Detainees barricaded inside the former Australian detention centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, allege local police have turned violent. Around 420 refugees and asylum seekers remain inside the centre in a blockade that has stretched out for more than three weeks.
Early Thursday morning, detainee Abdul Aziz Muhamet—a leader of the Manus Blockade who recently spoke out in a video for VICE—raised the alert that PNG Navy and police had entered the compound.
"Emergency, emergency, emergency," he tweeted. "PNG Navy and Police are attacking us."
According to Aziz, hundreds of refugees jumped up on the roof of the detention centre in a show of defiance against the police. "Three refugees [have] been arrested by the police and navy," he tweeted. "They took them to prison we don't know where."
"An Australian Federal Police officer is guiding PNG police mobile squad, there are about 50 mobile squad police that are threatening people to leave," tweeted Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani, who has been detained on Manus for more than four years.
"Immigration and police started searching the rooms and are saying 'Move Move', you only have an hour to move. Too much stress and tension here in Delta. Some refugees are crying."
Australia's immigration minister Peter Dutton confirmed to 2GB radio that there was a "police operation" underway inside the centre. "I think it’s outrageous that people are still there. They’ve trashed the facility, they’re living in squalor,” he added.
The tension comes as a legal challenge against Australia's closure of the detention centre is back in court today in PNG. Lawyers representing the detainees will ask the judge the recuse himself, as he is blocking an appeal to the decision he made against them 10 days ago.
Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has come out strongly against Australia's treatment of the men inside Manus. "Australia remains responsible for the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island," deputy regional representative Nai Jit Lam said. "After three weeks without distribution of food and water or essential services including medical care, the situation for the people at the former regional processing centre is desperate."
The men inside the Manus centre are refusing to leave and move to alternative accommodation, because they say they fear violence from PNG locals. According to Nai Jit Lam, these concerns are founded.
"Local community tensions still remain. In fact, in the last three to four days, there were two incidents reported," he said. "There is a lot of tension and a lot of anxiety and fear as well of what is happening. And that’s hasn’t been resolved."
WATCH: Aziz speaks out about the conditions on Manus Island
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