PNG police evict all refugees from detention center
Friday 24/November/2017 - 12:39 PM
Papua New Guinea (PNG)’s police say they have relocated all the asylum seekers who had refused to leave a decommissioned refugee detention camp for fear of facing violence elsewhere، according to "Press TV".
The camp، located on the PNG’s Manus Island، used to be run by Australia. On October 31، however، Australian officials suddenly abandoned the refugees at the center، invoking a PNG court ruling that the camp was illegal.
Hundreds of male refugees then barricaded themselves at the camp، where food، water، electricity، and medical services had also been cut.
The unprotected refugees feared violence at alternative accommodation centers، where machete-wielding locals had several times gathered to express their opposition to the presence of the refugees on the island.
PNG had announced that Australia had a responsibility to resettle the refugees after abandoning the camp، but Canberra took no action.The refugees faced hygiene issues، including disease outbreaks، as their makeshift water supplies were reportedly contaminated by PNG officials in an attempt to force them out.
Police finally moved in to forcibly evict the refugees on Thursday، and a second day of operations on Friday saw all the refugees removed.
“Between 9 and 10 am (23:00-00:00 GMT) this morning، they had all been moved،” PNG police spokesman Chief Superintendent Dominic Kakas said on Friday، adding that the men had been moved to two of three new facilities.
“It’s empty. The military have taken back their base،” he added of the decommissioned camp، which used to be a naval base.
Police had vowed not to use force against the refugees. But video and photos posted by the refugees on social media showed officers beating them with long metal poles while pushing them out of the Manus Island camp early on Friday.
Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton welcomed the news of the full eviction، and accused refugee advocates of making “inaccurate and exaggerated claims of violence and injuries” committed during the two-day operations.
He also insisted that the alternative sites were habitable.
Rights groups had raised concerns about the men’s safety among a local population that has shown them hostility.
“These men are scared، they are exhausted and they are despairing،” Amy Frew، a lawyer at the Australia-based Human Rights Law Centre، said earlier Friday. “After four and a half years of limbo and uncertainty they still have nowhere safe to go.”
She added، “This morning’s actions show that whatever they do، wherever they go، their safety cannot be guaranteed until they are evacuated from Papua New Guinea.”
Under a controversial refugee policy known as “Sovereign Borders،” Australia banishes any asylum seekers arriving irregularly by boat to offshore refugee camps. While the camp on Manus has been abandoned by Australian officials، another one، on Nauru، continues to operate.
Australian PM ‘pleased’ with relocation of refugees
Meanwhile، Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed the news of the relocation of the asylum seekers in PNG.
“I’m pleased to say in terms of Manus، that the reports we have are that busloads of the people at Manus are leaving، they’re complying with the lawful directions of the PNG authorities and moving to the alternative facilities available to them and that’s as they should،” Turnbull told reporters on Friday.
“That is precisely what you should do، if you’re in a foreign country. You should comply with the laws of that other country،” he added.