Overnight PNG police issued an ominous media statement warning that the safety of refugees on Manus is "not to be taken for granted given the tension that is now being expressed by the locals on Manus Island".
Over 600 men remain in the Manus Island detention centre, where they have been held in dangerous and abusive conditions for four and a half years. The Australian Government has vowed the centre will close in four days time on 31 October and is cutting off food, water and power to coerce the men to leave, but the men have nowhere safe to go.
The police statement follows reports yesterday that threats were made against the refugees in a community meeting held by local Manusians who are opposed to the men being forced out of the detention centre and into insecure accommodation on the outskirts in the island’s main town.
Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre who has been to Manus three times, said the latest reports confirm the fears of the men on Manus and highlight the serious dangers they face.
"The Australian Government is bulldozing the Manus facility, but the men trapped inside it for the last four years have nowhere safe to go. They're terrified of violence if they stay. They're terrified of violence if they leave. It's an incredibly tense and frightening time for them."
"After four years of fear, violence and suffering, these men deserve a future. But instead our Government is trying to bludgeon them into returning to persecution or moving from one dead end camp to another. It’s the height of cruelty," said Mr Webb.
A notice posted inside the Manus Island detention centre last week warned refugees that from the 31 October 2017, all food, water and electricity will be disconnected, protective fences will be removed and the facility will be handed over to the PNG Defence Forces.
"Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull can't just sit back and wait for further bloodshed. Every single man on Manus must be immediately evacuated to safety in Australia," said Mr Webb.
For interviews or further information please call:
Tom Clarke, Director of Campaigns, Human Rights Law Centre, 0422 545 763
Photo credit: Matthew Abbott