SYDNEY (Reuters) – The 600 asylum seekers barricaded inside an abandoned detention center in Papua New Guinea without food or running water are Australia’s “shame”, Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe said on Thursday, offering to house six of the detainees.
For two days, the men in the Manus Island Centre have defied efforts by Australia and Papua New Guinea to close the camp, saying they fear violence from the local community if they are moved elsewhere.
The stand-off was a “disgrace,” the star of the films “Gladiator” and “Les Misérables” told his 2.7 million followers in a series of messages on social network Twitter.
“I believe I could house and find jobs for six,” Crowe tweeted. “I’m sure there’d be other Australians who would do the same.”
The stand-off has prompted condemnation, particularly from bodies such as the United Nations, though Crowe’s intervention could spotlight the issue at a time when some detainees are showing the ill-effects of having no food for two days.
A spokeswoman for Australia’s immigration minister Peter Dutton refused to comment.
She said there had been no change in the government’s policy of refusing to allow any asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach Australian shores, and detaining them instead in camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the South Pacific.
The issue will be a key element of talks between Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern on Sunday in Sydney.
Ardern has said a 2013 offer by former Prime Minister John Key to resettle 150 refugees held in Australian detention centers remains on the table.
Crowe, a New Zealand citizen who has lived in Australia for many years, received the Best Actor award of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2001, for his performance in “Gladiator”.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)