Refugees refuse to leave Manus Island amid security fears

Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers refuse to leave the camp as food, water and power are cut

Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers inside the Manus Island detention centre are refusing to leave despite power, water and food supplies being cut off.

The detention centre in Papua New Guinea PNG) was scheduled to close at 5:00pm (local time) today.

Australian private security on Tuesday vacated the detention center in Papua New Guinea (PNG), leaving about 600 refugees and asylum seekers barricaded inside and refusing to move.

Lawyers for the Manus Island refugees have filed a last-minute lawsuit in PNG to prevent the camp’s closure and allow the men to be relocated to a third country. The ruling is expected on Wednesday.

The camp’s impending closure is part of an Australian government plan to push refugees and asylum seekers to return to their home country, settle in PNG or move elsewhere.

“Conditions for the refugees were unbearable”, said Nick McKim, a senator with the Australian Greens Party who is on Manus.

“I can only describe what is happening on Manus now as a humanitarian emergency,” McKim told Reuters. “It is 31 degrees Celsius (88 Fahrenheit) today and drinking water will be cut off.”

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has refused to bring asylum seekers on Manus Island to Australia and has rejected claims that the men fear for their lives as reprted emerged that locals armed with machetes were looting the facility.

“The Coalition Government has had a clear and consistent policy since coming to office; no-one who attempts to enter Australia illegally by boat will ever settle here,” Minister Dutton said.

Human Rights Watch, the US-based global watchdog, said that “Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) have failed to protect the well-being of hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers sent to Manus Island under Australia’s mandatory offshore processing policy.” The organization noted that some 770 men remain stuck in PNG, where many have suffered assaults and robberies and received inadequate health care.

The human rights watchdog cautioned that “The Australian and PNG governments’ proposal to close the regional processing center on Manus Island by October 31, 2017, and transfer or settle those living there elsewhere in PNG will further endanger their safety and health.”

“Australia should instead admit and integrate those found to be refugees, fairly process those with pending asylum claims, and reassess the claims of failed asylum seekers before forcibly returning them to their home countries,” Human Rights Watch urged.

Asylum seekers who try to reach Australia by boat are sent to two remote Pacific processing centres — PNG’s Manus Island and Nauru. They are barred from entering in Australia, even if they are ultimately found to have a legitimate case for asylum.

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