CANBERRA, Australia – Australian officials say more than 600 asylum seekers are refusing to leave an immigration camp on Papua New Guinea that Australia wants to close next week.
Australia pays Papua New Guinea, its nearest neighbor, and the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru to house asylum seekers who attempt to reach the Australian coast by boat. The United States has resettled 54 of them in recent weeks.
Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection deputy secretary Mandy Newton told a Senate committee on Monday that 606 men refused to leave the Manus camp and move to accommodation in the township of Lorengau, about half an hour's drive.
Department secretary Mike Pezzullo rejected a suggestion that the men were too scared to leave Manus because refugees were assaulted in Lorengau by locals.