O’Neill threatens Manus Island intervention

SYDNEY – Papua New Guinea’s leader said authorities will apprehend those responsible for a nine-day stand-off at an Australian-run detention centre for asylum seekers, where almost 600 men have barricaded themselves inside despite having no water or food.

The men in the remote Manus Island facility have defied attempts by Australia and Papua New Guinea to close the camp in a standoff that the UN has described as a “looming humanitarian crisis”.

“Those involved in disruption have been identified and appropriate means will be used to apprehend individuals who are causing unnecessary anxiety and violence,” Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The men inside the camp, who include asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Syria, said they will continue to defy attempts to close it, and Mr O’Neill’s comments stoked fears of confrontation.

The asylum seekers said they had exhausted their food supplies and were relying on rainwater. They are refusing to move to the three transit centres because they fear violent reprisals from the Manus Island community and that they may be resettled elsewhere in Papua New Guinea or in another developing nation.

Heavy rains have prevented the asylum seekers from boiling water and several of the men told Reuters that about 100 of them had fallen sick since utilities to the camp were cut off on October 31.

Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court rejected an application by one of the men to restore services on Tuesday, despite pleas from the UN to make food, water, medical supplies and power available. About a dozen men have since left the camp to seek medical attention.

Lawyers for the asylum seekers were due to lodge an appeal against the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday.

Representatives for Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

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