Five people have been charged with trespassing after they scaled the Sydney Opera House to protest against the closure of a detention centre Manus Island.

Two men and three women will appear in court next month for climbing to the top of one of Australia's most famous landmarks, where they unfurled banners calling on the government to offer asylum to refugees held on Manus Island. Police followed them onto the roof to arrest the activists.

The protesters were from the group Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA), according to Australian media. By scaling the Opera House, WACA said it wanted to highlight "the inhumane treatment on Manus Island of men seeking asylum".

"The Opera House is an iconic symbol of Australian culture and we think Australia is becoming increasingly internationally recognised for its human rights abuse to refugees," spokeswoman Lily Matchett told AAP .

Australia's detention centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island officially closed on 31 October following a court order. Around 600 men were ordered to leave the camp, but many have refused to and say that the closure of the centre violates their human rights.

Detainees have launched legal action against the closure, claiming that it is "unconstitutional" and that the removal of basic services, such as electricity and water, breaches their rights.

Kurdish journalist and human rights defender Behrouz Boochani, who is detained on Manus Island, wrote on Twitter that there are "hundreds of hungry, half-naked, powerless men" still at the camp, "asking humanitarian organisations and politicians to prevent Australia and Papua New Guinea from killing us here".

Asylum seekers arriving in Australia have been detained on Manus Island and the small Pacific nation of Nauru for the past decade. Australia refuses to take in any refugees who try to reach its territories unofficially by boat – a controversial policy that has been criticised by human rights groups.

Papua New Guinea has said that it is Australia's responsibility to take in the refugees, but Canberra says the Pacific state is responsible for them.

Sydney Opera House Manus Island
A policeman stands next to a protester holding a sign on top of the Sydney Opera House in Australia on 9 November 2017. AAP/Brendan Esposito/via REUTERS