A Footscray-based organisation assisting asylum seekers and refugees has expressed grave concerns over the unfolding situation on Manus Island.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has issued a statement that it is “deeply disturbed” at the violent forced removal of men from inside the Manus Regional Processing Centre this morning by PNG police and the Australian Federal Police.

“The violent forced removal of peaceful refugees demonstrates that refugees and people seeking asylum are unsafe and at grave risk of harm in PNG and must be evacuated now to Australia to protect their human rights.”

Journalist and asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani, who was arrested during the removal, said police and immigration officers entered the prison camp around 6.30am, shouting at the men they had to leave.

 

“Immigration threatened the refugees who were on the roof to come down and hand over their phones.

They were very angry and shouting at the refugees to deliver their phones.” Mr Boochani said the refugees were extremely scared and some were crying, but sitting peacefully and otherwise completely silent.

The unrest comes just days after the ASRC advocacy team spent time inside the Manus Regional Processing Centre and warned of deteriorating health and imminent preventable deaths. Advocacy director Jana Favero said the situation is “a medical emergency festering inside a humanitarian crisis”.

“It’s hard to believe the suffering of people seeking asylum could get any worse after five gruelling years of imprisonment in inadequate facilities under unbearable conditions on Manus, where six men have died since 2013. But it has.”  

 

 

ASRC chief executive Kon Karapanagiotidis said the ASRC team directly witnessed the humanitarian crisis unfolding inside the Manus RPC.

“We did this to try and help facilitate an end to this crisis by highlighting the urgent need for access to water, food and medical care to the men and importance of safe resettlement as a matter of critical priority.”

Former Australians of the Year including Rosie Batty, Tim Flannery and Patrick McGorry have penned an open letter to Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten urging them to address the “human disaster” unfolding on Manus Island.

Professor Patrick McGorry said “a perfect storm” has been building in the centre with unmedicated patients suffering a range of mental and physical health issues.

UNHCR spokesperson Nai Jit Lam said that the situation on the ground is very serious and “deteriorating by the day”.

“What we have been dealing with right now are the consequences of the problem that was created four years ago, when Australia forcibly transferred people, refugees and asylum seekers to PNG and Nauru under their offshore policy,” he said from Manus Island on Tuesday.

“What we want to say right now and what we are calling for is that Australia must take responsibility, continue to take responsibility and play an active role in achieving solutions. Australia must take responsibility for the protection, assistance and solutions for the refugees here on Manus Island.”

 

 

Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher Kate Schuetze, who has just returned from Manus, said the country where the men on Manus sought refuge – Australia – has violated their rights at every turn.

“PNG has aided and enabled Australia’s policy of cruelty and degradation of the refugees.  Now the PNG authorities are putting their lives at risk,” she said.

“The most obvious solution is for Australia to bring all of the men to Australia.  They are clearly not safe in PNG.”

Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance chief executive Paul Murphy said Iranian-Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani appears to have been deliberately targeted by Papua New Guinea police because of his high profile as a journalist reporting from inside the detention centre.

“Behrouz has been one of the main sources of factual information about conditions inside the Manus Island detention centre for the past few years, and his reporting has been published in Australia and internationally,” Mr Murphy said.

“If, as the case appears to be, he has been targeted and arrested because of his profile and his role as a journalist in an attempt to silence him, this is an egregious attack on press freedom that cannot be let stand.”

The Australian Federal Police confirmed it has officers on the island in a “liaison” role, but have denied direct involvement in Thursday’s actions.