The standoff at Papua New Guinea's (PNG) Manus Island Regional Processing Centre entered its second week as more than 600 refugees and asylum seekers refused to leave the camp, while a PNG lawmaker urged the detainees to leave.
Electricity, water and food supplies were cut off at the Australia-run detention facility when it closed last week, per a PNG High Court order.
"There is no capacity to restore services. There is no service provider to deliver services and more significantly, as services are available at the new facilities, there is no need for services to be reconnected," PNG's Immigration Minister Petrus Thomas said yesterday.The refugees have refused to move to temporary accommodation, some of which is only partially constructed, in the island's main town of Lorengau due to fears of being attacked by locals. Thomas said these concerns should be allayed due to increased security measures at the new facilities. "Refugees and non-refugees should no longer have any security concerns," he said in a statement.
While voluntary relocation "remains the government's preference," it "will not shirk its responsibilities," Thomas said.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday the situation at the center continues to be dire with little food and water, while detainees with acute medical needs were not being treated.
Elaine Pearson, HRW's Australia director, said the main issue is "the safety and well-being" of the refugees as they have been "repeatedly robbed and assaulted in town, with little action taken by police." "They need a lasting solution, and it's up to Australia to provide that for them without delay," she said.
PNG's High Court ruled last year that the Manus center, first opened in 2001, was illegal and the camp closed on Oct. 31, when security staff withdrew. Australia's controversial offshore detention program sees asylum seekers that arrive by boat to its shores transferred to camps in PNG and Nauru in the South Pacific, where they are detained. The United Nations and rights groups have for years cited human rights abuses among detainees in the centers.
On Sunday, Australia turned down an offer by New Zealand to take 150 asylum seekers being held in the camp. The relocation of the men to other facilities on Manus Island is designed to afford the United States time to complete vetting of refugees as part of a refugee swap deal that Australia hopes will see it no longer responsible for the detention of nearly 1,400 asylum seekers who have been classified as refugees. Those not accepted by the United States would likely be resettled in Papua New Guinea or in another developing country, dashing hopes of coming to Australia.
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