PNG police enter camp to remove asylum seekers

Source:AFP Published: 2017/11/23 23:13:40

Papua New Guinea (PNG) police raided a shuttered Australian detention camp Thursday, removing dozens of refugees in an effort to end a stand-off that has drawn global attention to Canberra's tough asylum seeker policies.

Hundreds of men sent to the remote camp on PNG's Manus Island have refused to leave the site for new, PNG-run centers since Australia closed it on October 31.

Over the past three weeks only around 200 out of approximately 600 men held in Manus have agreed to leave voluntarily for three nearby transition centers, with the others insisting they should be resettled in third countries.

On Thursday, police moved in and took 50 men to alternative camps, PNG Police Commissioner Gari Baki said.

"We are doing the best we can and the refugees cannot continue to be stubborn and defiant," Baki said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

"The fact is that we are not moving them into the jungle. They are being relocated to two centers where there is water, electricity, food and medical services."

Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton indicated the police operation would continue, saying "there is a lot of work that is ongoing."

"A number of people... have been moved and we would expect the number, which up until this morning had been about 370 people within that center, would drop obviously well below that now," he told Sky News.

He added that a "small number" of men were arrested during Thursday's action, including Iranian refugee and journalist Behrouz Boochani, who has been acting as a spokesman for the detainees.

Boochani was later released. Police Commissioner Baki said he was neither arrested nor charged but moved to one of the transition centers.

Detainees had earlier tweeted and posted photos and videos on social media of PNG authorities sweeping through the camp, saying police had pulled belongings from rooms and shouted at them to get into buses.

Boochani tweeted that police had destroyed their shelters and water tanks, and said the refugees were on "high alert" and "under attack."


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