More than 60 prominent Australians have written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urging her to intervene on Manus Island, where over 600 desperate refugees without food or running water now face eviction by force within two days.

It comes as the Papua New Guinea authorities have written to the men, saying they can be moved by force to a site at East Lorengau within two days if the stand-off continues.

"This land will revert to PNG Defence Force and if you still remain here after demolition of the fences, you will be deemed to be unlawfully on a military base and will face eviction or arrest and prosecution," says a letter to the men from the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority.

It adds that the site is a serious health hazard with overflowing sewage, piles of rubbish, no running water, electricity or food.

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More than 600 refugees have refused to leave the detention centre since it was shut down over a week ago, saying they fear for their safety.

Ardern has offered to take 150 refugees, which she took to her Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull during their meeting on Sunday. The offer was rejected but Ardern, who is on her way to Apec, said it remains on the table.

The situation, described as a humanitarian crisis, prompted a group of Australians to write to Ardern, including former ministers, heads of state departments, a former chief justice, professors, barristers, and refugee and surgeon Munjed Al Muderis.

The letter implores Ardern to bypass Australia and work directly with Papua New Guinea and the United Nations, an option that Ardern has so far declined.

"We urge you to actively pursue negotiations with the PNG Government and the UNHCR Regional Representative to resettle as many of the men from Manus Island as soon as possible," the letter says.

Former Family Court of Australia chief justice Alastair Nicholson said the situation "deepens my feelings of shame for my country", while former Department of Defence secretary Paul Barratt said it was a matter "of lasting shame that both our major political parties have failed to carry out their most basic obligations under the Refugee Convention".

The letter continues: "We acknowledge, with regret, the unfortunate necessity of writing to you to request that New Zealand step in to resolve this crisis when it is so clearly an Australian responsibility.

"The moral leadership New Zealand can take on this issue will increase the pressure on the Australian Government to work with resettlement countries to resolve the current crisis. We will do all in our power to assist you."

Yesterday morning, five Australians were arrested for attempting to unfurl banners on the roof of the Sydney Opera House saying "Evacuate Manus, bring them here" and "Australia: World leader in cruelty".

Signatories:

• Associate Professor Munjed Al Muderis, Orthopaedic surgeon
• Reverend Dr Sarah Bachelard, Founder, Benedictus Contemplative Church
• Rob Baker, Former public servant
• Greg Barns, Barrister
• Dr Cynthia Banham, Research Fellow, University of Queensland
• Paul Barratt AO, Former Secretary, Department of Defence
• Paul Bauert OAM FRACP, Paediatrician Representative, AMA Federal Council
• Dr Margaret Beavis, Immediate Past President, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)
• Professor Bill Bellew, School of Public Health, The University of Sydney
• Dr Jacoba Brasch QC, Barrister
• Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO, CEO, Catholic Social Services Australia
• Dr Alison Broinowski, Writer and former Australian diplomat
• Bishop George Browning, Former Bishop Canberra and Goulburn
• Julian Burnside AO QC, Barrister
• Robyn Cadwallader, Author
• Joseph Camilleri OAM, Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University
• Benadict Coyne, President, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
• Ian Dunlop, Director Australia 21, Fellow, Centre for Policy Development
• Dr Susan Ennis, Researcher and ESL Teacher of Refugees
• David C Fahl, Barrister
• Michelle Fahy, Human rights advocate
• John Falzon, CEO, National Council, St Vincent de Paul Society
• Andrew Farran, International lawyer
• David Farrow, Former Manager, Australian Volunteers Program, PNG (ret'd)
• Michael Hamel-Green, Emeritus Professor, Victoria University Melbourne
• Rev Belinda Groves, Minister, Canberra Baptist Church
• Dale Hess, Executive Secretary, The Arnold Foundation
• Khanh Hoang and Scott Cosgriff, Co-chairs, Refugee Rights Subcommittee, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
• Dr Deborah Hunn, School of Media Culture and Creative Arts, Curtin University
• Josephina Jordan, Presiding Clerk of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Australia
• Stephen Keim SC, Barrister-at-Law
• Harry Kerr, Convenor, Pax Christi, Victoria
• Barry Kissane, Emeritus Associate Professor, Murdoch University, WA
• John Langmore, Professorial Fellow, University of Melbourne
• Carmen Lawrence, Winthrop Professor, University of Western Australia
Marion Le AM, Registered Migration Agent; specialist in International Law and Refugee Resettlement
• Dr Ibolya Losoncz, Research Fellow, Australian National University
• Julie Lyford OAM, Chair, Groundswell Gloucester
• Jake Lynch, Associate Professor, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney
• Dr Chris McGrath, Barrister
• Jeff McMullen AM, Journalist, Author, Film-maker
• John Menadue AO, Former Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
• Dr John Minns, Australian National University
• Rebecca Minty, Human Rights lawyer
• Dr David Morawetz, Founder and Director, Social Justice Fund
• Professor Philomena Murray, The University of Melbourne
• The Honourable Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC, Former Chief Justice, Family Court of Australia, Chair, Children's Rights International
• Dr Jill Parris, Counselling Psychologist
• Professor Alison Phipps OBE, UNESCO Chair Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts
• Professor John Polesel, The University of Melbourne
• Beverley Polzin, Peace & Social Justice Network, Religious Society of Friends (Victoria)
• Marc Purcell, CEO, Australian Council For International Development
• Kathy Ragless AM, Director, Companion House
• Stuart Rees, Emeritus Professor, University of Sydney
• Deborah Rice, Director, Australia21
• Franklin Rosenfeldt FRACS, Adjunct Professor, Swinburne University of Technology
• Sue Salthouse, Chair, Women With Disabilities ACT
• Professor Ben Saul, Challis Chair of International Law, University of Sydney
• Anand Shah, Barrister-at-Law
• Jon Stanhope AO, Former Chief Minister, Australian Capital Territory
• Lorel Thomas, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Victoria Regional Meeting
• Johan Top, Project Manager
• Kellie Tranter, Lawyer and human rights activist
• Dr Sue Wareham OAM, President, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)
• John Warhurst AO, Emeritus Professor, Australian National University
• Dr Helen Watchirs OAM, President and Human Rights Commissioner, ACT Human Rights Commission
• Matthew Zagor, Associate Professor, ANU College of Law