 2/2

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) September 24, 2017″We did what was in the interests of the country, our neighbours and in the interest of world-wide stability.”

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) September 24, 2017’Big new challenge’

Ms Merkel admitted she had fallen far short of the 40 per cent goal her party set.

“There’s a big new challenge for us, and that is the entry of the AfD in the Bundestag,” Ms Merkel said, adding: “We want to win back AfD voters.”

Germans elected a splintered parliament, reflecting a nation torn between a relatively high degree of satisfaction with Ms Merkel and a desire for change after more than a decade of her leadership.

Another three parties cleared the five per cent hurdle to be represented in parliament – the liberal Free Democrats at about 10 per cent and the anti-capitalist Left and ecologist Greens, both at about nine per cent.

As Ms Merkel failed to secure a ruling majority on her own and with the dejected SPD ruling out another right-left “grand coalition” with her, the process of forming a viable government was shaping up to be a thorny, months-long process.

Ms Merkel, 63, often called the most powerful woman on the global stage, ran on her record as a steady pair of hands in a turbulent world, warning voters not to indulge in “experiments”.

Pundits said Ms Merkel’s reassuring message of stability and prosperity resonated in greying Germany, where more than half of the 61 million voters are aged 52 or older.

Her popularity had largely recovered from the influx since 2015 of more than one million mostly Muslim migrants and refugees, half of them from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Grand coalition” took #Merkel 80 days to negotiate. CDU officials tell @SBSNews these negotiations “could take much longer” #BTW17 @SBSNews

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) September 24, 2017Breaking taboos 

But the AfD was able to capitalise on anger over the asylum issue during what was criticised as a largely lacklustre campaign bereft of real clashes among the main contenders.

The party has made breaking taboos its trademark. 

Top AfD candidate Alexander Gauland has called for Germans to shed their guilt over two world wars and the Holocaust and to take pride in their veterans.

He has also suggested that Germany’s integration commissioner Aydan Ozoguz, who has Turkish roots, should be “disposed of in Anatolia”.

Law student Sabine Maier dismissed the AfD as “too extreme” as she voted in Berlin, but added that “they aren’t all fascists”.

Merkel bound for ‘Jamaica’?

The SPD said its catastrophic result would lead it to seek a stint in opposition to rekindle its fighting spirit.

“This is a difficult and bitter day for German social democracy,” a grim-faced Mr Schulz, a former European Parliament chief, told reporters – adding he hoped to remain party leader.  

This would leave Ms Merkel in need of new coalition partners.

If the SPD sticks to its refusal to play ball, mathematically the most likely scenario would be a link-up with the pro-business Free Democrats, who staged a comeback after crashing out of parliament four years ago, and the left-leaning Greens.

That so-called “Jamaica” coalition, based on the party colours and the Caribbean nation’s flag, would be a risky proposition, given the differences between the parties on issues ranging from climate policy to migration issues.

Mr Schulz, 61, struggled to gain traction with his calls for a more socially just Germany at a time when the economy is humming and employment is at a record low.

Meanwhile Ms Merkel faced accusations from within her conservative camp she had left its “right flank exposed” to the AfD’s challenge with her centrist stance on issues such as border policy.

“This is competition for the Union and the conservative spectrum in general,” political scientist Lothar Probst of the University of Bremen said of the AfD.

“A very difficult period is beginning for the chancellor.”

Federer downs Kyrgios for Laver Cup win

Nick Kyrgios had one match point but it was Roger Federer who ultimately prevailed 4-6 7-6 (8-6) 11-9 to clinch the inaugural Laver Cup for Europe.

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In an intense match in Prague, Kyrgios often had Federer on the ropes but just couldn’t get over the line as the Swiss star secured the victory, leaving the 22-year-old Canberran in tears.

If Kyrgios had been able to win, it would have tied the scores between the world and European teams and forced a final doubles match.

“It was tough”, Kyrgios said of the loss.

“When I’m playing for myself, sometimes I don’t put the greatest effort in. When I play with these guys I’m playing for something as a team.

“I’m playing for the whole team. It’s the same in Davis Cup. I’m playing for the country, playing for the guys on the bench.

“I know that every single one of these guys up here has put effort into this week, whether that’s practice or supporting other guys.

“We all bought in as a team. That’s why it hurt. I gave everything I had. I came up short, and I knew that we were going to be favourites going to the doubles. That was in the back of my mind.”

After the pre-match warm-up, the Australian – who usually crouches at the net before the first game – took a knee.

It sparked speculation he was showing solidarity with more than 100 American NFL players, who themselves knelt during the playing of their national anthem before matches on Sunday.

They were protesting against comments by US President Donald Trump, who on Saturday said that those who failed to stand for the anthem should be fired by NFL teams.

Kyrgios though rebuffed the claims in the post-match press conference.

“F**k no. Serious?” The Australian responded to the question from journalists.

“I’m doing that before most matches just to remember, you know, the two most important people that have passed away.”

Kyrgios got the only break of serve in the first set but soon found himself a break down at the beginning of the second.

But after a medical time out, the Australian broke back and took it to a tiebreak.

He saved three set points in the breaker but 19-time grand slam champion Federer eventually levelled things up.

The match then went to a champions tiebreak which Kyrgios led 6-2 at one point.

But Federer battled back and Team Europe got the point needed for victory when Kyrgios sent a forehand into the net.

“It has been such an amazing and fun week and I’m so pleased the event has worked as it has,” Federer said post-match.

The world team had clawed their way back into the tournament on Sunday with a win in the doubles match, while John Isner beat Rafael Nadal 7-5 7-6 (7-1).

Kushner used private email account to message White House officials: report

Politico said the emails included correspondence about media coverage, event planning and other subjects.

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Mr Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said his client complied with government record-keeping rules by forwarding all the emails to his official account.

During Mr Trump’s 2016 election campaign, the Republican derided Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server for official correspondence when she was secretary of state under president Barack Obama.

Some of those messages were later determined to contain classified information.

Mr Trump often led crowds in chants of “Lock her up!” during the campaign and vowed in October she would “be in jail” over the matter if he became president.

He has since said he would not pursue prosecution.

Politico said other senior Trump aides had also used private email accounts – including former chief of staff Reince Priebus, former chief strategist Steve Bannon and economic adviser Gary Cohn.

“Mr Kushner uses his White House email address to conduct White House business,” Mr Lowell said in a statement provided to Politico, as well as other media organisations including Reuters.

“Fewer than a hundred emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account.

“These usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal, rather than his White House, address,” the statement added.

Many White House officials use personal phones to communicate by text message with reporters and others.

Merkel: power player who changed Germany

FOUR THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT ANGELA MERKEL:

* She is well know for her abilIty to survive on little sleep and stay alert during late-night negotiations

* While working at the Academy of Sciences in East Berlin she held the title of Secretary for Agitation and Propaganda, though she has said her task mainly involved organising book readings and theatre visits

* She lives in an ordinary apartment in the centre of Berlin and grows her own veggies

* She is a massive fan of the national soccer team

A PRIVATE PERSON WHO SHUNS SELF-PROMOTION

Germany’s long-serving chancellor, Angela Merkel, who is running for a fourth term in office on September 24, is known as an intensely private person who shuns most forms of self-promotion.

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Born in 1954 to Protestant pastor Horst Kasner and English teacher Herlind Kasner, Merkel moved from Hamburg to the east German town of Quitzow – then part of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) – when she was just a few years old. The oldest of three children, she spent her childhood in the seminary where her father worked.

From her earliest years in school, “Kasi” – a nickname derived from her last name by peers – was a brilliant student with a passion for the Russian language and Soviet culture.

After finishing her doctorate in Berlin, Merkel worked as a quantum chemist at the East German Academy of Sciences. Former colleagues described her as shy, diligent and always seeking the most reliable data.

Merkel was 35 when the wall came down. In an incident considered typical for the plodding politician, Merkel kept a weekly sauna date with a friend on November 9, 1989, before joining the throngs of people streaming across the border to West Berlin.

Suddenly freed of the scrutiny of the Communist government and the Stasi secret police, Merkel joined the Berlin office of a new East German party called the Democratic Awakening, whose sister party in the West was the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

She quickly sought a meeting with CDU leader Helmut Kohl, who became her mentor. Within months, Merkel became known as “Kohl’s girl,” and was appointed as part of his first cabinet in a reunified Germany, as minister for women and youth.

In the early days of her career, Merkel was often presented by Kohl and others as a sort of novelty: an east German political up-and-comer and a woman in the boys’ club that was the CDU.

“Even when she was awkward and shy … you could feel her power from the beginning,” said Herlinde Koelbl, a photographer who met Merkel once a year for decades to take her portrait for a series depicting how high office changed a person’s physical appearance.

But Merkel didn’t hesitate to abandon her former mentor in 1999 amid a CDU financing scandal. Indeed, she moved to replace him as party leader.

In 2002, Merkel ceded the role as the CDU’s election candidate to rival Edmund Stoiber, who headed its Bavarian sister party. The move worked out in her favour: Stoiber lost the vote to the SPD’s Gerhard Schroeder, whose government lost power three years later.

Two months after early elections in 2005, Merkel was sworn in as Germany’s first female chancellor. The next 12 years were to dramatically alter Germany’s political landscape and the country’s role on the global stage.

Observers of Merkel have posited that her years in power were shaped by three major developments.

The first and perhaps most daunting challenge of Merkel’s tenure was the eurozone crisis, which jeopardised not only the integrity of the euro currency, but also threatened to undermine the very premise of the European Union.

Merkel quickly became the face of the European banker preaching austerity to Mediterranean nations.

Merkel endured sustained criticism for her stance on Greece, especially for the initial phase, in which she was slow to commit German taxpayers’ money to a bailout fund.

In 2011, two years into her second term, Merkel responded to the Fukushima nuclear disaster by reversing her party’s position on nuclear power.

She unveiled a plan to phase it out over the next decade, in a decision that continues to be felt by conventional power producers such as RWE and Eon.

In September 2015, half way through her third term, Merkel threw open Germany’s doors to refugees.

The audacious act was both lauded and criticised, and resulted in what was arguably the biggest-ever threat to Merkel’s power: the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), Germany’s first successful post-war right-wing movement.

To a certain extent, the refugee decision debunked the perception of Merkel as a talented tactician without a larger vision. Some critics, however, maintain that Merkel prioritises short-term tactical gains over long-term outcomes.

In the words of her challenger, Martin Schulz of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel is “extremely proficient, precise, coldly calculating and intelligent.”

First 1000 days crucial to child development: report

Disadvantage can be passed down through the generations at a cellular level and the importance of the first 1000 days of life for children’s health and wellbeing can not be overstated, authors of a new report say.

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A research review by experts at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, funded by the Bupa Health Foundation, shows how a child’s development is significantly affected by the biological and physical environments they occupy during this vital period.

There is a growing body of evidence which shows that experiences during this period can have long-term consequences for a person’s health and wellbeing.

Dr Tim Moore, a senior research fellow at MCRI, says the newer evidence they looked at is both “astonishing and scary”.

“The first thousand days is a period of maximum developmental plasticity, that means it’s the period during which as an organism we are most susceptible to change by environmental experiences, and those changes can have lifelong consequences,” Dr Moore told AAP.

It is hoped the report’s release on Monday will raise greater awareness about the importance of this period.

Researchers examined all available research on development during the first 1000 days of life from conception to the end of age two.

Some of the most “astonishing” evidence relates to role the human microbiome has on health during this time, says Dr Moore.

The microbiome refers to the billions of good and bad bacteria that lives on and in the human body, particularly in the gut.

Dr Moore says any change in the abundance, or composition or diversity of these micro-organisms can have significant health consequences.

“So if we overuse antibiotics with very young kids then we can reduce the diversity of bacteria in their gut, or if we do too may caesarean-section births that will alter the way in which they gain the compliment of bacteria,” Dr Moore said.

Another key finding of the report is the impact of trauma – such as domestic violence – and chronic stress caused by poverty and other prolonged negative experiences have on the developing foetus.

Biologically, high levels of maternal stress can result in an increase in the mother’s cortisol production which can enter the baby’s brain via the placenta and the umbilical veins, one paper showed.

Research has also shown chronic stress impacts a persona’s genetics by shortening telomeres – the protective caps at the end of chromosomes.

“Telomere shortness and stress have independently been associated with several common conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabtes,” the authors wrote.

Dr Moore says children need to feel calm, safe and protected.

“When this attachment process is interrupted, the child’s brain places an emphasis on developing neuronal pathways that are associated with survival, before developing those that are essential to future learning and growth.”

The paper also highlights that parents cannot raise healthy, happy children on their own, says fellow MCRI researcher Professor Frank Oberklaid.

“Along with loving relationships, children need safe communities, secure housing, access to green spaces, environments free from toxins, and access to affordable, nutritious foods,” Prof Oberklaid said.

NKorea included in New Trump travel ban

President Donald Trump has slapped new travel restrictions on citizens from North Korea, Venezuela and Chad, expanding to eight the list of countries covered by his original travel bans that have been derided by critics and challenged in court.

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Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia were left on the list of affected countries in a new proclamation issued by the president. Restrictions on citizens from Sudan were lifted.

The measures help fulfill a campaign promise Trump made to tighten US immigration procedures and align with his “America First” foreign policy vision. Unlike the president’s original bans, which had time limits, this one is open-ended.

“Making America Safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet,” the president said in a tweet shortly after the proclamation was released.

Iraqi citizens will not be subject to travel prohibitions but will face enhanced scrutiny or vetting.

The current ban, enacted in March, was set to expire on Sunday evening. The new restrictions are slated to take effect on October 18 and resulted from a review after Trump’s original travel bans sparked international outrage and legal challenges.

The addition of North Korea and Venezuela broadens the restrictions from the original, mostly Muslim-majority list.

An administration official, briefing reporters on a conference call, acknowledged that the number of North Koreans now travelling to the United States was very low.

Rights group Amnesty International USA condemned the measures.

“Just because the original ban was especially outrageous does not mean we should stand for yet another version of government-sanctioned discrimination,” it said in a statement.

“It is senseless and cruel to ban whole nationalities of people who are often fleeing the very same violence that the US government wishes to keep out. This must not be normalised.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement the addition of North Korea and Venezuela “doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban.”

Fish have personalities, study finds

They may not show it, but fish have complex personalities, research suggests.

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The discovery was made by scientists studying individual traits in tiny fish called Trinidadian guppies.

When they looked how the fish behaved in different situations, they found complex variations.

The modes of behaviour could not simply be explained as risk-taking or risk-averse.

Lead researcher Dr Tom Houslay said: “The idea of a simple spectrum is often put forward to explain the behaviour of individuals in species such as the Trinidadian guppy.

“But our research shows that the reality is much more complex,” said Dr Houslay, from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation (CEC) at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“For example, when placed into an unfamiliar environment, we found guppies have various strategies for coping with this stressful situation.

“Many attempt to hide, others try to escape, some explore cautiously, and so on.

“The differences between them were consistent over time and in different situations.

“So, while the behaviour of all the guppies changed depending on the situation – for example, all becoming more cautious in more stressful situations – the relative differences between individuals remained intact.”

The study is published in the journal Functional Ecology.

Professor Alastair Wilson, another member of the CEC team, said: “We are interested in why these various personalities exist, and the next phase of our research will look at the genetics underlying personality and associated traits.

“We want to know how personality relates to other facets of life, and to what extent this is driven by genetic, rather than environmental, influences.

“The goal is really gaining insight into evolutionary processes, how different behavioural strategies might persist as species evolve.”

Fifty years in the making: Refugees in Australia’s first Manus camp offered PNG citizenship

Australia’s first refugee camp on Manus still stands, forgotten in time, and still houses some of the original West Papuan residents and their families.

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Called ‘Salasia Camp’ by Australian authorities, it marked the start of refugee processing on Manus almost fifty years ago.

A handful of rusty corrugated iron houses on a bare concrete slab, stand a short distance from a beach on the edge of the island’s main town Lorengau.

It was built by Australia and used to avoid a diplomatic confrontation with neighbouring Indonesia by isolating a small number of influential West Papuans – also known as West Irians – on Manus.

Only few hundred metres away is the Australian-run refugee transit centre, across the island from the Lombrum detention centre, where hundreds of current day refugees are slowly being evicted as it is shuts down.

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Indonesia was preparing a military takeover of the former Dutch New Guinea colony in the 1960s, sparking a refugee crisis, with thousands of “border crossers” fleeing into the then Australian colony of PNG.

“We came as refugees to Manus Island. The [Australian] government transferred us,” said Manfred Meho, who arrived on Manus as a three-month-old on an Australian Caribou plane from camps near the Indonesian border.

“There was a political crisis, fighting in West Papua between the OPM (Organisasi Papua Merdeka or West Papua Freedom Movement) and Indonesian soldiers.

“Our parents, when they run away, they were supporters of West Papua.

“Papua Merdeka. Papua Merdeka means ‘Papua independence’.”

Many were turned back by Australian patrol officers, called kiaps, on the border but a few dozen received “permissive residence” visas. The first were sent to Manus in 1968.

A handful of original West Papuan residents and their descendants still live at the camp, married into the local community, had children and even voted in PNG’s current national elections.

Like thousands of West Papuans who have come to PNG since, they have lived without citizenship until now.

“We have quite a large number of West Irian Indonesian refugees in Papua New Guinea,” incumbent prime minister Peter O’Neill told SBS World News.

“In fact many of them, under this government, close to 10,000, are classified as eligible for Papua New Guinea citizenship and a few weeks ago the first 300 were able to participate in a ceremony resettling them in the country.”

An aerial view of the region.Stefan Armbruster SBS

Australia walks diplomatic tight-rope

In the 1960s Australia did not want the West Papuans but due to their numbers and PNG’s remote terrain, could not turn them all back.

“[Australia] thought they were a nuisance, because potentially they caused a problem with the relationship with Indonesia,” said history professor Klaus Neumann, at Deakin University.

“Australia had not objected to Indonesia’s takeover of the Dutch colony, and Australia had recognised Indonesia was now in charge of former Western New Guinea, so for Australia to grant refugee status posed a diplomatic problem.”

A disputed United Nations-sponsored “referendum” in 1969, known as the Act of Free Choice, secured Indonesia’s takeover and saw it brutally suppress the independence struggle by West Papuans, that still continues.

In March this year, Vanuatu spoke on behalf of seven Pacific countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling on the UN to investigate allegations of serious and widespread abuses in Indonesia’s Papuan provinces. Indonesia rejected the allegations. 

When Australia signed the United Nations Refugee Convention in 1954, it was with an opt out clause, so it only applied to Europeans and conflicts before 1951.

But in 1964, Australia began issuing visas to a very small number of “border crossers”.

“These were people who were able to make a case they were being persecuted in Indonesian New Guinea, but Australia was very careful to say they were not refugees, in terms of 1951. It did not want to involve UNHCR, but wanted to keep them (UNHCR) out of the territory,” said Professor Neumann.

“There were two main reasons why Australia was not keen on them (West Papuans) staying on the border, where most ended up. They did not want the OPM to use Australian territory and use camps as safe havens after skirmishes on the Indonesian side,” said professor Neumann.

“They didn’t want some leaders to engage in anti-Indonesia propaganda. They didn’t want the permissive residence to engage in anti-Indonesian activities, and embarrass Indonesia, or get Papua New Guineans or expats to join them in protesting against Indonesia in West Papua.

“So they [Australian authorities] thought by sending them to the remotest place in PNG they would avoid that. Manus was much more difficult to access than mainland PNG for journalists.”

Stefan Armbruster SBS

A show of hands and the Act of Free Choice

Two West Papuans Clemens Runawery and Willem Zonggonau, both now deceased, tried to bring international attention to the issue in 1969.

“Wim and I fled West Papua to New Guinea to fly to New York to inform the United Nations that the Act of Free Choice was corrupt,” Mr Runawery said in an Australian television political advertisement in 2007.

The Act of Free Choice was a vote by 1,025 men and women in West Papua chosen by the Indonesian military, and by a show of hands were asked give up sovereignty and become part of Indonesia.

“We were forced off the plane by Australian officials, under pressure from Indonesia’s military regime. We were never able to tell the true facts at the United Nations,” Mr Runawery said.

They were questioned by ASIO and sent to Manus, along with dozens of other refugees.

“As a holding centre which is well situated away from Border Districts and where communication with West Irian is reasonably difficult, Salasia Camp, Manus serves its purpose well,” the head of the Department of External Territories wrote to his counterpart in Foreign Affairs in February 1972.

“While a camp on the mainland would give the West Irians a better opportunity for finding employment it also would defeat the purpose of getting them away from easy access for communication and return to West Irian”.

“It is considered that the Manus Camp should be maintained as at present, and that allegations about conditions in, and health of the occupants, are completely without foundation.”

Stefan Armbruster SBS

How the Manus camp became permanent

The Australian government was sensitive to criticism and Manus Island’s remoteness and lack of information had started rumours.

Back in 1968 the then Mr Michael Somare, later to become the country’s first prime minister, speaking to a motion on the issue of ‘border crossers’ in PNG’s pre-independence parliament said he “had heard the refugees on Manus had been placed in a camp near the police station”.

“This could be compared with the Second World War when the Jews were placed in concentration camps,” he said.

He added that PNG is a “free country” and the refugees should be treated fairly and found jobs.

In May 1969, journalist Jack McCarthy went to Manus for South Pacific Post and filed a story headlined ‘Refugee ‘prisoners’ live without hope’ and reported they existed in depressing conditions.

The Australian government sent an official to investigate and he reported the camp was in good condition but there was widespread unemployment.

Salasia Camp was “unsuitable” and Manus “too small” for the refugees to find employment but it was recommended “full rations only be issued on a ‘dole’ basis, that is the recipients be obliged to do public works, no matter how menial, in return.”

“If, and this is the big one, there is an acceptance by the people living in West Irian of the result of the plebiscite [Act of Free Choice], with necessary relaxation and change in administrative policy by the Indonesians, the permissive residents seeing no rosy future in Papua New Guinea would possibly take the chance of going home,” the report to the director of the Department of District Administration said.

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In February 1972 there were 73 people at the camp and “43 adult males with 69 dependants and one adult female (widowed) with one dependant child” had been processed, a report from the Department of External Territories in 1972 states.

Of these three had returned home “of their own volition”, one went to Holland and 39 men and their dependants “found employment and have re-settled in various centres throughout Papua New Guinea”.

“Initially it was thought this would be a holding centre until after their requests for permissive residence was decided on,” said professor Neumann.

“Some stayed much longer. The Manus camp became permanent.”

“The holding camp was not a detention centre, it did not have a barbed wire fence around it, people could come and go as they wanted to,” said professor Neumann.

“In fact the authorites wanted them to find work and were quite upset that they weren’t, they wanted the kids to go to school, so in that sense, it wasn’t at all like a detention centre.”

Manfred Meho has spent most of his life living in the camp.

“It’s a good life. Manus people are good. All house here were built by the government, from when we first walked in,” he said.

Australia spent $15,000 on the construction of 12 houses on a large concrete slab and a community hall at one end.

Manfred Meho remembers when life in the camp changed.

“The supply of food. In 1975 or 1976, the [Australian government] food supply stopped,” he said.

As PNG became self-governing 1973, ahead of independence two years later, responsibility for the permissive residence visa holders was transferred away from Australia.

“As soon as PNG became self-governing, Australia signed on to the 1967 protocol to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, that meant Australia no longer subscribed the geographical and temporal limitations of the convention,” professor Neumann said.

Most of the original refugees have now passed away or moved on to elsewhere in PNG, and some returned to Indonesia’s Papuan provinces.

At annual PNG-Indonesian border liaison talks held on Manus in 2005, Indonesia’s ambassador renewed the offer of voluntary repatriation to the West Papuans.

Stefan Armbruster SBS

‘Life here is good’

Amos Kimbri was born to West Papuan parents at the Manus camp in the mid-1970s. His father lives in PNG but his mother went back across the border.

In 2010 he returned to the homeland he had never seen.

“We repatriated, I went to West Papua, I went back. I feel the life is good here. I’ve travelled to West Papua and the life is too hard,” he said.

“Like we are sitting here, we are free, no problem, but in West Papua we have many problems,” said Mr Kimbri describing difficultlies accessing land, making it hard to grow food, and lack of schools for his children.

“I was there when they were shooting people [in West Papua]. They told us we can’t hold a flag for West Papua, when we hold the flag they will kill us, so I and my wife and son and daughter came back to PNG,” he said.

Amos hopes to visit his elderly mother in West Papua again but does not have a passport.

“I’m not a PNG citizen, I haven’t signed a form yet. I travel on a temporary passport,” he said.

“At the office in Vanimo (on the border), the Indonesian office, I take an ID and photo and they put it in a pass and I travel”.

Manfred Meho has never been back but has worked as a merchant seaman.

“We travel out. We are seamen, we travel out to Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam,” he said.

“I have a travel passport but I don’t have citizenship. We don’t have citizenship but our names are on the electoral roll in Manus.

“We vote, we vote as Manusians, but we are still waiting on citizenship.”

Now after almost five stateless decades, the PNG has made them an offer.

“Last month migration officials came to talk with us about giving citizenship but they haven’t come back yet,” he said.

Manfred Meho is almost 50 now, married to a local, has four children and is happy on Manus. Returning to a free West Papua is a distant dream.

“People are unhappy when they think about home and they feel sorry, but life here is good,” he said.

“Manus people are good. We go fishing, we go bush, we make gardens, we give sago, and they are friendly to us.”

Stefan Armbruster SBS