Some 600 asylum seekers and refugees are refusing to leave the now-decommissioned Australian offshore detention center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea authorities turned off the supply of food, water, and electricity Tuesday in an attempt to force the refugees out. But the refugees are refusing to leave the center, saying they fear violence from locals.
As the standoff enters its fifth day, neither Australia nor Papua New Guinea is accepting responsibility: Papua New Guinea’s government has said any refugees who do not wish to settle in Papua New Guinea are Australia’s responsibility, while the Australian government insists Papua New Guinea is responsible.
Since 2013, Australia has been paying Papa New Guinea to house asylum seekers and refugees intercepted on their way to the continent. The country’s hardline stance toward refugees continues to draw international condemnation.
A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights urged the Australian government to transfer the detainees to mainland Australia, “where their claims [for asylum] can be properly processed.” A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said “Australia’s policy of deterrence by rescuing people at sea, mistreating them and abandoning them, has become a notion of cruelty.”
The New Zealand government has offered to take 150 asylum seekers. Australia and New Zealand’s prime ministers will be meeting this weekend.