UN human rights chief demands Australia restore services to Manus

Bangkok: The United Nations' human rights chief has lashed out at the Turnbull government, expressing "serious concerns" over the welfare, safety and well-being of more than 600 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island.

In a blunt statement issued in Geneva, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, described the situation on the Papua New Guinea island as an "unfolding humanitarian emergency".

"All migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers are human beings," Prince Zeid said through a spokesman.

"Like all of us, they have a right to a safe and secure environment, a right to an adequate standard of living and to participate in the decision-making process that is affecting their future," the spokesman said.

The men have refused to leave the Australian-funded regional processing centre on Manus Island over fears for their safety outside.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has backed many of the men's claims that new camps to accommodate them are unsafe because they are open to the violence-wracked Manus community and medical and other support there is inadequate.

The centre was closed on October 31 and Australian contractors and service providers have left the island.

Prince Zeid levelled blame for the stand-off at Australia, saying that as Canberra interned the men in the first place it should provide protection, food, water and other basic services which have been cut off since authorities shut the centre.

He called on the Australian Government to restore services immediately.

He said the men have said they fear they will be subjected to violence at the hands of locals if they leave the compound.

"Given there have been violent incidents in the past we believe these fears should be respected and satisfactorily addressed," the spokesman said.

"We urge the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea to fully respect their human rights under international refugee law and to enter into a dialogue with the men to ensure these rights are duly respected, protected and fulfilled," he said.

"We urge the Australian Government to transfer the men to the mainland where their claims can be processed."

The men have said they are hungry and exhausted and have had to dig wells to access water.

Food donors have reportedly been barred from going to the centre.

New Zealand's new Labour government has confirmed New Zealand is prepared to accept 150 refugees from the island and Opposition leader Bill Shorten has urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to accept the proposal.

- with Nicole Hasham

This story UN human rights chief demands Australia restore services to Manus first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.