Stale­mate as refugees dig in at PNG camp

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD -

SOME 400 refugees re­buffed con­tin­ued ef­forts by Pa­pua New Guinea au­thor­i­ties to con­vince them to move from a shut­tered Aus­tralian de­ten­tion camp yes­ter­day as the standoff over their fu­ture drags into a third week.

The con­fronta­tion has drawn global at­ten­tion to Can­berra’s tough im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, un­der which asy­lum seek­ers who try to reach Aus­tralia by boat are sent to re­mote Pa­cific camps on PNG’s Manus Is­land and the is­land na­tion of Nauru.

Most of the 600 refugees de­tained at the camp re­fused to leave when Aus­tralia of­fi­cially closed it on Oc­to­ber 31 af­ter the PNG Supreme Court ruled the site un­con­sti­tu­tional, cit­ing fears for their safety out­side.

They are barred from re­set­tling in Aus­tralia and Can­berra has strug­gled to trans­fer them to third coun­tries.

Kur­dish-Ira­nian de­tainee and jour­nal­ist Behrouz Boochani said yes­ter­day the de­tainees were go­ing to dig an­other well, a day af­ter po­lice moved in to punc­ture or re­move tanks hold­ing the refugees’ re­main­ing sup­plies of drink­ing wa­ter.

“It’s the mo­ment to ac­cept fail­ure & let us go to a 3rd coun­try,” Boochani, who has acted as a spokesman for the refugees, added in a tweet yes­ter­day.

Po­lice, who have so far com­plied with or­ders from higher au­thor­i­ties not to re­sort to force to re­move the men, used loud­speak­ers to ap­peal to the de­tainees to move on Mon­day.

Chief In­spec­tor David Yapu is­sued a state­ment on Mon­day in­di­cat­ing grow­ing im­pa­tience at the stale­mate, af­ter the refugees ig­nored sev­eral dead­lines for the camp to be cleared.

“Those refugees were sit­ting in their com­pounds and star­ing at us with­out any signs of mov­ing out from the cen­tre,” the Manus provin­cial po­lice com­man­der said in the state­ment.

“Ap­par­ently my mes­sage went through deaf ears and into the brick wall.”

PNG po­lice said they have man­aged to get about 180 men to vol­un­tar­ily re­lo­cate to three nearby tran­si­tion cen­tres.

Boochani said those who agreed to move to those new sites have com­plained about the harsh con­di­tions there.

Can­berra has been hope­ful that up to 1,250 refugees on Manus and Nauru could be trans­ferred to the United States un­der a re­set­tle­ment deal struck last year.

But so far, just 54 refugees have been ac­cepted by Wash­ing­ton, with 24 flown to Amer­ica in Septem­ber.

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull has also snubbed an of­fer from New Zealand to re­set­tle 150 refugees, cit­ing fears it would restart the peo­ple-smug­gling trade.

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