Tension as Food, Water Cut in Manus Refugee Camp; Islanders, Asylum Seekers Fear Clashes

Cape Times (South Africa), October 30, 2017 | Go to article overview

Tension as Food, Water Cut in Manus Refugee Camp; Islanders, Asylum Seekers Fear Clashes


TENSIONS were rising yesterday after food and water supplies were cut at the Australia-run refugee detention camp on Papua New Guinea's (PNG) Manus Island, where hundreds of asylum seekers are due to be moved to a local town.

The refugees have been asked to relocate from the camp - which is scheduled to shut down tomorrow after PNG's Supreme Court deemed it illegal - to temporary residential facilities in the island's main town of Lorengau.

But the refugees, who have been held since 2014, have refused to move and say they are afraid of being attacked by locals.

"The local people are very angry with the Australian government and are preparing with weapons, knives...

"They are determined to prevent the local government from relocating the refugees," said Behrouz Boochani, a refugee at the Manus camp.

He said the locals were worried about having 600 foreign men in their small island community.

"They are planning to block the road and do a protest tomorrow. Last night, two local young drunk men threw stones into the detention centre," he said.

Yesterday, authorities had shut the camp's dining room and cut off water supplies, Boochani said, giving the refugees food parcels and water bottles to last two days. Tomorrow the electricity is due to be cut off.

The detention centre was set up by the Australian government to hold asylum-seekers trying to enter the country by boat, for offshore processing.

The practice has been criticised by the UN and rights groups.

Papua New Guinea authorities have deployed extra police, including a paramilitary force, to the island after reports of locals threatening to use violence to stop the relocation.

The safety of refugees and government staff "is not to be taken for granted given the tension that is now being expressed by the locals on Manus Island", police commissioner Gari Baki said yesterday.

A "small disgruntled faction among the refugees... is creating uncertainty", he said. …

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