Hundreds of asylum-seekers are adamant they will not leave the Australian offshore prison despite police calls for evacuation. Those holed up at the prison say they would rather live in squalid conditions than risk the alternatives provided.

Contractors remove fences at the Australian detention centre on Manus Island on November 9, 2017. (Photo AFP)
Contractors remove fences at the Australian detention centre on Manus Island on November 9, 2017. (Photo AFP) ( AFP )

Papua New Guinea (PNG) authorities destroyed makeshift shelters and removed water stores in Australia's now-shuttered offshore detention centre on Friday, just hours ahead of a deadline for the inmates to leave or be forced out, detainees said.

The Manus Island immigration centre detained asylum-seekers who tried to reach Australia by boat under Canberra's tough immigration policy. The centre was ruled unconstitutional by PNG's Supreme Court and closed on October 31 with some 600 men refusing to leave.

When Australia shut Manus centre, it gave the inmates options to settle in PNG or go back to the countries they fled, but not to Australia. 

Though the numbers dwindled slightly, the men continue to barricade themselves in the centre despite water and electricity being cut off, citing well-founded fears of a hostile reception from locals.

TRT World's Philip Owira reports the latest on the story.

Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian refugee in Manus, tweeted on Friday that shelters were torn down, and bins the inmates had been using to collect rainwater had been destroyed.

"Police and immigration destroyed our shelters. Inside the rooms is very hot without power for fans. We built these shelters to provide shade & cover from tropical sun & rain," he wrote.

Boochani said authorities on Thursday had also removed security fences around the centre.

Footage released Friday by Australian advocacy group GetUp showed the men enduring deteriorating conditions, with detainees sleeping on tables outside shipping containers to escape the heat, as well as blocked toilets and makeshift wells dug to store water.

"Death or serious illness is inevitable in coming days," GetUp human rights co-director Shen Narayanasamy, who visited the camp, said in a statement.

"These men are sick, thirsty and hungry. The conditions are appalling and it's obvious you wouldn't choose to stay here if you thought you could be safer elsewhere."

Call for compliance

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday called on the refugees to "comply with the lawful requests and requirements of the PNG authorities" and stressed they would not be taken to his country.

PNG police said "almost 60 refugees have voluntarily boarded" transport to their new locations," likely to the new transit centres built in haste after Manus centre was shut.

Police spokesman Superintendent Dominic Kakas added he expected "all refugees will leave the centre" on Friday.

But Boochani said only a few people had left the centre with hundreds of others "still refusing" to go.

A notice at the camp on Thursday warned "force may be used to relocate those who refuse to move voluntarily" by Saturday.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill added that "appropriate means" would be used to "apprehend individuals who are causing unnecessary anxiety and violence."

UN demands solution

Canberra had been under pressure from refugee advocates and the United Nations to close the camp on Manus, and another on Nauru, amid concerns about their conditions and the impact of prolonged detention on mental and physical health.

But the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva on Thursday slammed the closure of Manus "without adequate arrangements for long-term viable relocation solutions for all refugees and asylum-seekers transferred there."

The refugees remain barred from resettling in Australia even though Canberra has struggled to transfer them to third countries.

Late Friday, hundreds of protesters in Sydney clashed with police as demonstrators tried to stop guests from entering a political fundraising event with former conservative prime minister Tony Abbott.

Rally-goers were calling on immigration minister Peter Dutton, who was also attending the fundraiser, to end offshore detention and bring refugees to Australia.

Armed with loudspeakers, demonstrators chanted "Free, free the refugees," and "Abbott, Dutton, blood on your hands," while blocking the paths of Abbott's guests and shouting "Shame on you."

Riot police were forced to form a guard around dinner party attendees to get them through the crowd, with occasional scuffles breaking out between protesters.

Hundreds more people marched in the streets of Melbourne.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies