Manus in crisis

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By CHARLES MOI in Port Moresby and CLIFFORD FAIRPARIK on Manus
THE regional processing centre on Manus was officially closed yesterday, but some refugees are refusing to move out as a fresh court case was filed challenging the closure.
Yesterday was the deadline for the closure of the refugee camp at the Lombrum naval base, in compliance with a Supreme Court ruling on April 26 last year which stated that the detention of refugees there was unconstitutional.
The supply of food, power and water had been cut off, while security officers also left. The refugees are staying put saying they would rather starve than be relocated to the new transit camps provided.
Lawyer Ben Lomai, representing the refugees, yesterday sought orders from the Supreme Court to stop their transfer out of the centre and for the restoration of all services to the centre.
Lomai told The National that he had instructed the detainees to stay at the centre.
The matter filed in the Supreme Court in Waigani yesterday named Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani as the applicant. The defendants are the Government and Immigration  and Border Security Minister Petrus Thomas.
According to the court documents, Boochani, 31, fled Iran on May 13, 2013, in fear for his life.
He went to Indonesia intending to travel by boat to Christmas Island for the purpose of seeking asylum in Australia
The substantive application seeks to enforce the rights and freedoms of Boochani pursuant to Section 57 of the Constitution.
Yesterday, 39 members of the police mobile squad and local officers kept watch after the hired security officers had moved out of the centre.
One of the refugees, who asked not to be identified, said they would rather starve at the centre than leave. “We will not move out of here,” he said.
“We don’t worry about food and water. But we want our safety to be granted.
“We want to go to Australia. We can’t stay in PNG. We have been here for four-and-a-half years.
“We know the customs of PNG. Their land is all customary owned. They will not give land to an outsider like us to settle or to do business.”
Meanwhile, Australian Greens Party Senator Nick Mckim, who visited the refugees at Lombrum, told them to stay calm as he would fight for their rights.
“The world is watching us. I have talked to all the top international media like BBC, ABC, CNN, New York Times, Fox TV. So it’s really important that you stay calm,” he said.
An immigration officer, who requested anonymity, said there were 575 refugees at Lombrum who were to be moved to the new Hillside camp at East Lorengau.
“The Broadsectrum contractor closed operation on Monday. They even took the English interpreters with them,” the officer said.
“Now, we have no interpreters to communicate with the non-English speakers. We can’t rely on the English-speaking refugees.”

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