Hundreds of people have gathered in Sydney and Melbourne to call for an end to the stand-off at the closed detention centre on Manus Island.
Protesters at the rally in Sydney’s Hyde Park heard that an emergency situation is unfolding on Manus Island, where 600 men have barricaded themselves inside the detention centre despite its formal closure this week.
Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the Australian government was trying to drive the refugees and out of the centre and "into even more unsafe conditions". He said there was an emergency situation on the island and the refugees and still had no safe place, no security, and were not free. Nicole Judge, who worked for the Salvation Army at the centre, said she had advocated for closing Manus Island but didn't want refugees and to be left there to suffer.
She said she knew it might be surprising to people that the men have chosen not to leave the camp, but they feared for their safety outside.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said this week that the three alternative locations for the detainees were much better facilities than the closed centre, despite claims at least one of the sites is still under construction.
"The advocates who are here telling them not to move, they are not doing those people any favours," he told the Nine Network on Thursday.
At another rally in Melbourne’s CBD, recorded messages from men who remain inside the detention centre were played.
Two men described their situation, saying they were without basic provisions or medical supplies following the centre's closure.
"We are forgotten people who have been tortured ... even though we have committed no crime," one of the men said in his message.
"Our situation is getting worse and we need your help," the other man said.
"Will Australians stand up and speak for humanity if you think refugees are humans?"
Legal worker Sophie L'Estrange addressed the crowd, speaking about her experiences working on the island during the Good Friday shooting earlier this year.
She said for 45 minutes, she heard what she believed were the sounds of people dying.
Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt also spoke, criticising the "cold eyes" of immigration minister Peter Dutton and the "hell-hole" the Australian government had forced its into.
The protest, organised by the Refugee Action Collective of Victoria against the treatment of the refugees, was held outside Victoria's' State Library in Swanson Street followed by a march through to Flinders Street.
Food, electricity and running water were cut off at the detention centre after it officially closed on Tuesday.