Papua New Guinea to begin forcibly removing Manus Island asylum seekers | News | DW | 13.11.2017
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Papua New Guinea to begin forcibly removing Manus Island asylum seekers

Authorities have cut off water, power and food to the camp for Australia's unwanted refugees, but many refuse to leave. They have been given until Monday to vacate the barricaded camp.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Sunday issued an ultimatum to more than 400 asylum seekers barricaded in Australia's shuttered refugee detention center on Manus Island.

The men were given until Monday to leave the facility or they would be forcibly evicted, according to a statement by Papua New Guinea Immigration Minister Petrus Thomas seen by Reuters news agency and The Guardian newspaper.

"We will be taking steps with relevant authorities to move the residents based on serious exposure to health risk for the food of everyone that is remaining,"  Reuters cited from the statement.

Manus Island lies north of the main island of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean

Manus Island lies north of the main territory of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean

Read more: Papua New Guinea police destroy refugee shelters, water storage

Petrus Thomas told the men they had to leave by Monday "so that they can have access to basic necessities such as food, water, medical care and security and that the work on decommissioning of the facility … can be completed for the PNG defense force to take complete control of their land and property," The Guardian quoted him as saying.

But New Zealand public broadcaster Radio NZ quoted Thomas on Sunday as backing down from the threats of forcible removal.

"As I maintain, there will be no forced movement, but they have to voluntarily move. There are already 120 that have moved already [and] there are other positive indications from other refugees that they will be moving as well," he told the broadcaster.

Refugees later shared images of police vans descending on the site, and claimed they had filled in wells and punctured make-shift water tanks.

No food, water or power

Authorities shut down the facility in October, cut power and water to the site, stopped providing food and asked the detainees to move out after a Papuan court ruled the center unconstitutional. Hundreds of people refused to shift to reportedly unfinished transition accommodation out of fears for their safety among the broader Papuan community.

Read more: UN urges Australia to end 'humanitarian emergency' on Manus Island

Kurdish-Iranian detainee and journalist Behrouz Boochani told AFP news agency Sunday the remaining men were "struggling with starvation" and rationing the little food they were allowed to bring in to the camp.

"The people are saying that we are determined to stay and they feel if (they) leave the prison camp and go to another prison camp (they) will lose everything and their lives," he added.

 "We are still refusing to leave this prison camp for another prison camp," he posted on Twitter later.

The eviction process has bought the international spotlight onto Australia's immigration policies, with the United Nations warning of a "looming humanitarian crisis" on the island.

Banished refugees

Australia banishes any irregular boat arrivals to bleak offshore camps in the remote Pacific to stand as a deterrent example to would-be maritime asylum seekers. The camps are largely impenetrable to Australia's media, but conditions in the camps are uncomfortable at best for detainees, many of whom fled war-torn countries.

Australia has been struggling to fulfill a deal with the US to take in some of the men in exchange for Australia accepting refugees from Central America. So far just 54 have been accepted by Washington, of a hopeful 1,250. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rebuffed a proposal from New Zealand to take in 150 of the men, citing concerns they would then be free to move on to Australia under loose immigration controls between the countries.

New Zealand issued a rare rebuke of Australia's immigration policies on Sunday when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tried to meet with Turnbull on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Vietnam to discuss the situation.

"No matter what label you put on it, there is absolute need and there is harm being done," Arden told reporters. Arden repeated New Zealand's offer to take in the 150 men.

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