Time is running out and patience is wearing thin with the 600 men barricaded inside Australia's shut-down detention centre on Manus Island, as Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill threatens to apprehend the group's ringleaders.
Fresh from a PNG court defeat to restore water and electricity to the defunct centre, the 600 men -- mostly refugees -- are coming close to marking their 100th protest since August and eight days without services. They are refusing to leave amid fears new accommodation isn't ready or safe.
Lawyers for the group are appealing the court decision, while in the meantime PNG defence force personnel have blockaded the camp to prevent civilians from entering.
— Amy Frew (@AmyHRLC) November 8, 2017
"Those involved in disruption have been identified and appropriate means will be used to apprehend individuals who are causing unnecessary anxiety and violence," Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said in a statement on Wednesday night.
"The centre will not be reopened and it will be returned to its former function as a defence force facility."
His government would have no choice but to intervene, he said, "for the well-being of both the refugees and non-refugees".
Still delusional. 1200 people drowned at sea under Labor and agreement you signed was not time limited. Is your plan Labor's 'real' plan? https://t.co/yK9Nagy9IK— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton_MP) November 7, 2017
"Their actions are now heading towards a law and order situation, as well as a hygiene and sanitation problem, and it will be dealt with as such, whether they are genuine refugees or not.
"Now that the processing of asylum claims has been completed, the relocation exercise is taking place where there is a separation of genuine and non-genuine refugees."
What I have done in Manus prison camp is tell ppl around the world that PNG & Aus are violating human rights. Don't threaten me, won't stop— Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) November 8, 2017
Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has said reports of machete attacks, robberies and one case of a man who needed medical treatment for gallstones but could not be treated because the facilities are lacking are "completely untrue."
"I mean these so called examples and cases have only popped up since we've said that we want to close the centre. So the fact is, as I say, hundreds of people go in to the Manus community each day," he said.
He said it was "deceitful and disgraceful" that asylum seeker advocates were "trading on the people's situation" in the centre.
Digging Wells And Digging In
The men have dug wells to access muddy water deep below the detention centre, and have shown no signs they are willing to give up.
Kurdish refugee Behrouz Bouchani told SBS those resisting were doing so out of their own will.
He said the PM's stance would not stop him doing his job as a journalist, and also doubted whether the government would use force to move the men.
"I don't think they will do this because the world is watching them," Bouchani said.
"But if they do this we can't stop them they have power and they can do that. They are powerful people and we are helpless."
In Australia, there is growing support among some sections of the community for the refugees.
Tuesday's Melbourne Cup celebrations were briefly interrupted by activists who scaled a crane at Flemington and drove a car onto train tracks leading to the race course in protest over the treatment of asylum seekers.
Religious groups such as Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA), Catholic Social Services Australia, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia, and Jesuit Social Services (JSS) have jointly declared Government is both legally and morally responsible for the lives of the men.
St Vincents de Paul and the Sister's of Mercy Australia and PNG have also released statements condemning the situation.
Others have taken more direct action, with a pastor and a mental health practitioner suspending themselves four stories above the Subiaco office of Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, on a hanging tent on Wednesday.Suggest a correction