More than 600 illegal invaders—whose claim to “asylum” was so bogus that not even the race-denying Australian government could be convinced that they were genuine—have refused to leave the Manus Island detention camp, setting the stage for a physical confrontation with authorities in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
According to PNG newspaper Post-Courier, the PNG Defense Force (PNGDF) will “have no choice but to forcefully evict the protesting refugees if the situation gets uncontrolled,” [sic] Lombrum Naval Base Commanding Officer Begsy Karaki was quoted as saying.
Karaki said that the PNGDF would not start any “arbitrary actions” as the men were still under the “care” of the PNG Immigration Office with Australia.
“They will not be forcefully removed. They are here at the military camp and most of their base in military camp are out of bound to any civilian and they will not be seen wondering around in the camp…but if anything happens, with instructions from Head Quarters, we can act,” he said.
In a final notice posted by immigration authorities on Sunday night, the men were told the PNG Defense Force would start to take control of the site from Wednesday.
It warned the men that anyone choosing to remain would be liable for removal from an active military base.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has in the interim reported that the invaders have started digging holes inside the compound in the hope of finding water, after water, power and food supplies to the camp were cut off after its official closure on Tuesday.
The Manus centre has been a key part of Australia’s controversial “Sovereign Borders” immigration policy, which refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores, detaining them in camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the South Pacific.
Australia has said the men should move to new “transit centres” and has pledged A$250 million worth of food and security for the next 12 months.
Meanwhile, Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton has accused the invaders—“aided and abetted” by leftists and the Green Party—of attempting to force the government to change its policy through subterfuge.
Dutton said the coalition government had a “clear and consistent policy” of refusing to allow people who sought asylum by boat to ever settle in Australia.
“Six hundred men at the Manus Regional Processing Centre (RPC) in Papua New Guinea who attempted to enter Australia illegally via people smuggler’s boats – now aided and abetted by so called ‘advocates’ and the Greens – are trying to force a change to that policy,” he said. “They will not.”
Dutton echoed his department in disputing human rights group accounts that the alternative accommodation was not ready. He said it was safe and secure, and health and other services “will be maintained”.
He dismissed complaints by detainees and advocates about the current situation as “nothing more than subterfuge” and said there were “reasonable alternative pathways” for all detainees.
Those whose claims for asylum were rejected were in PNG illegally and should return home, he said. Refugees could settle in PNG under the 2013 agreement, apply for US resettlement, or move to Nauru.
Dutton also accused the Greens Senator, Nick McKim, who was at the centre on Tuesday and expressed “grave fears” for the men, of giving detainees false information and using them “for cheap political stunts to build his public profile”.
The Fiji Times reported that almost 100 of the invaders had already “chosen to resettle in Papua New Guinea,” according to Minister for Immigration and Border Security Petrus Thomas.
He said 25 of the invaders had been accepted to live in the US and their papers were currently being processed, and added that one “non-refugee has already moved” to the new facility at East Lorengau while “some have decided to return to their countries.”