LORENGAU, 06 FEBRUARY 2017 (ABC) —- Police in Papua New Guinea are requesting extra officers be sent to Manus Island to deal with asylum seekers at Australia’s offshore detention centre.
Manus Province police commander David Yapu has asked for 15 extra officers to be stationed at the naval base next to the detention centre.
Police are arresting an increasing number of asylum seekers on the island, and many people on Manus are worried about what will happen if the proposed resettlement deal with the United States falls through.
Tension has been rising on Manus Island for months, with local people upset at the actions of some asylum seekers, and asylum seekers frustrated by the continuing uncertainty about their resettlement in the US.
Senior Inspector Yapu said he did not have enough officers to deal with any potential problems at the detention centre.
“We currently have only 55 police and when you look at the asylum seekers it’s about 800-plus,” he said.
Seven asylum seekers have been arrested and charged in the past month for various offences, ranging from rape to drunk and disorderly conduct.
Senior Inspector Yapu said 39 asylum seekers faced court on Manus in 2016.
“My prediction is that by end of 2017 we should reach about 50 or 60 that have gone through the court,” he said.
Some of the asylum seekers who have been charged accused police of using excessive force, or arresting them without cause.
One said he and friends had been arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct when they had simply asked police for a lift.
A refugee — who asked to remain anonymous — said he suspected police were trying to intimidate asylum seekers to return to their countries of origin.
“They give mental pressure to us willing [us] to go back to our own country,” the refugee said.
“Because they already show how they treat people here, so people pass the message, ‘this police station and prison is very horrible, so no-one go there because they treat [people] very harshly’.
“They’re threatening our mind. If you did something, you are put in prison.”
Senior Inspector Yapu said the refugee’s claims were not true.
US President Donald Trump’s comments on the potential resettlement of asylum seekers from Australia’s offshore detention centres have increased the feeling of frustration on Manus Island.
While they wait for the President’s decision, refugees are still being offered resettlement in PNG, and more than 20 men are now working in major centres like Port Moresby, Goroka or Kokopo.
Most refugees however, remain reluctant to leave Manus.
“Here not proper job. Living cost of Manus and other parts of PNG, it’s not possible for Western country people and other Asian peoples [to] live here, because their culture is different and their living style is different,” a refugee said.
Those who remain on the island are waiting for a pre-screening team to visit later this month.
PNG immigration officials said they had been told the US resettlement was, at this stage, still proceeding…..PACNEWS [/restrict]