Malcolm Turnbull has stated he “will not be pressured” by the continuing standoff between Refugees and authorities on Manus Island. In the early hours of Thursday morning police entered the camp to encourage refugees to move out. Claims made say that they were seen destroying property and appeared to make an arrest.
They entered in an attempt to encourage the detainees to “move out”. Police removed rain tanks used for drinking water and were also accused of destroying possessions in an attempt to encourage the detainees to leave. Many refugees climbed roofs of buildings and others gathered in the compound continuing to resist being moved on.
Mr Turnbull outlined that the standoff was “obviously designed” to pressure his government into admitting the refugees into Australia. Both he and the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton used the event to warn activists in Australia against encouraging men to put up a fight in these situations. With Mr Dutton continuing to say that it was “unacceptable” that they refuse to move out has been decided.
Whilst refugees accused the police of treating them without respect and using violence, the PNG police commissioner denied these claims assuring that the refugees had been treated in a respectful way that was in the best manner possible and “without the use of force”.
The protest against moving out is viewed as political in nature according to the Australian Government and denies any allegations that the living conditions are unsafe or that the new accommodation is not ready yet. The removal from the camp was flagged six months in advance and has provided the detainees with plenty of time to prepare themselves.
Mr Dutton highlighted on Thursday that there were already 200 people living in the East Lorengau Transit Centre and other facilities were available with water, food, electricity and other basic amenities. He made clear that there were alternative living arrangements already in place and that this had been put in place immediately following the PNG Supreme court decision last year to close the camp.
On Friday the stand-off finally ended as police re-entered for the second day. They successfully removed the estimated 325 remaining men from the camp having had 50 leave on buses a day earlier. Approximately half the men left on buses on Friday morning with the remainder due to depart when the buses return later in the day.
Police appeared to use force to remove the remaining men from the camp on Friday with a Pakistani refugee stating, “We don’t have any option to stay here”. However the accusation of force continued despite denial from the PNG police with images and videos realised by refugees inside the camp showing officers leading men away and even some in handcuffs.
Despite the apparent use of force by PNG police, Mr Dutton says that there is significant support behind the Turnbull government’s approach to offshore processing. Shayne Neumann, Labor’s immigration spokesperson, pleaded for the men to put an end to the stand-off and exit the camp on a voluntary basis.
The Australian-run centre at Manus Island was closed on the 31st of October following a PNG Supreme Court decision stating it was unconstitutional. The Australian government has provided alternative accommodation at East Lorengau for the detained refugees.