Manus authorities 'turn away food aid' as humanitarian crisis deepens

Supplied undated image obtained Wednesday, October 26, 2017 of refugees and asylum seekers during a protest at the Manus Island immigration detention centre in Papua New Guinea. A Human Rights Watch report released before the detention centre's closure details claims that refugees have been robbed and stabbed on Manus Island. (AAP Image/Human Rights Watch) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Supplied undated image obtained Wednesday, October 26, 2017 of refugees and asylum seekers during a protest at the Manus Island immigration detention centre in Papua New Guinea. A Human Rights Watch report released before the detention centre's closure details claims that refugees have been robbed and stabbed on Manus Island. (AAP Image/Human Rights Watch) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Rough sleeping conditions inside the Manus Island regional processing centre, which 600 refugees and asylum seekers refuse to leave.

Rough sleeping conditions inside the Manus Island regional processing centre, which 600 refugees and asylum seekers refuse to leave.

Good Samaritans on Manus Island trying to deliver food to hungry refugees are being turned away by the military, lawyers say, warning that the men are "starving" and a full-blown humanitarian crisis is unfolding.

It comes as New Zealand's new Labour government confirmed that nation's long-standing offer to accept 150 refugees from Manus Island was "still on the table", and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to accept the proposal.

More than 600 hungry, exhausted, mosquito-ravaged men continued their stand-off with authorities at the now-closed Australian-funded regional processing centre on Manus Island on Friday, refusing to leave for fears over their safety on the outside.

An injunction application is before Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court chief justice that, in the short-term, would force PNG to reopen the facility and provide food, water and electricity, and eventually transfer the men to a safe third country. It will be heard on Monday morning.

Greg Barns, an Australian lawyer acting for the men, said lawyers would now add to that claim a submission the men's constitutional "right to life" had been breached by authorities who refused to allow food aid into the centre.

"As we understand it, Good Samaritans are trying to deliver food and water to the men in the centre. They are being refused access [by PNG military guarding the centre]. This is an egregious breach of the rights of these men under the PNG constitution," Mr Barns told Fairfax Media.

"There are serious levels of starvation. Some people haven't eaten for days."

Mr Barns described the situation as a "full-blown humanitarian crisis".

"You have 600 vulnerable people who have been left without any food, water, medication or sanitation, and inadequate alternatives being provided," he said.

Refugee advocates say new camps to house the men, which would be open to the community, are unsafe and, in some cases, incomplete. Broader community and medical services to support the men are also inadequate, critics say. Many of the claims are backed by the United Nations refugee agency.

Refugee Behrouz Boochani tweeted on Friday: "At the moment hundreds of naked men are lying around me. They are starving and their bodies are getting weak".

Mr Boochani said refugees were boiling rainwater and drinking it with sugar. Photographs uploaded to social media also showed the men have dug makeshift wells to access water, and were showering in the rain or under overflowing gutters.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul confirmed food donors had been barred access to the centre, but some food was making its way inside.

"People are hungry but some food has got in. It's very basic - rice, noodles, lentils - cheap but filling, and as much as we can get in," he said.

New Zealand Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway told Radio NZ the Australian government must quickly find a compassionate solution, and "our offer to take 150 of the refugees is still on the table".

He said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would restate the offer to Mr Turnbull during her visit to Australia this weekend.

The Turnbull government argues that resettlement in New Zealand may provide refugees with a back door entry to Australia, and could restart the people smuggling trade.

Mr Shorten on Friday said Labor was deeply concerned about the "desperate" Manus Island situation.

"[Mr] Turnbull should take Prime Minister Ardern's constructive offer seriously," he said.

"If it's not a viable option, then [Mr] Turnbull should explain why. Doing nothing is not an option."

In a statement, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said the centre's closure and "management" of the men were "matters for PNG".

"Alternative accommodation options for refugees and failed asylum seekers are ready. Some refugees and failed asylum seekers have already moved and they are comfortably accessing services and supports there," it said.

This story Manus authorities 'turn away food aid' as humanitarian crisis deepens first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.