SYDNEY (Reuters) – Water and power supplies were cut off on Monday at the largest compound at an Australian-run camp for asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea, detainees said, as officials tried to force them to move to a nearby transit center.
Australia wants to close its controversial detention center, which has drawn sharp criticism from the United Nations and domestic and international human rights groups, on Papua New Guinea’s remote Manus Island on Oct. 31.
However, efforts to relocate the 800 men held there have stalled after a U.S. relocation swap deal was suspended and almost all the detainees were reluctant to move out amid fears of violence in the wider Papua New Guinea (PNG) community.
PNG officials last week gave the detainees in the center’s main Foxtrot compound until Tuesday to leave, warning them that water and power supplies would be cut off soon.
“We did not know whether they were serious or it was part of their scare tactics,” one Sudanese asylum seeker told Reuters by mobile telephone, but declined to be identified for fear for jeopardizing his claim for U.S. resettlement.
“But they cut off the water and power this afternoon.”
The compound will soon be demolished, according to a notice posted on Manus Island, a picture of which was texted to Reuters.
Australian and PNG authorities did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
In May, detainees were told they must relocate to the community facility in order to be eligible for the swap deal with the United States.
All but a handful of the refugees have refused to move to the Lorengau community facility, citing fears for their safety after several assaults on refugees.
Australia’s hardline immigration policy requires asylum seekers intercepted at sea trying to reach Australia to be sent for processing to camps at Manus and on the South Pacific island of Nauru. They are told they will never be settled in Australia.
Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez