January 17, 2015 | the guardian
More than 100 asylum seekers are being treated for dehydration in makeshift medical centre, but minister for immigration says ‘they will never be settled in Australia’ despite protests.
Protests continue on Manus Island, with detainees vowing not to give up their protest, and the government equally unbowed they must be resettled in PNG.
Some men in the detention centre have been refusing food and water since Tuesday and are dangerously unwell.
International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) staff on the island have converted the staff mess hall into an overflow emergency medical centre.
More than 100 men from Mike compound, where the hunger strike started on Tuesday, are now under medical care, most from severe dehydration.
Two men who swallowed razor blades, and four who drank detergent, are also in medical care.
In the Delta and Oscar compounds, where the protests have spread and the tension has been greatest, men not on hunger strike spent the night clapping and cheering and shouting “What do we want? Freedom?”.
Some men have spent 18 months in detention on Manus and have asked to be handed over to the care of the United Nations. Others still want to be moved to Australia, where their families live.
Video seen by Guardian Australian shows PNG riot police walking between the Delta and Oscar compounds.
Reports that riot police entered Delta and clashed with detainees in an effort to force them back into their rooms, remain unconfirmed.
Guardian Australia has obtained video footage that shows boisterous, but peaceful protests in the camp.
Detainees say they will not yield.
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PNG security forces enter Delta block on Friday where there were unconfirmed reports of fighting. Photograph: Supplied
They are protesting against the length of their detention, the conditions under which they are being held, and against the threat of being forcibly sent to live in the PNG community, where they fear they will be attacked.
Less than a year ago, Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati was murdered during riots in the centre, allegedly by PNG nationals who invaded the centre and attacked detainees.
The detainees wrote in a letter to the Australian government on Friday: “some of us are about to die, but will still continue our way [protest] and we will never change our decision”.
“Dear Mr Minister, PNG is not safe place for us and if we are supposed to die there, we will die here in the centre. Our message today is very clear to the immigration of Australia, our decision will never change. Hand us over to the UN.”
But immigration minister Peter Dutton said the government will not change its policy.
“Whilst there has been a change of minister, the absolute resolve of me as the new minister and of the government is to make sure that for those transferees, they will never arrive in Australia. They will never be settled in Australia.”
A PNG government spokesman told Guardian Australia no police had entered the detention centre but that amid the heightened tensions “security had gone in with workers”.
He had not seen the images from Manus Island, but said a senior person from there had conveyed the information.
“It wasn’t extraordinary but of course with the tension there as we know, I think it was just extra precautions.”
He said he had seen reports of locals going in with police “but it was nothing like that”.