Papua New Guinea (PNG) police have entered an immigration detention centre on Manus Island, attempting to end a stand-off with protesting asylum seekers and refugees refusing to leave the centre.
Australian and PNG authorities confirmed an operation was underway to convince the men to move out, with refugees claiming new facilities do not give them enough protection from locals.
PNG Police Chief Superintendent Dominic Kakas said about 40 police officers and 10 PNG immigration officials went to the centre on Thursday. He described asylum seekers as being “rowdy” but officers were not using force against them.
Several asylum seekers have taken to Twitter describing the tension in the centre where 423 men remain.
“The police, special forces, police squad are now in their hundreds, spreading through the prison camp and around the prison,” Behrouz Boochani wrote on Twitter.
“We are on high alert right now. We are under attack.”
“We are blockading right now. So many police and immigration officers are around us at this moment. They destroyed everything and our belongings and right now are shouting at us to leave the prison camp.”
Refugees also claim they have had their belongings trashed as well as food and water stolen by PNG police.
“They destroyed our food and what we have – they destroyed our belongings,” Pakistan refugee Naeen ud Din said.
“Tonight we don’t have any food, any water, nothing, because they destroyed everything. People are ready to eat leaves but people are not ready to do outside.”
“It’s a clear message to everyone…this is not humanity.”
Police have demanded asylum seekers stop recording their activities.
It came as the Australian-run centre closed last month and asked to move to nearby new facilities.
PNG authorities have cut food, water and electricity to the centre and told them they were squatting on defence force property.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the refugees should be obeying the directions of PNG police.
“They think this is some way they can pressure the Australian Government to let them come to Australia,” he said.
“We will not be pressured.”
“They should obey to law…they should go peaceful and in accordance with the lawful direction of Papua New Guinea.”
“There are alternative facilities that have been made available with food, water, security and medical services.”
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told 2GB the asylum seekers needed to leave.
“I think it’s outrageous that people are still there and they have trashed the facility,” he said.
“They’re living in squalor.”
“Some of them believe that if there is violence with police and the footage is broadcast back here that will twist our arm and change the policy position, but under no circumstance will these people be coming to Australia.”
“The Australian taxpayers have paid about $10 million for a new facility and we want people to move.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has called for the Government to accept an offer from New Zealand to take 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centres.
“The Government has allowed this pressure-cooker to build over four years. And I just Malcolm Turnbull, please do the deal with New Zealand,” he said.
“If New Zealand want to take some of these people and PNG and these people are happy to go to New Zealand, why are we getting in the way of a fair solution?”