Published: Tue, November 14, 2017
World | By Melba Underwood

United Nations urges humane approach to Manus Island crisis

United Nations urges humane approach to Manus Island crisis

Immigration officials have returned to the Manus Island detention centre to destroy water supplies and makeshift shelters, increasing pressure on the men inside to leave. They say they are thirsty, hungry and sick, but resolute, and they are refusing to leave because they feel unsafe in the Lorengau community to where they are being coerced to move.

They said they had exhausted their food supplies and were relying on rainwater to drink.

The situation inside the detention centre is a "humanitarian emergency", the UN's refugee agency has said, for which Australia holds responsibility.

Papua New Guinea's High Court ruled past year that the Manus center, first opened in 2001, was illegal and the camp closed on October 31, when Australian-funded security staff withdrew.

PNG authorities have, thus far, refrained from using force in their efforts to move people on.

On Sunday night, Commander Yapu said Monday was "the deadline" for men to leave the detention centre.

Commander Yapu said about 100 men left the centre over the weekend.

Personnel from the PNG immigration department inside the detention centre.

"Right now, over 600 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island have had all food, water, security and power removed from them". Six men have died on Manus Island under our watch.

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The relationship between New Zealand and Australia looks set to face another test, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meeting her counterpart Malcolm Turnbull to again push for a resolution to the crisis on Manus Island.

"It is time for the New Zealand government to do more than offer to take 150 refugees from Manus or Nauru", she said.

"That offer has never been directly rejected, so whilst it's still on the table with Australia that's how I'll pursue it".

Ardern, who previously reiterated NZ's offer, criticised Australia's unyielding stance on Sunday.

"The people on Manus need our help, they have committed no crime and shouldn't be locked up for exercising their right to seek asylum", said Emma Cullen, spokesperson for Peace Action Wellington. "I see the need and the role New Zealand needs to play", she said.

"I see the human face of this issue. I think it's clear that we don't think what's happening there is acceptable, that's why the offer is there".

Responding to reports PNG authorities were preparing to remove refugees and asylum seekers from the now-closed facility on Thursday, Jacinda Ardern said she wanted to raise the issue with Mr Turnbull at APEC.

But Ms Adern's criticism of Australia's handling of the refugee crisis on the island - which she has described as unacceptable - has prompted a warning from New Zealand's opposition for her to tread carefully. "Stop keeping political hostages".

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