PNG police have moved in to evict refugees from the former Manus Island detention centre

Papua New Guinea police in the Manus compound. (Source: ManusAlert via Telegram)

Papua New Guinea authorities moved into the former Manus Island detention centre early this morning, three weeks after the centre was closed by the government, in a bid to move on around 400 men who remained at onsite, despite the power and water being cut off.

Iranian-Kurdish refugee and journalist Behrouz Boochani is among several refugees tweeting from the centre as the operation got underway today.

He says police and immigration officers entered the camp shortly before 7am shouting that people had an hour to leave. Some of the detainees climbed onto the roof of one of the buildings. Others claimed the authorities were being agressive and threatening but PNG police told Fairfax Media that they would not being using force to evict the refugees.

But one of the men says they are being beaten and forced onto buses by police and immigration.

Boochani claimed an Australian Federal Police officer was there guiding around 50 PNG mobile squad police, but the AFP subsequently said “it has no member within the former Manus Regional Processing Centre and no involvement in today’s actions. An AFP liaison officer is in Manus Province working in an advisory and mentoring capacity to the RPNGC on policing matters”.

Fellow detainee Walid Zazai subsequently tweeted a photo he says shows Boochani being arrested and taken away.

Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton told a Sydney radio station 2GB the government was “very keen” for people to leave the centre.

Asylum seekers claim this man suffers from epilepsy and police hit him on the head. (Source: ManusAlert via Telegram)

“I think it’s outrageous that people are still there and they have trashed the facility, they are living in squalor, and the Australian taxpayers have paid about $10 million for a new facility and we want people to move,” he said.

The PNG government closed the centre, which reopened in 2012 under a deal with the former Australian Labor government to process asylum seekers who attempted to reach Australia by boat, on October 31 this year following a PNG Supreme Court ruling that it was illegal and in breach of the country’s constitution.

The centre has been without power and water since it was decommissioned and around 380 of the 600 men there when it closed have refused to leave. This week the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said a humanitarian crisis was developing as a result and called on the Australian government to accept responsibility and act.

The UNHCR said the $10 million facility referred to by Dutton is not ready to accept the detainees.

The Australian government says how refugees and asylum seekers are dealt with on Manus is an issue for PNG.

This morning some refugees claimed they have been beaten and authorities are destroying their rooms and property.

PNG police have denied destroying belongings, but say they have emptied rainwater tanks on site over concerns about disease.

New Zealand has offered to take some of the refugees from Manus, but the Australian government refused the offer with Dutton arguing it would encourage people smugglers.

Australia has a deal with the former Obama administration for the US to accept genuine refugees from Manus Island and Nauru. So far 54 have been resettled while another 500 await assessment of their status.

This morning 12 former Australians of the Year published an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calling on the government to act over the “human disaster” at the centre.

“We should not withhold water from people, nor withhold food; we should not leave seriously ill people to die without medication and treatment,” they wrote.

“We are also concerned about Australia’s international reputation in human rights. It seems that both our major political parties have failed to meet their most basic obligations under the United Nations Refugee Convention, one that our country helped to negotiate and which we signed in 1951.”

The signatories to the letter are Ita Buttrose, Rosie Batty, Simon McKeon, Patrick McGorry, Mick Dodson, Tim Flannery, Fiona Wood, Fiona Stanley, Gustav Nossal, Peter Doherty, John Yu and Robert de Castella.

While the detainees occupying the centre had been active on social media posting photos and video, several hours on, Zazai claims the group was surrounded and anyone caught filming was being beaten.

Labor’s shadow immigration spokesperson Shayne Neumann said the Prime Minister had a “moral obligation” to guarantee the ongoing safety and security of the detainees.

“It’s time Turnbull showed some leadership and immediately secured other third country resettlement options for eligible refugees, including accepting New Zealand’s offer and negotiating appropriate conditions,” he said.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton said the men will not come to Australia.

Prime minister Turnbull said the refugees should obey the law and authorities and move, but the government “will not be pressured” into accepting them.

“Our border security, the integrity of our borders is maintained by my government and we will not outsource our migration policy to people smugglers,” he said.