Pa­pua New Guinea ups pres­sure on refugees to leave Aussie camp

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

Pa­pua New Guinea of­fi­cials (PNG) de­ployed po­lice ve­hi­cles and buses around a shut­tered Aus­tralian refugee camp Mon­day as a dead­line passed for some 400 de­tainees to move from the con­tro­ver­sial cen­ter.

Hun­dreds of men have re­fused to leave the Manus Is­land camp in an in­creas­ingly tense stand-off with au­thor­i­ties since Aus­tralia de­clared the fa­cil­ity closed on Oc­to­ber 31 and shut off elec­tric­ity and wa­ter.

Refugees said po­lice filled in wells and drilled holes in stor­age tanks that they had been us­ing to hold drink­ing wa­ter, as part of the ef­fort to force them out on Mon­day.

In­mates sent out pho­tos show­ing a line of buses and po­lice ve­hi­cles out­side the camp, built on a for­mer PNG naval base, a day af­ter Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Petrus Thomas gave them 24 hours to get out. More than 100 of the refugees have left for three “tran­si­tion” cen­ters on Manus since it was of­fi­cially closed.

The re­main­ing men, who have been held on Manus for more than four years, in­sist they should be re­set­tled in third coun­tries and not sim­ply trans­ferred to an­other de­ten­tion camp in PNG.

“We are still re­fus­ing to leave this prison camp for an­other prison camp,” tweeted Behrooz Boochani, a Kur­dishIra­nian refugee and jour­nal­ist.

Thomas told the de­tainees in a state­ment Sun­day that they needed to leave by Mon­day, but he stopped short of say­ing they would be moved forcibly.

Un­der its harsh im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, Aus­tralia has been send­ing asy­lum-seek­ers who try to reach the coun­try by boat to Manus or a sec­ond camp for fam­i­lies on the Pa­cific is­land of Nauru.

The PNG Supreme Court re­cently de­clared the Manus camp un­con­sti­tu­tional, forc­ing Aus­tralia to close the site.

Aus­tralian and PNG au­thor­i­ties in­sist the three tran­si­tion cen­ters built to house the refugees pro­vide ba­sic ser­vices in­clud­ing food and wa­ter.

But Boochani told AFP on Sun­day that men who had moved to the cen­ters had com­plained of harsh con­di­tions.

Mean­while New Zealand’s new prime min­is­ter, Jacinda Ardern, was hop­ing to con­vince Mal­colm Turn­bull to ac­cept her of­fer to take 150 refugees from Manus and Nauru.

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