Authorities are attempting to ward off a potentially violent crisis as the Manus Island detention centre closes, warning refugees their food, water and power will be cut on October 31.
Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers under Australia’s care have refused to leave the centre, whose closure has loomed since the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruled the men’s ongoing detention illegal.
Alternative accommodation has been offered in the nearby town of Lorengau, but refugees fear clashes with local Manusians, and have largely refused to move.
Notices written in Persian given to some asylum seekers on Thursday – and translated by Fairfax Media – declare all services including food, sanitation and water will cease after October 31.
“All PNG government and Australian personnel will leave the regional processing centre. This site will be used by the PNG defence force,” the notices state. “If you decide to stay, you should know services will be terminated.”
Certified refugees can go to one of two alternative locations in Lorengau, or transfer to Nauru, and await the outcome of their applications for resettlement in the United States.
Asylum seekers not assessed to be refugees have been told they can go to a location called Hillside Haus but should make arrangements to leave PNG and go home.
Advocates fear an outbreak of violence as the October 31 closure deadline approaches, given rising tensions between refugees and Manusians, and the Good Friday clash between refugees and PNG soldiers.
Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian refugee and journalist on Manus, said he and other asylum seekers were “very worried about the future and extremely scared by this situation”.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was not available on Friday and a spokeswoman referred questions to authorities in PNG. Mr Dutton had earlier told Sky News more refugees would soon be accepted by the US.
Asked about the issue in Parliament on Monday, cabinet minister Michaelia Cash – who represents Mr Dutton in the Senate – affirmed the centre would close on October 31 and “anybody will be removed by lawful means”.
The Australian government’s contractors, including International Health and Medical Services, will leave the island on that date, although the Guardian reported late on Friday that IHMS would remain on the island under contract of the PNG government.
Earlier this week, the United Nations said it was “profoundly troubled” by the situation on Manus Island and the imminent Australian withdrawal.
Its refugee agency, which sent a mission to PNG last month, noted “a lack of proper planning for the closure of existing facilities, insufficient consultation with the [PNG] community and the absence of long-term solutions for those not included in the relocation arrangement to the US”.
Those factors “increased an already critical risk of instability and harm”, the agency said.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.