By law, Australia does not resettle any migrants who approach the country by boat, and since 2013 it has paid neighboring Papua New Guinea to shelter migrants trying to reach Australia. Most have already sought refugee status, and some are waiting for resettlement. Another 1,200 asylum seekers are being held in a center on the island of Nauru.
The rights panel’s observations echoed deepening alarm among other humanitarian agencies about the conditions on Manus Island. Water, power and other services were cut off at the island’s original detention center last month after officials decided to move the men to another location on the island. Australia withdrew its security staff from the camp last week, and the migrants barricaded themselves inside and refused to leave, fearing violence from island residents.
Tensions increased on Thursday after Prime Minister Paul O’Neill of Papua New Guinea threatened to use “appropriate measures” to clear the migrants from the center. A notice posted at the camp warned that remaining there would be detrimental to the men’s health, and that if they were not out by Saturday, they could be forcibly removed or arrested.
Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish Iranian refugee detained on Manus since 2013, said that several fences around the camp had been removed and that although people in the camp were frightened by the threat of arrest, they planned to stay put.
“We have shown peaceful resistance to send a message that we are not going to leave this prison camp for another prison camp and we don’t want to live in P.N.G. where we are not safe,” Mr. Boochani said, referring to Papua New Guinea, in a WhatsApp message also posted to his Facebook page. “Australia exiled us by force to this country and has kept us in this prison camp for nearly five years even though we have committed no crime. It has then abandoned us and it’s obligated under international law to offer safe asylum.”
The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court…