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Manus detainees fearful as food, water and power set to be cut off

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Manus Island detainees are launching legal action over the closure Australia’s immigration detention centre, just hours before utilities are cut off.

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Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers are refusing to leave the camp at the Lombrum Navy Base in Papua New Guinea as food, water and power are cut today.

Detainees fear they won’t be safe at three other facilities they are meant to relocate to in and around the island’s main town of Lorengau.

The group believes their constitutionally protected human rights are being breached by the removal of basic services, including water and electricity.

Scores of Manus Island locals armed with machetes are allegedly looting the immigration detention centre ahead of its closure this afternoon.

Sudanese refugee Abdul Mohammad says the asylum seekers and refugees remaining in the Papua New Guinea centre fear for their lives.

“Some of the locals have come inside and are stealing boxes, fire alarms, the fans, some of them are taking the air-conditioners,” he said.

Former Manus Island MP Ron Knight suggested former workers were responsible for stripping bare the facilities inside the Lombrum Navy Base.

“My boys advise that there is serious looting by locals and disgruntled workers not paid their entitlements. What a waste of money,” Mr Knight tweeted.

Overnight, detainees secured damaged perimeter fencing around the compound as they prepared to barricade themselves inside.

As they did, PNG immigration officials plastered notices up around the centre urging detainees to leave before utilities were cut off and the site was returned to PNG defence forces.

“Move to alternative accommodation now,” the notice read.

“Anyone choosing to remain here will be liable for removal from an active PNG military base.”

PNG’s government on Monday warned Australia it will take no responsibility for “non-refugees” and people who refuse to settle in PNG, saying they are the obligation of the Australian government.

PNG lawyer Ben Lomai is expected to lodge a legal application on Tuesday morning.

An Australian lawyer helping with the case, Greg Barns, says the application “seeks to ensure that those asylum seekers who remain on the island don’t have those constitutional rights breached”.

Extra PNG police have been deployed to the island after many locals threatened to use violence to stop the asylum seekers relocating.

Two-of-the-three centres earmarked for the detainees are still not fenced or guarded.

PNG is also demanding Australia clarify its plans for people found not to be refugees and refugees who are refusing to settle on Manus Island.

PNG Immigration Minister Petrus Thomas says Australia alone is responsible for finding third-country resettlement options for refugees and returning non-refugees to their home countries.

Acting Prime Minister Julie Bishop insists Australia is working to find solutions.

The Lombrum centre was forced to close after the PNG Supreme Court ruled in April 2016 that Australia’s detention of refugees and asylum seekers there was illegal and unconstitutional.

Six detainees have died on Manus Island – including one who was murdered – since the offshore detention centre was reopened in 2012.

World Vision chief advocate Tim Costello urged the federal government to evacuate detainees to Australia, a course of action it has steadfastly refused to pursue.

“The Turnbull government must now act quickly to avoid any further bloodshed,” Costello said.

“We must not abandon those we have placed in this highly volatile and dangerous situation.”

– AAP

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