By Charles Moi
Asylum seekers at the decommissioned Manus regional processing centre have been given two days to vacate the centre, a detainee says.
Since the centre officially closed on Oct 31, Kurdish-Iran journalist Behrouz Boochani and about 600 others are still refusing to leave the centre.
Boochani said Papua New Guinea Immigration issued a notice which warned the asylum seekers that force would be used to remove them if they refused to leave the centre by tomorrow.
“Using force is completely unacceptable,” Boochani said.
“We have been in a peaceful protest for more than 100 days. We have shown peaceful resistance to send a message that we are not going to leave this prison camp for another prison camp and we don’t want to live in PNG.
“We did not come to PNG by our will. Australia exiled us by force to this country and has kept us in this prison camp for nearly five years even though we committed no crime. It has then abandoned us and its obligations under international law to offer safe asylum.
“What the PNG government has done is tried to force people to accept living in PNG, and it still insists on moving us under pressure and force to another prison camp.”
Boochani said that there was not enough food at the centre and refugees collected rain water to drink.
He also clarified that the refugees who left the centre this week moved because they were sick.
“We are all determined to stay (at the centre),” he said.
This recent move by the PNG Immigration comes after Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in a statement on Wednesday cautioned the ringleaders of the demonstration at the centre and said it was time to move to the new accommodation.
“The centre will not be reopened and it will be returned to its former function as a Defence Force facility,” O’Neill said.
“Their actions are now heading towards a law-and-order situation, as well as a hygiene and sanitation problem, and it will be dealt with as such, whether they are genuine refugees or not.”
Meanwhile, lawyer Ben Lomai filed an appeal at the Waigani court house yesterday which sought the court to review the decision of the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia to refuse an application filed by Boochani.
The application sought to restore power, water and medical services to the 600-plus asylum seekers refusing to leave the closed detention centre.
One of the grounds in the appeal argues that: “The Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia erred in law and in mixed fact in finding he was satisfied the new facilities are of good quality in circumstances where the only evidence available to him were pictures of the new facilities”.
The matter will go before the Supreme Court on Monday for directions.
By Charles Moi