United Nations warns of 'humanitarian emergency' on Australia detention island

Refugees protest on Manus Island with Australian Senator Nick McKim

The United Nations human rights office called on Australia on Friday to restore food, water and health services to about 600 interned refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea, which Canberra cut off three days ago.

"UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today reiterates its call to Australia to stop a humanitarian emergency unfolding on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea", the organisation said in a statement.

The local boat owner was later released.

The refugees have allegedly been brutally attacked by the Navy and robbed and stabbed by locals.

Amnesty International executive Director Grant Bayldon says while the rejection is disappointing, the focus needs to keep coming back on Australia to do the right thing.

The Manus island centre, and one on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru, have been key parts ofAustralia's disputed "Sovereign Borders" immigration policy, under which it refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores.

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United Nations rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news conference in Geneva on Friday about the "unfolding humanitarian emergency" in the Manus island center, where asylum seekers have been reportedly digging wells to try to find water.

This was in the same year it declared, under former prime minister Kevin Rudd, that no asylum seeker on Manus Island would ever be settled in Australia. "After a year they only sent 25 refugees to America and we don't know when they (US officials) will come here to do the process again", he said.

A Manus Island refugee during the daily protest in the detention centre, 5-11-17.

Around 500 of the men have still not had their asylum claims processed, he said.

"At the moment hundreds of naked men are lying around me", Boochani wrote.

"We have to move them without any use of physical force and their transfers from the centre to the new locations must be done orderly and smoothly and without any force", Manus Provincial Police Commander David Yapu said.

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However, Mr Andrews said Australia should also accept New Zealand's offer to take the refugees provided 'it doesn't become a backdoor entry via New Zealand to Australia'.

Ms Ardern acknowledged on Sunday that the situation was becoming acute but understood Mr Turnbull's position to first pursue the USA deal because it would help substantially more people than New Zealand's small offer could.

New Zealand citizens are typically allowed to work and live in Australia, a pathway that Australia fears could be used by the refugees to move to Australia.

A third-country resettlement deal struck between Canberra and Washington has so far only seen 24 refugees flown to the United States.

'We should give consideration to what New Zealand is offering, ' he told Sky News on Sunday.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten softened Labor's stance on Friday, saying the plan had similarities to the U.S. resettlement deal to take 1,250 people.

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