Papua New Guinea police moved into the shuttered Australian refugee camp on the country’s Manus Island Thursday in the most aggressive push yet to force hundreds of detainees to leave, inmates reported.
“Police have started to break the shelters, water tanks and are saying ‘move, move’,” tweeted Iranian Behrouz Boochani from inside the camp Thursday morning.
“Navy soldiers are outside the prison camp. We are on high alert right now. We are under attack,” he said.
Other refugees posted photos to social media sites showing police entering the camp, which Australia declared closed on Oct. 31, shutting off electricity and water supplies to the center.
The Manus camp was closed after a PNG Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional, and some 600 refugees were told to relocate to three nearby transition centers.
Around 400 of the asylum-seekers have refused to leave, saying they fear for their safety in a local population which opposes their presence on the island.
Canberra sends asylum-seekers who try to reach Australia by boat to detention camps in Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and Nauru, and blocks them from resettling in Australia.
The camps’ conditions have been slammed by human rights groups, which have also campaigned to have them shut amid reports of widespread abuse, self-harm and mental health problems.
Canberra has strongly rejected calls to move the refugees to Australia and instead has tried to resettle them in third countries, including the United States.