Refugees barricade in Manus camp as Papua New Guinea army prepare to enter
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Refugees barricade in Manus camp as Papua New Guinea army prepare to enter

AROUND 600 refugees and asylum seekers at the Manus Island detention centre are refusing leave despite water and power being cut off to the facility and threats that the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Defence Force will take control of the site from today.

The centre was officially closed on Tuesday, but the men are refusing to leave saying they fear violent reprisals from the local community if they leave the protection of the detention centre and move to the alternative accommodation that has been provided.

“We are not here for food, we are not here for electricity, we’re not here for water, we’re here because we’re persecuted in our country we left violence. We want a safe country and we want our freedom,” Rohingya refugee Imran Mohammad told ABC News, adding that he did not believe PNG authorities could protect them.

The Manus centre has been a key part of Australia’s disputed “Sovereign Borders” immigration policy. Australia refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores, detaining them in camps in PNG and Nauru in the South Pacific.

PNG’s High Court ruled last year that the Manus centre, first opened in 2001, was illegal. The United Nations and rights groups have for years cited human rights abuses among detainees in the centres.

SEE ALSO:  Death of refugee sparks riots at Manus Island detention camp

All services to the centre have been shut down and the staff left early on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, the electricity was cut and the remaining generator removed.

Journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani currently in Manus said the residents were living in fear and that the camp was “like a war zone.” He also said that one refugee has harmed himself with a razor due to the mental strain of the situation.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said food, water, electricity and medical services were all available at the transit centres.

“The people who are still on Manus have had months of notice that it would be closed and that alternative accommodation is available with all of the essential services,” she told ABC radio.

Most of the detainees on Manus come from war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Syria.

Lawyers for some of the 600 men filed a last-minute lawsuit in PNG’s High Court on Tuesday to prevent the camp’s closure and allow the men to be relocated to a third country. A ruling is expected on Wednesday.

SEE ALSO: Australia: Bloody photos of Manus Island refugees surface

There have been a number of incidents in which refugees held on Manus were subject to attack from local people.

A report by Human Rights Watch detailed increasing violent attacks on refugees and asylum seekers, three which required medical transfers to PNG’s capital Port Moresby or Australia.

In February 2014, the Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati was killed and more than 70 others seriously injured in an attack on the centre by local security guards and residents.

The camp’s closure is part of an Australian government plan to push refugees and asylum seekers to return to their home country, settle in PNG or move elsewhere, thereby dismantling part of the costly and contested offshore detention programme.

PNG has said that Australia, which has promised to spend up to AUD250 million (US$195 million) to house the men for the next 12 months, must take responsibility. Just under 200 men have already been moved.

The relocation of the men is designed as a temporary measure, allowing the United States time to complete vetting of refugees as part of a refugee swap deal.

Additional reporting by Reuters