Boat refugees to ‘leave’ PNG de­spite un­cer­tainty over re­set­tle­ment deal

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - World -

HUN­DREDS of refugees be­ing held at a re­mote Pa­pua New Guinea de­ten­tion camp will be moved by Oc­to­ber de­spite un­cer­tainty over a re­set­tle­ment deal with the United States, Aus­tralia’s im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter said yes­ter­day.

Can­berra sends asy­lum-seek­ers who try to en­ter the coun­try by boat to camps on Nauru and PNG’S Manus Is­land, with those found to be refugees barred from re­set­tling in Aus­tralia.

They are in­stead re­lo­cated to third coun­tries, or re­set­tled else­where in PNG.

But the sud­den with­drawal from PNG last week of Amer­i­can of­fi­cials as­sess­ing the refugees sparked fears a deal with Wash­ing­ton to take them would not go ahead, par­tic­u­larly af­ter re­ports ear­lier this year that US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had de­scribed it as “dumb”.

The with­drawal of the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials came days af­ter the US passed its an­nual 50,000-refugee in­take cap.

“Our de­sire was ob­vi­ously to have them off to­mor­row, I want Manus Is­land to close, we’re still go­ing to main­tain Nauru,” Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton told Sky News Aus­tralia.

“We have been caught up in the US process, they have a quota each year. It was 110,000 peo­ple they were tak­ing in the refugee pro­gram un­der Pres­i­dent Obama, but Pres­i­dent Trump has re­duced that to 50,000.

“Their year fin­ishes in Septem­ber, so we have been pushed into Oc­to­ber in terms of when peo­ple will move.”

The Oc­to­ber dead­line was es­tab­lished af­ter a PNG Supreme Court rul­ing last year de­clared that hold­ing peo­ple in the Manus camp was un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Aus­tralians took part in nu­mer­ous vig­ils Wed­nes­day in sup­port of those in de­ten­tion and to mark four years since the off­shore pro­cess­ing regime was set up by the pre­vi­ous La­bor gov­ern­ment.

More than 800 men are be­ing held on Manus, and 370 men, women and chil­dren are de­tained on Nauru, ac­cord­ing to Aus­tralian im­mi­gra­tion data end­ing May 31.

The PNG and Nauru off­shore de­ten­tion pro­gramme has cost Aus­tralia al­most US$4 bil­lion since 2012 ac­cord­ing to fig­ures re­leased in par­lia­ment, the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald re­ported Tues­day. – AFP

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