Fears as Australian Government expels Manus Island refugees

An Iranian detainee on Manus Island fears he'll die if he's forced to leave the detention centre when it shuts down in a few hours. 

He's one of hundreds of refugees who have been told to leave the Australian-run camp for a new facility at Lorengau.

Security forces have already abandoned the site and there are reports of locals looting the camp.    

Behind the wire, there is a protest and show of solidarity by Manus Island detainees. 

They've been told to leave the camp for another facility.

Hanging from the perimeter fence is an ominous warning: "All power and water will cease at 5pm today. There will be no food".

A looter steals a fan from inside the Manus Island center.
A looter steals a fan from inside the Manus Island center. Photo credit: Newshub

"We are very concerned that the plan is here is to essentially starve these people out, and leave them without food and water, until they leave the centre themselves," said Amnesty International Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze.

The demand to leave follows a court order last year, which found the refugee's detention here was illegal. 

But little's been done to find a humane alternative for the 700 men.

Their proposed relocation will effectively mean they're left in a community where nobody wants them.  

"There are vigilante gangs being formed on Manus," said Greg Barns, a lawyer representing Manus Island detainees.

"There's a great deal of hostility towards these men and it would be very unsafe. There have been warnings of bloodshed."

Iranian detainee Farhad Rahmati told Newshub that no-one is willing to leave the secure compound. 

"I have to choose between two things, which is staying here and die by starving...or go out and be killed by locals." 

A man dismantles a tent from inside the Manus Island camp.
A man dismantles a tent from inside the Manus Island camp. Photo credit: Newshub

Mr Rahmati, a civil engineer, says all detainees are refusing to leave.  

As the deadline for closure approaches, all security personnel have abandoned the site. 

"When I say no-one, I mean not security guards, not even anyone from immigration," said Mr Rahmati

"You could see the anxiety and fear on their faces," said Ms Schuetz. "The uncertainty is certainly taking its toll." 

New Zealand has renewed its offer to take 150 refugees from Manus - so far, Australia hasn't accepted that.

"We'll see what we can do," said Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman.

"It's happening in our backyard, so it is really important that we keep the issue on the agenda with Australia." 

An urgent application's been lodged with the Supreme Court to stop the closure and re-instate basic services.

"What's needed now is court orders to ensure that these men get just the basic necessities of life," said Mr Barns.

But there's no certainty as to whether that will succeed and fears remain that this so-far peaceful standoff will turn into a humanitarian emergency.