Dutton accuses Manus refugees of lying over threats

9:05 pm on 11 December 2017

The Australian immigration minister has accused Manus Island refugees of lying and spreading propaganda after they reported threatening behaviour by Papua New Guinea locals.

The Australian newspaper reported Peter Dutton saying there was no question the refugees were lying and that they should accept relocation to the United States or return to their own countries.

His comments followed a video disseminated by refugees that showed a man holding a machete at the gate of one the new facilities on the island and telling refugees they were "dead meat."

The Kurdish journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani said the incident happened early on Sunday morning and followed a similar approach on Saturday.

Video of the Saturday incident, filmed by a refugee in Hillside Haus and translated by the advocacy group Getup!, featured a man at the gate of the facility saying "if any of these refugees step outside to where I am, I will kill him."

"If ever anything happens to my wife and daughter I will sue you guys in court... This is my residential area and neighborhood. I have a duty to uphold peace and normalcy here... I strictly command that there must not be any refugees allowed to step out of this gate during after hours period."

Behrouz Boochani

Behrouz Boochani Photo: Behrouz Boochani

Mr Boochani said the Australian government was warned that moving 600 refugees next to local villages would create conflict.

He said on Saturday a local man entered Hillside Haus and sat in the mess, claiming he was the landowner and that nobody could stop him from coming in.

The man did not threaten violence and was eventually taken away by police, according to Mr Boochani.

"In another incident on 6 December at about 5pm, a man stopped a Bangladeshi refugee on the road to Hillside, held a knife to his body and searched him. The refugee said police appeared and helped him, and the man ran away," reported the journalist.

"No one should blame the local people for this situation. It's a problem created by the Australian and PNG governments," he said.

The Manus Island police chief, David Yapu, said only one incident had been reported to police over the weekend in which the local man, he described as "drunken," had entered the Hillside mess.

"Because of the incident that happened at the weekend I advised my members to step up our patrol," he said.

The local man inside the mess at Hillside Haus.

The local man inside the mess at Hillside Haus. Photo: Farhad, Manus Island refugee

The police chief said he was surprised to hear about the videos as police had conducted an awareness campaign in the island's main town, Lorengau.

"I'm surprised because earlier I've done awareness within the community that the refugees are residing, at Hillside and West Lorengau," said Mr Yapu.

"I want them to respect the refugees when they walk around in the community or when they do their jogging. That was my message for the community for them to have some respect on the refugees."

Mr Yapu said he was aware the community harboured concern about the refugees prior to their relocation last month from the island's decommissioned detention centre.

"But as time goes by I don't think there is some sentiment from the locals. It was only when they heard that they (the refugees) were to be relocated," he said.

"The police have been patrolling the area showing their presence and visibility. For me as a police commander and a man on the ground, I really have heard nothing from the community."

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