Asylum seekers at an Australian-run offshore detention centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island will have to move to a community facility in order to be eligible for a refugee swap deal with the United States, a notice posted at the camp shows.
The directive, that has been seen by Reuters, has left asylum seekers with a difficult choice, as they must voluntarily exchange a secure facility for an area where critics say they are likely to face violence and inadequate medical care.
Several refugees refused to move to the nearby town of Lorengau, where authorities want them to shift in preference to staying at the detention camp. Asylum seekers are already allowed to travel the 22 kilometres to Lorengau during the day, but nearly all choose to remain in the detention centre, located on a Papau New Guinea naval base.
"I am not going to Lorengau, many refugees have been beaten, robbed and abused there in different ways," said one asylum seeker, who refused to be named for fear of jeopardising his application for US resettlement.
Resettlement interviews held by US Homeland security officials will no longer be conducted at the detention centre, authorities said in their notice.
"As Manus Refugee Processing Centre is closing, interviews at the RPC will cease. Interviews in other locations in PNG are being arranged and you will not need to return to Manus Island," said Papua New Guinea immigration authorities.
Parts of the facility will be closed as early as Sunday, the notice added, but did not specify when the locations would be changed.
"Extreme vetting" of asylum seekers begins
US Homeland security officials had begun "extreme vetting" interviews with some asylum seekers as the US begrudgingly honours a refugee swap deal with Australia that President Donald Trump called a "dumb deal."
Australia has pledged to take Central American refugees from a centre in Costa Rica as part of the deal. The swap is designed, in part, to help Australia close one of its offshore centres that is expensive to run and has been widely criticised by the UN over treatment of detainees.
It is unclear as to how many detainees will be resettled under the deal.