Manus Island


Admiralty Islands
Coordinates 2°5′37.28″S 146°58′17.33″E / 2.0936889°S 146.9714806°E / -2.0936889; 146.9714806Coordinates: 2°5′37.28″S 146°58′17.33″E / 2.0936889°S 146.9714806°E / -2.0936889; 146.9714806
Archipelago Admiralty Islands
Area 2,100 km2 (810 sq mi)
Length 100 km (60 mi)
Width 30 km (19 mi)
Highest elevation 718 m (2,356 ft)
Highest point Mt. Dremsel
Papua New Guinea
Province Manus Province
Largest settlement Lorengau (pop. 5,829)

Manus Island is part of Manus Province in northern Papua New Guinea and is the largest of the Admiralty Islands. It is the fifth-largest island in Papua New Guinea with an area of 2,100 km2 (810 sq mi) measuring around 100 km × 30 km (60 mi × 20 mi). According to the 2000 census, the whole Manus Province had a population of 43,387, rising to 50,321 as of 2011 Census.[1] Lorengau, the capital of Manus Province, is located on the island. Momote Airport, the terminal for Manus Province, is located on nearby Los Negros Island. A bridge connects Los Negros Island to Manus Island and the province capital of Lorengau. In addition to its resident population, asylum seekers have been relocated here from Australia between 2001–2004 and since 2012.[2]

Manus Island is covered in rugged jungles which can be broadly described as lowland tropical rain forest. The highest point on Manus Island is Mt. Dremsel 718 metres (2,356 ft) above sea level at the centre of the south coast. Manus Island is volcanic in origin and probably broke through the ocean's surface in the late Miocene, 8–10 million years ago. The substrate of the island is either directly volcanic or from uplifted coral limestone.

Manus Island is home to the Emerald green snail, whose shells are harvested to be sold as jewellery.


The first recorded sighting of Manus Island by Europeans was by Spanish explorer Álvaro de Saavedra on board of the carrack Florida on 15 August 1528, when trying to return to New Spain from the Maluku Islands. Saavedra circled Manus Island and landed possibly in the Murai islet in its south west. Murai was found inhabited and some natives came out in canoes attacking with arrows. Three of these men were captured by the Spaniards and were returned by Saavedra to the same island on his second attempt to return to North America the following year. Manus Island was charted as Urays la Grande or Big Urays, which is probably a projection of Murai to signify the big Murai.[3]

In World War II Manus Island was the site of an observation post manned by No. 4 Section, 'B' Platoon, 1st Independent Company, Australian Imperial Force,[4] who also provided medical treatment to the inhabitants.[5] Manus was first bombed by the Japanese on 25 January 1942, the radio mast being the main target.[4] On 8 April 1942 an Imperial Japanese force consisting of the light cruiser Tatsuta, destroyer Mutsuki and a troop transport ship Mishima Maru entered Lorengau harbour and several hundred Japanese soldiers of the 8th Special Base Force swarmed ashore onto the Australian-mandated island. The vastly outnumbered Australians withdrew into the jungle.[4]

Later in 1942, Japan established a military base on Manus Island. This was attacked by United States forces in the Admiralty Islands campaign of February–March 1944.[6] An Allied naval base was established at Seeadler Harbor on the island and it later supported the British Pacific Fleet.

In 1950–51 the Australian government conducted the last trials against Japanese war criminals on the island.[7]

One case heard was that of Takuma Nishimura, who faced an Australian military court. He had already been tried by a British military court in relation to the Sook Ching massacre in Singapore and sentenced to life imprisonment. While on a stopover in Hong Kong he was intercepted by Australian Military Police. Evidence was presented stating that Nishimura had ordered the shootings of wounded Australian and Indian soldiers at Parit Sulong and the disposal of bodies so that there was no trace of evidence. In this trial he was found guilty and was hanged on 11 June 1951.

American anthropologist Margaret Mead lived on Manus Island before and after the war, and gave detailed accounts in Growing up in New Guinea and New Lives for Old.

Detention centre

A detention centre was built on Manus Island in 2001 as part of Australia's Pacific Solution. The last inmate in that period was Aladdin Sisalem, who was kept as a lone inmate from July 2003 until he was finally granted asylum in Australia in June 2004. In August 2012, the Australian Government controversially[8] announced it would resume offshore processing; in November 2012 the relocation of asylum-seekers to Manus Island resumed.[9]

The government's decision to resume offshore processing has met with domestic political opposition from the Greens,[10] and a controversial decision by the Australian government in July 2015 to make reporting of abuse within the centre illegal prompted staff at those centres to begin a campaign of civil disobedience.[11]

On April 26, 2016, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ruled that the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island was illegal.[12]

Australia's immigration minister, Peter Dutton, confirmed on 17 August 2016, that the centre was to be closed. No timescale has been given.[13]

See also


  1. "Papua New Guinea".
  2. Matt Siegel: "Australia Adopts Tough Measures to Curb Asylum Seekers", in The New York Times, 19 July 2013
  3. Sharp, Andrew (1960). The discovery oif the Pacific Islands. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 19, 20.
  4. 1 2 3 Klemen, L (1999–2000). "Manus Island, experience of No. 4 Section, 'B' Platoon, First Independent Company, Australian Imperial Force". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942.
  5. Klemen, L (1999–2000). "Medical Patrol on Manus Island, 1941". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942.
  6. Video: Americans Win New Airbases In South Pacific Etc. (1944). Universal Newsreel. 1944. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  7. Piccigallo, Philip; The Japanese on Trial; Austin 1979; ISBN 0-292-78033-8, ch.: "Australia".
  8. "United Nations rejects Australia's off-shore processing plans - Asia Pacific".
  10. "End Cruel Refugee Detention". Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  11. Farrell, Paul. "Detention centre staff speak out in defiance of new asylum secrecy laws". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  12. "Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court rules detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal". ABC News. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  13. Doherty, Ben (2016-08-17). "Manus Island detention centre to close, Australia and Papua New Guinea agree". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-08-17.


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