CANBERRA, Australia -- Papua New Guinea authorities said Friday that they had relocated the last asylum seekers who had refused for three weeks to leave a closed immigration camp for fear that they would face violence in the alternative accommodations.
Police Chief Superintendent Dominic Kakas said police and immigration officials removed all 378 men from the males-only camp on Manus Island over two days and took them by bus to residences in the nearby town of Lorengau.
"Everybody's gone. Everybody got on the buses, they packed their bags and they moved over," Kakas said.
Refugee advocates say officials used force and destroyed asylum seekers' belongings to make them leave Manus.
Water, power and food supplies to the Manus camp ended when it officially closed on Oct. 31 on the basis of the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court's ruling last year that Australia's policy of housing asylum seekers there was unconstitutional. But asylum seekers fear for their safety in Lorengau because of threats from local residents.
Australia pays Papua New Guinea, its nearest neighbor, and the tiny Pacific nation of Nauru to hold thousands of asylum seekers from Africa, the Middle East and Asia who have attempted to reach Australian shores by boat since mid-2013.
Shen Narayanasamy, activist group GetUp's rights campaigner, said in a statement: "I awoke this morning to frantic phone calls from refugees on Manus screaming: 'Help, help, they are killing us.' It is astounding that refugees being beaten and dragged out to buses has the support of the Australian government."
Police Commissioner Gari Baki said in a statement Thursday that all had "left voluntarily" except for Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochan, a journalist who used social media to report on disturbing conditions on Manus.
"He was stirring up trouble and telling the other refugees not to move out of the center, so police and officers ... simply escorted him out," Baki said. "I am glad that this relocation exercise was done peacefully and without use of force."
Boochan had earlier tweeted from the camp: "They are destroying everything. Shelters, tanks, beds and all of our belongings."
Earlier Thursday, before all refugees were relocated, Amnesty International cited reports of immigration officials entering the camp armed with sticks and knives.
"The risks of serious injury if the authorities use force now is completely foreseeable," the London-based rights group's researcher, Kate Schuetze, said in a statement.
Police maintain no force was used.
Previously, deadlines to abandon the camp have passed without authorities taking action.
Australia will not settle any refugees who try to arrive by boat -- a policy that the government says dissuades asylum seekers from attempting the dangerous ocean crossing from Indonesia. It has also prevented boats from reaching Australia since July 2014, by using the Australian navy to turn boats back.
The United States has agreed to resettle up to 1,250 of the refugees under a deal struck by former President Barack Obama's administration that President Donald Trump has reluctantly decided to honor. So far, only 54 have been accepted by the United States.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull dismissed asylum seekers' fears for their safety in Lorengau, accusing them of trying to pressure Australia into resettling them.
"They think that ... in some way they can pressure the Australian government to let them come to Australia."
A Section on 11/24/2017
Print Headline: Island nation boots refugees from camp it ran for Australia