Fri, Nov 10, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Refugees told to evacuate camp

LAW AND ORDER:Papua New Guinea’s president said the Manus refugee camp presented hygiene and security problems after its water and power were cut


Contractors are seen dismantling fences at the Australian detention center on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea yesterday, in a handout photograph from the Refugee Action Committee.

Photo: AFP / Refugee Action Coalition

Refugees holed up in a closed Australian detention camp in Papua New Guinea (PNG) were yesterday warned that authorities will move in, using force if necessary, if they do not leave by the weekend.

The remote facility on Manus Island — one of two offshore centers that hold asylum seekers who try to reach Australia by boat — was closed more than a week ago after the Papua New Guinean Supreme Court last year ruled that it was unconstitutional.

However, about 600 men have refused to move to transition centers, saying they fear that locals there would be hostile.

Water, power and food supplies have been cut, with a court on Tuesday rejecting one refugee’s application to have them restored.

With conditions deteriorating, Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said that the holdouts must move to the new accommodation.

“The Manus center was established for the sole reason of processing asylum claims,” he said. “Now all claims have been processed and the center has closed.”

“Given the Supreme Court’s decision, the government has no choice but to intervene for the well-being of both the refugees and non-refugees,” O’Neill added.

“Appropriate means” would be used to “apprehend individuals who are causing unnecessary anxiety and violence,” O’Neill said. “Their actions are now heading towards a law-and-order situation, as well as a hygiene and sanitation problem, and it will be dealt with as such, whether they are genuine refugees or not.”

A notice put up at the camp yesterday warned that “force may be used to relocate those who refuse to move voluntarily” by tomorrow.

Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani, who has been acting as a spokesman for the asylum -seekers, said police and immigration officials entered the camp to spread the message.

“The refugees are extremely scared by immigration threat, but still saying we will not leave this prison camp for another prison camp,” he tweeted.

Canberra has said its tough immigration policy against “boat people” dissuades would-be migrants from attempting the dangerous crossing to Australia and has therefore prevented hundreds of deaths at sea.

However, it has been widely criticized by the UN and human rights advocates.

Canberra has strongly rejected calls to move the refugees to Australia and instead has tried to resettle them in third countries, including the US.

However, only 54 refugees have been accepted by Washington, 24 of whom were flown to the US in September, under a deal struck with former US president Barack Obama and bitterly criticized by his successor, US President Donald Trump.

Amnesty International said that “any use of force in this highly charged environment is likely to lead to serious injury or loss of life,” calling for aid to be allowed into the camp.

“It is the Australian and PNG governments who have left the men without food, clean water, proper sanitation or electricity,” Amnesty Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze said.

“They cannot, having created the situation, now compound it by sending in security forces to force the refugees to move,” she said.

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