Papua New Guinea starts dismantling refugee camp fences

November 9, 2017 1:34 am
A handout photo taken and received on November 9, 2017 from the Refugee Action Coalition shows contractors dismantling fences at the Australian detention center on Manus Island in . (Via AFP)
Authorities in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have started dismantling fences around a formerly Australian-run detention camp on Manus Island, warning that they would forcefully evict hundreds of asylum seekers who have barricaded themselves there.
The warning was made in a notice posted at the Lombrum detention center on Thursday.
Australian authorities abandoned the detention center on October 31, citing a PNG court ruling that it is illegal. Water, food, and power services to the site were then cut. The PNG Supreme Court recently rejected an appeal to restore those services because it said such services were already available at alternative accommodation that has been been designated for the asylum seekers.
But the nearly 600 asylum seekers have been confining themselves to the camp for the past nine days reportedly fearing attacks by locals.
“You may become very sick under these conditions of overflowing sewerage, heaps of rubbish, no clean running water, no electricity and no food,” the PNG’s Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority said in a two-page notice reviewed by Reuters.
“You are therefore instructed to vacate this compound immediately… if necessary, force may be used to relocate those who refuse to move voluntarily for your own sake,” it said.
The notice also said the demolition of fences in the abandoned camp would begin on November 9. It also said that the center, which used to be a military base, would return to the control of the military and anyone there unlawfully would be liable for arrest.
An undated photo released on October 31, 2017 shows a makeshift water collecting system built by detainees inside the former detention center on Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea. (Via Reuters)
An asylum seeker confirmed the report on his Twitter page.
“The refugees are watching them fearfully… (they) are extremely scared by immigration threat but still saying we will not leave this prison camp for another prison camp,” he tweeted. “Using force against ppl who’ve been suffering nearly 5yrs is no solution. If you’re going to solve this problem[,] send us to safe third country.”
A day earlier, PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had stressed that “appropriate means” would be used to apprehend those responsible for “disruption.”
Meanwhile, Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has described the situation at the camp on the Manus Island as “unacceptable” but added that “the [Australian] government won’t be backing down.”
The United Nations has already warned of a “humanitarian emergency” unfolding at the site, calling on authorities in Canberra to immediately take action to stop the emerging crisis.
Amnesty International also warned that the asylum seekers’ lives were at risk and conditions inside the camp were deteriorating “catastrophically.”
An undated image released October 31, 2017 shows Australian Greens Senator Nick McKim (front-in light blue shirt and khaki pants) sitting among detainees as they hold a protest inside the Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea. (Via Reuters)
Reports said nearly 100 refugees had fallen sick in the camp and required “urgent” medical treatment after exhausting their food supplies and relying on rainwater to drink.
Australia has been detaining the asylum seekers who attempt to reach the country by boat and had been sending some of them to the PNG. Under a controversial refugee policy known as “Sovereign Borders,” Australia also sends other such asylum seekers to another camp, in Nauru in the South Pacific, which is still operating.
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