Papua New Guinea police flood closed Australia refugee camp on Manus Island


Papua New Guinea police sealed off an officially shuttered Australia-run detention camp on Thursday and ordered asylum seekers occupying it to leave as they confiscated food and water the men had stockpiled, asylum seekers told Reuters. About 600 refugees refused to leave due to fear of being attacked by the local community.

A police blockade of the camp was still in place, Tim Costello, chief advocate of aid group World Vision Australia, said by telephone from outside, adding that he had seen buses leave and that the accommodation he had visited was unfinished.

In 2014, locals attacked the center and killed one refugee, and injured 51.

"There is accommodation that is perfectly acceptable", Australia's Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, said in an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp radio on Wednesday.

Papua New Guinea's Post-Courier newspaper reported on Tuesday that immigration officials would begin evicting the men on Wednesday, the fourth such deadline imposed on the refugees to leave since the camp's closure on October 31. "Well, we will not be pressured", he told reporters in Canberra.

"They should obey the law. they should go peacefully and in accordance with the lawful direction of Papua New Guinea".

"The situation on the ground is very serious and deteriorating day by day", said Nai Jit Lam, a regional representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Tuesday.

"The most obvious solution is for Australia to bring all of the men to Australia".

"They had a really big microphone in their hands and started telling people 'you have to move, '" refugee Abdul Aziz Adam told the BBC. "They are taking all the phones away, destroying all the rooms and belongings and everything", he said.

"If, as the case appears to be, he has been targeted and arrested because of his profile and his role as a journalist in an attempt to silence him, this is an egregious attack on press freedom that can not be let stand".

But Mr Baki said Mr Boochan had not been arrested or charged.

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The journalist, a prominent voice within the centre, later tweeted that he had been "handcuffed" for more than two hours and had his belongings broken.

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull dismissed asylum seekers' fears for their safety in Lorengau, accusing them of trying to pressure Australia into resettling them by refusing to move from Manus.

Boochani, who has served as an eyewitness to the treatment of asylum seekers in detention and as a vocal critic of the Australian immigration policy which placed them there, was lead away from the compound this afternoon.

"The early morning action follows repeated deadlines issued - but not enforced - by the PNG government over the three weeks since the centre was shut down", The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

With each step the resolve of the men who want to remain there seems only to have increased.

Earlier, Mr Boochani tweeted that an Australian police officer appeared to be "guiding" some local officers.

"The arrest of Behrouz Boochani as a so called ring leader of the peaceful protest on Manus Island is deeply misguided", said Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International's Pacific Researcher who has just returned from Manus.

On Thursday, police moved in and took 50 men to alternative camps, PNG Police Commissioner Gari Baki said.

"The fact is that we are not moving them into the jungle. Now the PNG authorities are putting their lives at risk", she said.

The US has agreed to take up to 1,250 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru under a resettlement deal.