Asylum seekers left to their own devices by the Australian government on Papua New Guinea (PNG)’s Manus Island have reached out to the international community for help as the situation there rapidly deteriorates.
The asylum seekers said on Tuesday that camp officials had exited the Australian-funded facility and abandoned at least 600 men there. It came after a PNG court declared the camp illegal.
While the PNG government said Australia shouldered responsibility for the fate of the detainees, Australian officials took no action to resettle the individuals, and security guards just left.
Papua New Guinea says Australia is solely responsible for refugees when the notorious detention center closes on Manus Island.
The detainees have several times taken legal action against their former captors, claiming that the governments of Australia and PNG were violating their human rights. Lawyers acting on behalf of the former detainees are now seeking to stop authorities from completely closing the site down.
Authorities had earlier announced that water and power supplies would be cut on Tuesday, when the camp is officially scheduled for closure.
Australia had previously announced plans to resettle the asylum seekers in a third country, including the United States, but it was not clear if the resettlement plans would be carried out after the departure of the Australians.
Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea’s armed forces have prepared to enter the refugee center, which is a former military base, as early as Wednesday, according to media reports.
“From tomorrow, arrangements will be underway for the return of the site to the PNG [defence force]. Anyone choosing to remain here will be liable for removal from an active PNG military base,” said a notice put up inside the center on Monday night.
The former detainees reported on Tuesday that locals carrying machetes had already arrived at the center and taken away air-conditioners, fans, furniture, and other items.
Australian Greens Senator Nick McKim said on Tuesday he had “grave fears” for the security of the former detainees.
McKim said he had spoken to some of them, who had “barricaded” themselves inside the base, where there was no food or drinking water and “major hygiene issues.”
“This is a humanitarian emergency,” he warned.