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PNG Court Rejects Bid To Restore Water And Power To Detention Centre

The men have been drinking from a muddy well.

07/11/2017 1:52 PM AEDT

Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court has rejected a bid by 600 starving refugees and asylum seekers living in Australia's mothballed detention centre on Manus Island to have water and electricity restored to the facility.

The men -- refugees and asylum seekers -- have been barricaded inside the centre for a week and say they are safer inside the shut-down centre than in new, but unsecured, accomodation closer to the Manus capital of Lorengau.

Lawyers for the refugees are expected to appeal the decision as early as Wednesday.

Public and international condemnation has mounted since the centre was closed last week, months after it was declared unconstitutional by PNG's Supreme Court.

Lacking medication, sickness and medical emergencies have spread inside the centre.

"We are heading for many deaths in the coming days and weeks unless urgent action is taken by Australia, Medical advocacy group Doctors 4 Refugees wrote in a letter to Australian MPs on Monday night.

"Action to alleviate these men's situation needs to be taken today to prevent deaths. As a start, they need food and water today."

Some of the men have made appeals to world leaders, with more than 280 refugees reportedly signing a letter pleading to U.S. President Donald Trump, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacind Ardern and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for their help.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is adamant the men won't come to Australia and said activists were encouraging the men not to move. New Zealand offered to take 150 of the men but Turnbull rejected the offer on the grounds it would encourage people smugglers.

He blamed "activists" for encouraging the men not to move from the centre.

"I think... is that there are some activists in Australia, including the Greens senator Nick McKim, who are basically encouraging these people not to move," he told the ABC on Tuesday.

PNG Immigration Minister Petrus Thomas has urged the men to leave, and has said it isn't just a case of reconnecting the water or electricity.

"The Government takes its obligations towards the treatment and care of all persons transferred to PNG very seriously," he told the Port Moresby based Post Courier.

"It is not incumbent on PNG to deliver services and this remains the responsibility of the service providers but at the new locations where the residents have to move to."

Amnesty international has warned that over the past 10 days refugees reported three medical emergencies.

"In one case, a refugee who has epilepsy, had a fit and was unconscious for several hours," Amnesty said.

"Refugees called to guards to provide medical assistance but there was no response. In another incident, a refugee self-harmed and, while physically stable, he remained in a fragile mental state, supported only by his friends."

Human Rights Watch's Elaine Pearson said the Australian government was acting irresponsibly.

"Moving hundreds of men to a town where refugees have been beaten, stabbed and robbed is incredibly irresponsible," she said in a statement.

Dehydration, Starvation, No Medicine, Disease And Heat

The men inside have dug wells for water and sleep under the stars to keep at bay the muggy and oppressive Manus heat.

The water they draw from the well -- using a small plastic bucket and thin rope -- is dirty.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees reports one of the new facilities is unfinished, lacking water or power connections as of Monday.

Two other facilities do not have security fences.

One man who accepted the offer to relocate to a new facility returned to Lombrum on Thursday, having walked three hours back on foot, saying he "could not stay in that place".

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