The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Thursday urged Australia to "stop a humanitarian emergency unfolding" at a controversial offshore detention center on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.
In compliance with a ruling by Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court, Australian private security at the center vacated the premises on Tuesday before authorities turned off water and electricity services. However, roughly 600 asylum seekers refused to leave for fear of violence from locals.
"Despite the cutting of water and electricity on 31 October, most have told UNHCR of their intention to remain due to fears for their security if they are forced to move outside," UNHCR said.
"Refugees and asylum seekers have resorted to storing water in garbage bins and building makeshift rain catchment systems. The last food ration was delivered on 29 October and was only sufficient for less than two days."
'See the human face'
The Australian government said the remaining refugees have access to temporary housing in the island's main town. Canberra pledged 250 million Australian dollars ($193 million) to guarantee food and security for one year.
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Tuesday said there was no reason for refugees and asylum seekers to remain at the center, urging them to leave the premises as soon as possible.
"All have been informed for a considerable period of time that there is safe and secure alternative accommodation where health and other services will be maintained," Dutton said in a statement to Reuters news agency.
Meanwhile, New Zealand on Thursday offered to resettle 150 refugees from the center. "I think anyone would look at a situation like that and see the human face," said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The UN, human rights groups and even celebrities have criticized Australia for its controversial offshore detention program known as "Sovereign Borders."
Australian actor Russell Crowe on Wednesday called the situation "disgraceful," saying it represented a "nation's shame."
"I've thought about this. I believe I could house and finds jobs for six. I'm sure there'd be other Australians who would do the same."
The refugees and asylum seekers at the Manus Island center come from war-torn countries, including Afghanistan, Myanmar and Syria.
ls/ng (Reuters, dpa)