Manus detainees told not to revolt as centre closes

5:23 pm on 16 May 2017

Refugees detained on Manus Island have been warned not to revolt as Papua New Guinea authorities revealed plans for the gradual closure and demolition of the Australian detention centre.

Protest by refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island.

Protest by refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island. Photo: Supplied

In an announcement at the centre yesterday, detainees were told that one of its four compounds known as Foxtrot would be closed on 30 June.

An accommodation block within Foxtrot, N Block, is to be emptied by 28 May.

"Once closed electricity will be turned off and your belongings will be relocated. The area will be locked and no one will be permitted to enter," a PNG official said.

Foxtrot's non-refugees (detainees whose claims for asylum have been rejected) can apply for voluntary repatriation or temporarily move to Mike compound.

Refugees can move to accommodation in the PNG community or go to the Transit Centre in nearby Lorengau.

Detainees were told to consider their options, but not to leave it too late to make a decision.

"No one will be resettled in Australia," the official said.

Refugee advocates protest in Manly against Australia's treatment of refugees, on 22 February 2014.

Refugee advocates protest in Manly against Australia's treatment of refugees, on 22 February 2014. Photo: AFP

It is understood the PNG and Australian governments intended to close the entire centre by 31 October after the PNG supreme court ruled it was illegal.

About 900 asylum seekers have been interned there for four years without charge after they attempted to enter Australia by boat.

The official said other compounds would be closed and demolished "in the coming months," and that "better information about the next phase of Manus Regional Processing Centre demolition will be provided in due course".

Non refugees were given a deadline of 31 August to apply for voluntary repatriation with Australian assistance.

Previous detainees to accept repatriation are reported to have been offered $US25,000.

Those who did not apply were warned they would be removed from PNG by the government of Papua New Guinea "without any reintegration assistance".

"Non refugees have no other options," the official said, although one such asylum seeker, Azzam el Sheikh, has had his deportation stopped by a PNG court while his refugee determination process is reviewed.

Protests on Manus Island during the recent hunger strikes.

Protests on Manus Island during the recent hunger strikes. Photo: Supplied

Refugees were also offered reintegration assistance with voluntary repatriation and told they could move to a third country where they had a right to reside.

The official said the arrangement to resettle some refugees in the US remained in place and that further visits by US authorities to interview candidates would happen in the coming months, although not at the centre.

"Interviews in other locations in PNG are being arranged and you will not need to return to Manus Island, " he said.

Riot warnings

During a recent visit to the centre by Mandy Newton, Australia Border Force deputy commissioner, centre staff were warned that detainees could react violently to their eviction.

"We don't want any trouble to occur, we don't want any rioting... It's important that people know that they can't behave inappropriately while they are in the community or while they are in the centre," Ms Newton told the PNG state broadcaster.

The official making yesterday's announcement also warned detainees not to revolt.

"Remember that resettlement countries always consider a person's history of behaviour before accepting them for resettlement including both good and bad behaviour," he said.

"Disruptive or difficult behaviour could exclude you from resettlement."

However, the Kurdish journalist and detainee Behrouz Boochani said many detainees would not accept that.

"I am sure the refugees will resist and they will have to use force, I think there will be a big riot," he said.

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