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Australians of the Year condemn government's handling of refugee center closure
Last Updated: 2017-11-23 14:23 | Xinhua
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Twelve former Australians of the Year have condemned the federal government's handling of the closure of the refugee processing center on Manus Island.

The Manus Island center, where refugees who tried to come to Australia by boat were detained, was closed at the end of October with essential services being cut off and detainees offered resettlement in theUnited States.

More than 420 men have refused to leave the center, however, saying they fear for their safety in the town of Lorangau where they would be held before going to the United States.

The men have been surviving off rainwater and a small amount of food provided by locals.

Papua New Guinean police and immigration authorities moved into the center on Thursday, demanding that the refugees leave.

In an open letter released on Thursday, the recipients of the Australian of the Year award called for the Australian government to allow medical professionals onto the island to treat the refugees.

"We, as former Australians of the Year, representing the hearts and minds of the nation, are deeply concerned about the health and human disaster that is unfolding on Manus Island," it said.

"In the coming days, it is inevitable that people will become sick and even die through the lack of basic sanitation, food, water and medical care.

"This treatment does not represent who we are as Australians, or indeed as human beings."

Signatories to the letter include media mogul Ita Buttrose, domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty and legal academic Mick Dodson.

TheUnited NationsHigh Commission for Refugees has called the situation a humanitarian crisis, an assertion that was rejected by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

"Those who have stayed on Manus Island are doing so to try to force Australia to take them," Bishop said on Wednesday.

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