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Manus Island Detainees Deprived Of Water, Food And Medication, But They're Refusing To Leave

It's a slow burning humanitarian crisis on our doorstep.

31/10/2017 4:01 PM AEDT | Updated 31/10/2017 5:40 PM AEDT
REUTERS
Observers say asylum seekers fear some authorities are arming themselves in preparation of a conflict.

Imagine locking yourself inside your own nightmare in order to feel safe.

In this nightmare you're surrounded by, and scared of, people who don't want you. There's no drinking water, it's stinking hot -- constantly muggy and muddy, mosquito paradise -- and you're running out of meds for your sick mates.

It's not a stretch to say this is what the roughly 600 asylum seekers on Manus Island are dealing with -- wedged between countries, abandoned by Australia, fearful local Manus residents will attack them if they leave the soon-to-close centre, worried local authorities will attack them if they stay.

"It's quite instructive that these people have been murdered, attacked by the Papua New Guinea Navy with machine guns and they still think that this is the safest place for them," Greens Senator Nick McKim told the HuffPost Australia.

Australian staff are leaving today, and they'll be left to the mercy of the PNG NavyNick McKim

In May Australia announced it was closing the centre, leaving the fate of roughly 600 detainees up in the air.

Facilities the immigration department promised would be ready by October 31 to receive the detainees in the community are not yet complete.

"In fact one of them is simply a few demountables in a sea of mud with cranes still working," said McKim.

Housed on a PNG naval base, the centre is due to be handed back to the PNG military on Wednesday.

In April PNG Defence Force personnel opened fire on the centre after a fight with asylum seekers.

McKim, who is on Manus, said residents in the provincial capital are preparing a rally in sympathy for refugees, while declaring they want them taken to Australia.

Other observers say asylum seekers fear some authorities are arming themselves in preparation of a conflict.

"We need urgent action from the Australian Government today," said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

"There are real fears that the Government will authorise force to be used against the asylum seekers and refugees in the centre, even as they deprive them of food and water."

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement claims about the situation in Manus "are nothing more than subterfuge".

"They have long claimed the Manus RPC was a 'hellhole' -- but the moment it was to be closed they demanded it be kept open," Dutton said.

"They claim to fear for their safety if they leave the RPC -- but held no such fears for a long period of time as around 200 of them each and every day travelled to and from Lorengau township, some staying in the town for extended periods of time.

"Claims by Greens Senator McKim that there is no alterative accommodation outside the RPC are false."

He said the Government had provided reasonable alternate pathways for those who do not wish to resettle in PNG.

"Specifically they can apply for resettlement in the United States or apply to move to Nauru," Dutton said.

"Those who have been found not to be refugees are in PNG illegally and should return to their country of origin as hundreds already have done. "

PNG's Minister for Immigration and Border Security, Petrus Thomas, told the Port Moresby based The National mental health is the biggest issue facing the asylum seekers.

He is reported to have said Papua New Guinea lacks capacity to manage it, and is thus leaving the health problems, plus other services, to Australia to deal with.

He is also reported to have said the asylum seekers won't be forced out, but observers say asylum seekers are worried some authorities are arming themselves.

Heat, No Water, No More Food, No More Meds

Drinking water has been cut off to the centre in the 31-degree Manus heat.

"Food has not been provided for the past few days, electricity will be withdrawn as will psychotropic medications be withdrawn from the large number of detainees who are suffering from depression and other mental illnesses," McKim said.

"It's a humanitarian emergency.

"This is a failure by the Australian and Papua New Guinea Governments who have treated the locals with contempt, and now the asylum seekers are paying the price."

Former Manus MP Ron Knight said community leaders "have their youths in check" and there is unlikely to be any violence against refugees.

"However security and officials must be wary," he tweeted on Tuesday.

Detainees have claimed to the Sydney Morning Herald locals have started removing equipment from the processing centre while PNG authorities look on.

Meanwhile some asylum seekers are seeking for PNG's Supreme Court to intervene to prevent the closure, in a last minute effort to maintain services.

The United Nations has warned of a looming humanitarian crisis as the immigration detention centre on Manus Island is shut down.

Two weeks ago Immigration Department Secretary Michael Pezzullo told a Senate committee that it was a matter for the PNG government to decide whether the men would be removed by force.

The Australian Government's priority is stopping anyone trying to arrive "illegally" from settling in Australia, Special Minister of State Scott Ryan said on Tuesday morning.

"These people were advised in May that this centre would be closed," Ryan told Sky News.

"I also note that some of the people and activists complaining about being moved from Manus Island were also people complaining about the facility there."

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