PNG warns it will use force to empty refugee camp

The Borneo Post - - WORLD -

SYDNEY: Refugees holed up in a closed Aus­tralian de­ten­tion camp on Pa­pua New Guinea were warned yes­ter­day 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 cen­tres that holds asy­lum-seek­ers who try to reach Aus­tralia by boat — was closed more than a week ago after the PNG Supreme Court ruled last year it was un­con­sti­tu­tional.

But some 600 men have re­fused to move to tran­si­tion cen­tres, say­ing they fear lo­cals there would be hos­tile.

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

With con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, PNG Prime Min­is­ter Peter O’Neill said the hold­outs must move to the new ac­com­mo­da­tion.

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

“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.”

He warned that ‘ap­pro­pri­ate means’ would be used to ‘ap­pre­hend in­di­vid­u­als who are caus­ing un­nec­es­sary anx­i­ety and vi­o­lence’.

“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 ‘force may be used to re­lo­cate those who refuse to move vol­un­tar­ily’ by Satur­day.

Ira­nian refugee Behrouz

The Manus cen­tre was estab­lished for the sole rea­son of pro­cess­ing asy­lum claims. Now all claims have been pro­cessed and the cen­tre 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 non­refugees. Peter O’Neill, PNG Prime Min­is­ter

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 says 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 crit­i­cised by the United Na­tions 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 United States.

But so far just 54 refugees have been ac­cepted by Wash­ing­ton, with 24 flown to the United States in Septem­ber, un­der a deal struck with for­mer US pres­i­dent Barack Obama and bit­terly crit­i­cised by his suc­ces­sor Don­ald Trump.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional warned 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,” said Amnesty’s Pa­cific re­searcher Kate Schuetze.

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

Con­trac­tors dis­man­tling fences at the Aus­tralian de­ten­tion cen­tre on Manus Is­land in Paupa New Guinea. — AFP photo

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