Around 600 refugees and asylum seekers are refusing to move out of a detention centre in Papua New Guinea that is scheduled to close on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
Australia holds asylum seekers, who come to their shores by boat, in camps on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and the small Pacific nation of Nauru.
On Tuesday, the Manus Island centre will close after a court called it unconstitutional. But the people living there said closing the camp down was a breach of their human rights as it would deny them access to water, electricity and security, the BBC reported.
The refugees said they will not move out as they feared violence and backlash from the local community living in the areas they will be moved to. Last week, the Human Rights Watch had warned that the group could face “unchecked violence” by locals who had attacked them in the past.
Australia’s refugee detention programme
The Manus Island centre has been central to Australia’s Sovereign Borders immigration policy, as per which refugees are detained off its shores. Closing the camp is part of the government’s plan to push refugees and asylum seekers to either return home, settle in Papua New Guinea or move elsewhere.
Australia also has a refugee swap deal with the United States. It had said relocating the refugees was only a temporary measure to give the US enough time to vet the ones it will take in. The US, however, has not said how long the application process will take. It is not obliged to accept all of them either. Australia also said it would fund the living costs of the refugees for the next 12 months.
The United Nations and several rights groups have, for years, said there were human rights abuses in the Manus Island centres, according to the Reuters report.