Australia

Manus Island refugees: Court rules against restoring services

Men sleeping in the closed Manus Island detention centre on Monday Image copyright BEHROUZ BOOCHANI
Image caption The men have been without electricity, food, security and medical staff for a week.

A Papua New Guinea court has ruled against restoring basic services to refugees staying in a closed Australian-run detention centre.

About 600 men are refusing to leave the Manus Island camp which had its electricity, running water and food cut off last week.

The PNG Supreme Court found the men's human rights had been breached.

However it rejected a bid to reconnect services on the basis there was alternative accommodation for the men.

Refugees and rights groups have consistently resisted moving to the new centres due to fears the men will be attacked by locals.

The court said those fears only existed around the time of the centre's closure.

"There is no real good reason why they should not voluntarily move to those new facilities," the court said in its judgement.

Australia has detained asylum seekers who come by boat on PNG's Manus Island and on the Pacific Island of Nauru, under a controversial offshore detention policy.

Most of the men at the Manus Island centre have been classified as refugees.

Refugees are PNG's responsibility

The court also found PNG was responsible for the welfare of the men after Australian authorities closed the centre and withdrew on 31 October.

"Australia's legal responsibility over the future welfare of the asylum seekers ended with the closure of the MRPC (centre) which it operated, and it falls squarely on the government of PNG to take full responsibility over the future welfare of the asylum seekers," the court said in its judgement.

The court said refugees who had suffered human rights violations could seek damages as a remedy.

Lawyer Greg Barns told the BBC, his legal team would examine the new facilities and if they failed to meet required standards, would challenge the ruling.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday described the new facilities as "very high quality", however the UN's refugee agency last week said some of the new sites were not yet fit to live in.

PNG Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia said he was content that the services at the three sites were "of good standard".

The Australian government regards them as fully operational, a report in The Australian newspaper said on Monday.

New Manus refugee sites 'not ready' - UN

The UN agency has labelled the situation on the island an "unfolding humanitarian emergency".

The men in the centre have been forced to dig wells for water and have stockpiled their meagre amounts of food.

Many in the centre are also struggling with medical problems and need urgent treatment, advocates say.