Manus Governor questions legality of Lorengau arrangements

8:15 am on 4 November 2017
The 94th day of protest in the Manus Island detention centre.

The 94th day of protest in the Manus Island detention centre. Photo: supplied

The Governor of Papua New Guinea's Manus province says questions remain over the legality of new arrangements for refugees on his island.

Food, power and water were this week cut from the detention centre at Lombrum, which has officially closed, but 600 refugees are refusing to leave.

Australia wants them to move to facilities in the island's main town, Lorengau, but refugees fear for their safety in the relocation.

Governor Charlie Benjamin said he has humanitarian concerns for the refugees, for whom services are available at Lorengau.

But he said simply moving them to Lorengau does not make it legal.

"PNG's Supreme Court says that the set-up of the base at Lombrum is not constitutional. And now they're moving them to Lorengau."

"I think it is also unconstitutional. So that is why I said we don't want to be in contempt of court. But based on humanitarian grounds, I said ok, they can come up," he said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations human rights commission has rebuked Australia for what it calls the mistreatment and abandonment of refugees in Papua New Guinea.

Australia's position is that the refugees are now the responsibility of Papua New Guinea, because its Supreme Court ruled their detention was unlawful.

But the UN rights office said Australia should immediately provide food, water, health services, electricity and protection to the asylum-seekers, since it interned the men there in the first place.

It said Australia has an obligation to do so under international law.

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