Thu, Nov 02, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Australian asylum center loses power

LOCAL THREATS:Papua New Guinean officials have closed the Manus Island detention center and removed the power generators, as 660 Australian asylum seekers refuse to leave

AP, SYDNEY

Detainees are shown fixing a perimeter fence at the Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea in an undated photograph released yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

The 606 men refusing to leave an Australian asylum seekers detention center on Papua New Guinea were without power and many of their toilets yesterday morning after a nervous first night following the facility’s closure.

The center inside a Manus Island navy base was declared closed on Tuesday afternoon following the Papua New Guinean Supreme Court’s ruling last year that Australia’s detention of asylum seekers there was illegal and unconstitutional.

However, the men who have stayed at the center on Lombrun Navy Base fear for their safety in the alternative shelters available because of threats from locals.

The Sydney-based Refugee Action Coalition said the removal of electricity generators yesterday morning left the center without power, including toilets operating on electrical pumps. They still have tap water, though it is not drinkable.

An Iranian man living there, Behrouz Boochani, tweeted: “They took generators this morning. There is not power in whole centre. The toilets do not work. All refugees woke up again in fear.”

The coalition has applied to the court for an injunction stopping the closure of the center.

The first night without security staff guarding the center had at least passed peacefully, coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said.

“The men are sitting tight for the moment,” Rintoul told reporters. “The situation isn’t great, but at least there were no attacks during the night.”

Some locals brought food and drinking water to the perimeter fence, some selling it to the men, others donating it, Rintoul said.

Papua New Guinean officials have said the facility would be returned to defense forces yesterday and anyone remaining would be considered to be trespassing on a military base.

For four years, Australia has paid Papua New Guinea, its nearest neighbor, and the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru to house asylum seekers who attempt to reach the Australian coast by boat.

The US has resettled 54 of the asylum seekers in recent weeks and is considering taking almost 1,200 more.

Australia refuses to settle any asylum seekers who try to arrive by boat — a policy the government says dissuades them from attempting dangerous ocean crossings. Its navy has also turned back boats to prevent them from reaching Australian shores.

Papua New Guinean authorities have deployed extra police to the town of Lorengau, where three new housing centers are located, but locals reportedly have threatened to blockade them. A protest of about 100 people earlier this week demanded that the men not live in the community, that Australia take them back.

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