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Island’s migrants won’t leave camp

CANBERRA, Australia — Hundreds of migrants who attempted to reach Australia defied a Monday deadline to leave a decommissioned immigration camp on Papua New Guinea, where many hold out hope of starting new lives in the United States, police said.

The camp inside a Manus Island navy base was declared closed Oct. 31 based on the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court’s ruling last year that Australia’s policy of housing asylum seekers there was unconstitutional.

But 379 of the 606 men at the male-only camp in October remained there 13 days later without power or running water, a Papua New Guinea police statement said.

The migrants fear for their safety in the alternative shelters available in the nearby town of Lorengau because of threats from area residents. Australian officials have predicted conflict between migrants and police evicting them.

Manus provincial police commander Chief Inspector David Yapu said in a statement that he “will need some clear directives on our next course of action” since the remainder refused to leave voluntarily.

Police had complied with an order from the capital, Port Moresby, not to use force to move the migrants and take them to camps 30 minutes’ drive away, Yapu said.

The United States has agreed to resettle up to 1,250 refugees that Australia keeps on Papua New Guinea and the Pacific island nation of Nauru.

But so far only 54 have been accepted after a screening process that President Donald Trump describes as extreme vetting.

Police cordoned off the camp on Monday while immigration officials removed makeshift water stores, Yapu said.

The Australia-based Refugee Action Coalition said officials destroyed property in the camp and attempted to destroy water wells that have sustained the asylum seekers for the past two weeks.

“After four years of unlawful detention, the refugees and asylum seekers are not about to be forced into yet another detention center,” coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said.

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