Police in Australia have arrested ten protesters during separate student protests in Canberra and Sydney over the country’s abandonment of asylum seekers at a former refuge detention camp in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Australian authorities left a detention camp for refugees in the PNG’s Manus Island on Tuesday, leaving up to 600 male asylum seekers on the site without food, water, or electricity.
Three women were arrested protesting the abandonment of the asylum seekers outside the Department of Immigration in Sydney and seven others outside the Department’s Canberra office.
Daniel Cotton, 24, an organizer of the Sydney protest, said the protesters were calling on the Australian government to bring the detainees trapped on the PNG to the Australian mainland.
Australia has been detaining the asylum seekers who attempt to reach the country by boat and had been sending them to the PNG. Under a controversial refugee policy known as “Sovereign Borders,” Australia also sends such asylum seekers to another camp, in Nauru in the South Pacific, which is still operating.
Canberra refuses to resettle the so-called boat asylum seekers inside Australia.
The United Nations has warned of a “humanitarian emergency” unfolding at the abandoned site on Manus.
The UNHCR calls on Australia to take action to stop a “humanitarian emergency” unfolding at the site of a former Australian-run detention camp for refugees in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Separately, the PNG’s former prime minister and elder statesman Sir Michael Somare blasted the Australian government for being “hypocritical” and “ruthless” and called on Australian officials to take in the refugees left on the island.
“To exploit the vulnerabilities of neighbors like PNG and Nauru is disgraceful enough, but to treat human beings with complete apathy is ruthless and insensible,” he said. “Descendants of many Australians who are opposed to boat people also arrived by boat before and after federation in Australia. The hypocrisy is astounding.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday she would offer to take 150 refugees from Manus Island when she meets her Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, on Sunday.
The drama on Manus has entered its fourth day, and the asylum seekers inside the shuttered camp were becoming “distraught and depressed,” according to one asylum seeker.
“The current mood of the men is they are really distraught and depressed,” Sudanese asylum seeker Abdul Aziz Adam told AFP on Friday.
He said they were making every effort “just to stay alive.”