PNG warns services can't be reconnected at Manus centre

Papua New Guinea immigration minister Petrus Thomas says it is "no longer possible" to restore services at the Manus Island detention centre and has urged detainees to call off their protest and relocate to three new facilities.

A week since the Manus compound was shut down to comply with a 2016 court ruling, up to 600 men are refusing to relocate, citing safety fears and asking for permanent resettlement in another country.

On Tuesday morning, PNG's Supreme Court will announce its decision on an application to restore food, water, power, security and medical services at the detention centre. The application, made last week on behalf of Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani, argues the termination of basic operations is in breach of the country's constitution.

The stand-off - which has seen the men stockpile rainwater in garbage bins and lose access to medication - has been labelled an "unfolding humanitarian emergency" by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Authorities have reportedly been turning away PNG locals coming to the centre offering food.

Four days ago, UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, said many of the men "would not find adequate or sufficient accommodation elsewhere" if all 600 were to leave and asserted one of the new facilities was "incomplete".

Backing the position of the Turnbull government, Mr Thomas says the facilities are ready.

"I want to be very clear that there is no capacity to restore services, there is no service provider to deliver services and, more significantly, as services are available to the new facilities, there is no need for services to be reconnected," Mr Thomas said.

"We have also taken into consideration the security concerns of the residents and discussed with service providers to have increased security measures and presence at the new facilities. Refugees and non-refugees should no longer have any security concerns and continue to remain at the decommissioned facility."

He said detainees had travelled freely between the Manus centre, which sits inside a PNG naval base, and the main town of Lorengau "without any major incident" since April 2016.

Elaine Pearson, the Australia director of Human Rights Watch, rejected Mr Petrus' claim as "not true".

"Refugees and asylum seekers have been repeatedly robbed and assaulted in Lorengau town, with little action taken by police. There has been an escalation in violent assaults in recent months, three attacks since June required medical evacuations to Port Moresby or Australia due to inadequate medical care on the island," Ms Pearson said.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull knocked back a renewed offer from New Zealand to take 150 refugees, saying the government was focused on the resettlement agreement with the US. The arrangement will see the US take up to 1250 detainees from Manus and Nauru but "extreme vetting" had slowed the process, with 54 transferred so far.

"We are pursuing those arrangements at the moment and that is our commitment. So we want to pursue those, conclude those arrangements and then in the wake of that, obviously we can consider other ones," Mr Turnbull said.

The Australian government has made clear it would not change its longstanding policy prohibiting the asylum seekers from resettling in Australia. NZ prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ruled out the possibly of negotiating an agreement directly with PNG.

Approximately 1600 asylum seekers and refugees remain in PNG and Nauru.

This story PNG warns services can't be reconnected at Manus centre first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.