PNG PM threatens Manus Island intervention

9:59 pm on 9 November 2017

The Papua New Guinea prime minister has cautioned refugees he says are leading the occupation of the Manus Island detention centre.

100th daily protest, 8-11-17.

100th daily protest, 8-11-17. Photo: supplied

About 550 refugees are refusing to leave the centre after it was closed last week, when services including water, power and healthcare were cut.

In a statement, prime minister Peter O'Neill said hygiene and sanitation problems at the center would force the government to protect the refugees' wellbeing.

"The centre will not be reopened and it will be returned to its former function as a Defence Force facility," he said.

"Given the Supreme Court's decision, the Government has no choice but to intervene for the wellbeing of both the refugees and non-refugees."

Mr O'Neill said for healthier living and comfort, the men could now access the disconnected services at new accomodation in the island's main town.

100th daily protest, 8-11-17.

100th daily protest, 8-11-17. Photo: supplied

He said ringleaders of the occupation had been identified and appropriate means would be used to apprehend them.

"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," said Mr O'Neill.

But the refugees dispute they have leaders or that any individuals amoung them are coercing others to stay in the centre.

The Kurdish journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani said there are no leaders in the Manus centre and the protest was peaceful.

After four years of detention, he said the refugees wanted to move to a safe country and not another prison on the island.

The police said 24 men voluntarily left the centre on Tuesday and a further 14 on Wednesday.

The Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz Adam said many of those had health problems and had run out of medication.

"The governments have not allowed in any doctors to help these men. They cannot bear their pain and they decided to go outside, so no-one forced them," he said.

"The majority are still here. About 550 men are still inside the detention centre."

Meanwhile, Mr O'Neill said 610 men on Manus had been found to be refugees and arrangements were being made to settle them in third countries.

He said there were also 210 men who had been found to not be legitimate refugees.

"Now that the processing of asylum claims has been completed, the relocation exercise is taking place where there is a separation of genuine and non-genuine refugees.

"The locations to where they are being moved have much better facilities than the closed centre, with services and utilities provided for much more comfort and healthier living.

"Our Government and the people of Manus are asking all refugees and non-refugees to behave in a peaceful and orderly manner."

Malcolm Turnbull greats Peter O'Neill.

The Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull greets Peter O'Neill. Photo: Supplied

Yesterday, the PNG police said 14 non-refugees were now at a building in Lorengau known as Hillside House.

They said 43 refugees had taken up residence in the East Lorengau Transit Centre.

About 120 men from Manus were moved to a motel in Port Moresby earlier in the year, as Australia funds the construction of a new detention facility at Bomana Prison in the PNG capital.

Mr O'Neill said the Manus centre was established for processing asylum claims and had been closed as all claims had been processed.

PNG's Australia assisted refugee determination process has been widely panned by advocates, with some determinations understood to be subject to legal challenge.

Many non-refugee's abstained from the process, arguing that it would result in them being settled in PNG and not in Australia, where they sought asylum.