Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court has rejected an application to restore essential services – including food, water and medication – to the Manus Island detention centre as a standoff between 600 men and local authorities continues.
The legal challenge, filed on behalf of Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani, asked the Supreme Court to block the PNG immigration department from relocating the men to three alternative sites following the closure of the detention centre on October 31.
A group of about 600 refugees and asylum seekers have refused to leave the now-decommissioned centre, saying that they would not be safe living at the alternative sites in Lorengau town.
Mr Boochani said on Twitter on Tuesday morning that 90 refugees were sick and needed urgent medical treatment.
Without basic services, the court’s decision will increase pressure on the men to move to the new facilities, which PNG authorities and the Australian government say is now ready.
PNG lawyer Ben Lomai told Fairfax Media he hoped to appeal the decision as early as Wednesday.
Australian barrister Greg Barns said he and lawyer Mr Lomai, who brought the case, would now turn their attention to whether the new accomodation at Lorengau complies with PNG’s constitution.
Mr Barns said the court had ruled that while the Manus facility had breached the constitutional rights of the men, the remedy would be “damages”.
The lawyers will send a team to inspect the new facilities and may bring the matter back to court if they believed it did not comply, he said.
“A humanitarian emergency is still in place,” Mr Barns told The New Daily.
PM slams Greens
Speaking before the court decision, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged the men to move out of the centre.
“It is a decision by the PNG Supreme Court that that detention centre should close and many people were calling for it to close,” Mr Turnbull said.
“There are alternative facilities available of a very high quality with food and all of the facilities and the residents at Manus, at the RPC, they are being asked to move and they should move.”
The UNHCR has disputed this claim, saying last week that if the men were “to leave immediately, many would not find adequate or sufficient accommodation elsewhere”.
Mr Turnbull also blamed refugee advocates for the standoff, which the UNHCR has labelled an ongoing “humanitarian emergency”.
“I think the reality is, and this is the very sad reality, there are some activists in Australia, including the Greens senator Nick McKim, who are basically encouraging these people not to move,” Mr Turnbull said.