Australian detention center on Papua New Guinea loses power


SYDNEY — The 606 men refusing to leave an Australian asylum-seekers detention center on Papua New Guinea were without power and many of their toilets on Wednesday morning after a nervous first night following the facility’s closure.

The center inside a Manus Island navy base was declared closed Tuesday afternoon following the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court’s ruling last year the Australia’s detention of asylum seekers there was illegal and unconstitutional. But the men who’ve stayed at the center on Lombrun Navy Base fear for their safety in the alternative shelters available because of threats from locals.

The Sydney-based Refugee Action Coalition said the removal of electricity generators Wednesday morning left the center without power, including toilets operating on electrical pumps. They still have tap water, though it isn’t drinkable.

An Iranian man living there, Behrouz Boochani, tweeted: “They took generators this morning. There is not power in whole centre. The toilets do not work. All refugees woke up again in fear.”

The coalition has applied to the court for an injunction stopping the closure of the center.

Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the first night without security staff guarding the center had at least pbaded peacefully.

“The men are sitting tight for the moment,” Rintoul told The Associated Press. “The situation isn’t great, but at least there were no attacks during the night.”

Rintoul said some locals brought food and drinking water to the perimeter fence, some selling it to the men, others donating it.

Papua New Guinea officials have said the facility would be returned to defense forces on Wednesday and anyone remaining would be considered to be trespbading on a military base.

For four years, Australia has paid Papua New Guinea, its nearest neighbor, and the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru to house asylum seekers who attempt to reach the Australian coast by boat. The United States has resettled 54 of them in recent weeks and is considering taking almost 1,200 more.

Australia will not settle any asylum seekers who try to arrive by boat — a policy the government says dissuades them from attempting dangerous ocean crossings. Its navy has also turned back boats to prevent them from reaching Australian shores.

Papua New Guinea authorities have deployed extra police to the town of Lorengau where the three new housing centers are located. But locals reportedly have threatened to blockade them, and a protest of about 100 people earlier this week demanded Australia take back the men and they not live in the community.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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