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There's A "Bitter And Heavy Silence" On Manus Island After Nauru Option Floated

A "bitter and heavy silence" has fallen over the celebrations in Manus Island detention centre since Peter Dutton floated a Nauru option.

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Jubilant scenes in Manus Island detention centre have been replaced with a "bitter and heavy silence" after immigration minister Peter Dutton's suggestion that the 850 men could be sent to Nauru.

In an interview with Sky News on Thursday morning, Dutton said the detention centre on Nauru has capacity to take the men, but that he is focusing on options in Papua New Guinea following the supreme court decision that ruled the centre illegal.

Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani, who has been held on Manus Island since August 2013, told BuzzFeed News he found it "incredible" that Dutton is even considering the Nauru option.

He said: "I want to say [to Peter Dutton] that you cannot do it, because people in Nauru are in a critical situation now and if you exile 850 men there, you will cause that place to be even worse than hell."

In recent days, there have been several suicide attempts in the Nauru detention centre, including a man who self-immolated.

A spokesperson for New Zealand immigration minister Michael Woodhouse said the country's offer to take 150 refugees from the centre was still on the table, reported the New Zealand Herald.

"A majority of people would like to go to New Zealand and this is a great option," Boochani said.

"We want to give our case to the UNHCR [the UN refugee agency] or any country that wants to accept us. Our problem with Australia is that this country has got us as a formal hostage."

Just yesterday, detainees were celebrating Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill's announcement that the centre would close. There were jubilant scenes of hugging, singing, and dancing and shouts of "freedom!"

But with the prospect of shifting to Nauru on the table, the mood has reversed entirely.

"The Manus atmosphere is under a deep worry," Boochani said. "The Manus prisoners have been struggling with life and death during the last three years and it is a real torture.

"This place is illegal, and Australia must answer to us. Why have they put us in an illegal hell prison for three years? I have lost a lot of valuable things in this prison, and I as a human want a logical response."

Dutton has maintained that the 850 men detained on Manus Island are the responsibility of the PNG government, saying they must go through the judgement and look at their options.

However, in a statement on Wednesday, O'Neill urged Australia to seek alternative arrangements for the 850 men.

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com.

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