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PNG police move in on Manus Island men

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PNG police have stormed the decommissioned Manus Island detention centre and given hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers an ultimatum to leave.

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Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani has reportedly been arrested after describing heavy-handed police and immigration officers tearing through the centre this morning.

“They are destroying everything. Shelters, tanks, beds and all of our belongings. They are very aggressive and put our belongings in the rubbish bins,” Boochani wrote on Twitter.

“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.”

Police upturned the men’s rooms, confiscated phones and demanded they leave immediately.

“We are on high alert right now. We are under attack,” Boochani said.

He was later photographed being led away in handcuffs.

Images uploaded on social media showed some people suffering medical episodes, and others displaying injuries allegedly sustained during the raid.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed the PNG police operation was underway to remove roughly 400 men who have refused to leave the centre, which was shut down three weeks ago.

Dutton said the Turnbull government was keen for people to move out of the processing centre.

“I think it’s outrageous that people are still there and they have trashed the facility, they’re living in squalor,” he told 2GB radio.

“The Australian taxpayers have paid about $10 million for a new facility and we want people to move. It’s like the tenant that won’t move out of the house when you build a new house for them to move into.”

The Australian Federal Police, who have a liaison officer on Manus Island to advise and mentor local forces, distanced themselves from the raid.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged the men barricaded inside the centre to leave, saying food, water, security and medical services were available at the alternative facilities.

“They should do so peacefully and they should do so in accordance with the lawful directs of Papua New Guinea,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“And I would say to those advocates in Australia who claim to have the best interests of the people there at heart, they should also act responsibly and tell them to move.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he was disappointed the “pressure cooker” had been allowed to build up over the past four years.

“I just ask Malcolm Turnbull, please do the deal with New Zealand,” Shorten told reporters in Sydney.

“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.”

World Vision chief advocate Tim Costello, who is on Manus Island, called on Turnbull to bring the “unfolding humanitarian crisis” to a swift and humane resolution.

“Malcolm Turnbull is not a cruel man, he is not inhumane, but what we are witnessing here is both cruel and inhumane,” Mr Costello said.

“I think personally he’d be appalled if he was seeing what we are witnessing.”

Australia closed the offshore detention centre at the end of October, but some 380 refugees and asylum seekers have refused to leave, citing safety fears outside the centre’s walls.

The operation comes after 12 former Australians of the Year penned an open letter asking Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to immediately allow doctors access to asylum seekers in the facility.

The letter’s signatories include Australians of the Year Rosie Batty, Ita Buttrose, Simone McKeon, Patrick McGorry, Mick Dodson, Tim Flannery, Fiona Wood, Fiona Stanley, Gustav Nossal, Peter Doherty, John Yu and Robert de Castella.

The group warns Australia’s reputation on human rights is deteriorating because of the failure to meet the obligations of the UN Refugee Convention.

“We believe it is time to stop the unacceptable and internationally criticised treatment of the refugees on Manus Island, who, though innocent of any crime, have been incarcerated and now abandoned there,” the letter says.

– AAP

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