380 asylum seekers ordered to leave Manus Island centre

SYDNEY – Police entered an officially-shuttered Australian-run detention camp in Papua New Guinea on Thursday and ordered about 380 asylum seekers occupying it to leave as they carried away food and water the men had stockpiled, three of the men told Reuters.

Asylum seekers said they climbed on to rooftops and hid in toilets to avoid the police. The men have barricaded themselves in the Manus Island centre for more than 22 days, defying attempts by Australia and PNG to close the facility

Australia’s Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, told Sydney radio that the aim of the police operation was to move the men to a transit centre elsewhere on the island.

One asylum seeker told Reuters the men felt threatened and scared and some climbed on to roofs for safety. A second asylum seeker, Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish journalist, who has been a Manus detainee for four years, told Reuters by text message that the refugees were refusing to move.

Boochani wrote on Twitter that police and Immigration officials removed water and the men’s belongings. Pictures sent via messaging service Whatsapp showed upturned boxes of food and torn parcels of rice and instant noodles.

The three men said they had been sharing a solar panel to charge their cell phones because the detention centre has had no electricity for 23 days.

A video shot by Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz and posted on Facebook showed local police using a megaphone to tell the asylum seekers to leave because their stay is illegal.

The men in the camp, most of whom are from Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Syria, are held under Australia’s strict “sovereign borders” Immigration policy, under which Australia refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores.

The asylum seekers say they fear for their safety if moved to the transit centre, and risk being resettled in PNG or another developing nation permanently.

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