Papua New Guinean police returned to a shuttered Australian-run detention complex early on Friday, marking the second day of a major operation to clear out more than 300 asylum-seekers refusing to leave, two of the men told Reuters.
The Manus Island centre has been sealed off to prevent supplies reaching the camp after a three-week standoff, with buses now carting asylum seekers to transit centres elsewhere on the island. The UN has urged the Australian and PNG governments to engage in constructive dialogue and to reduce the tension.
The asylum seekers have raised concerns over the conditions in the transit centres, and they say they risk being resettled in PNG or another developing nation should they move.
Around 60 asylum seekers arrived at one of the transit centres on buses early on Friday, asylum seeker and Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani told Reuters in a text message.
Pictures sent to Reuters showed asylum seekers on minibuses and Papua New Guinean officials wearing army fatigues inside the camp.
‘The police are in our place now,’ Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz said in a text message Friday morning.
On Thursday about 50 asylum-seekers left the centre, after police entered the camp and according to the men confiscated food, water and personal belongings.
Mostly from Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Syria, the men are at the camp under Australia’s strict ‘sovereign borders’ immigration policy, under which it refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores.
Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop said on Friday the police action wouldn’t damage Australia’s standing in the region.
‘In fact nations respect our stand against people smuggling,’ Bishop told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.
Last year PNG’s Supreme Court ruled that the centre, first opened in 2001 in a bid to stem a flow of asylum seekers making dangerous voyages by boat to Australia, breached fundamental human rights, leading to the decision to close it.
It is unclear whether Friday’s police action will clear the camp, where men have been barricaded without regular food or water since October 31.
Australian Christian pastor Jarrod McKenna, who was at the Manus centre earlier this week, said the men risk losing a chance to be resettled in an appropriate country.
‘If they move, it’s saying yes to being hidden from the world,’ McKenna said by phone. ‘They want to go anywhere where it is safe.’
PNG immigration and police officials did not return telephone calls from Reuters to seek comment.
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