Pa­pua New Guinea de­mands Aus­tralia clar­ify plan for Manus refugees

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - International -

PA­PUA New Guinea (PNG) de­manded that Can­berra clar­ify what it will do with hun­dreds of asy­lum seek­ers and refugees on Manus Is­land af­ter the Aus­tralian-run im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­ter there is closed on Tues­day.

More than 600 refugees have been asked to re­lo­cate from the camp - which was slated for clo­sure af­ter PNG’s Supreme Court deemed it un­con­sti­tu­tional last year - to tem­po­rary res­i­den­tial fa­cil­i­ties in the is­land’s main town of Loren­gau. But the refugees, who have been held since 2014, have re­fused to move and say they are afraid of be­ing at­tacked by lo­cals.

Min­is­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion and Bor­der Se­cu­rity Petrus Thomas said Aus­tralia was re­spon­si­ble for peo­ple found not to be refugees, and for refugees who are re­fus­ing to set­tle in PNG.

“PNG has no obli­ga­tion un­der the cur­rent ar­range­ment to deal with these two co­horts and they re­main the re­spon­si­bil­ity of Aus­tralia to pur­sue third coun­try op­tions and li­aise with re­spec­tive gov­ern­ments of the non­refugees for their vol­un­tary or in­vol­un­tary re­turn,” Thomas said in a state­ment yes­ter­day.

The de­ten­tion cen­ter was set up by the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment to hold asy­lum-seek­ers try­ing to en­ter the coun­try by boat, for off­shore pro­cess­ing. The prac­tice has been crit­i­cized by the United Na­tions and rights groups.

Ac­cord­ing to the PNG gov­ern­ment, 1,550 asy­lum seek­ers have been trans­ferred to Pa­pua New Guinea by Aus­tralian im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties. Some 610 were de­ter­mined to be refugees and 201 were non-refugees, while 598 have since re­turned vol­un­tar­ily. Seven non-refugees have been de­ported and five have died on Manus.

The cur­rent ar­range­ment between Aus­tralia and PNG cov­ers the trans­fer, pro­cess­ing and re­set­tle­ment of refugees that wish to set­tle in PNG, Thomas said. PNG has of­fered refugees the op­tion of re­set­tle­ment, but will not force those who do not wish to set­tle in the coun­try, he said. He also warned about the re­duc­tion of health ser­vices, pro­vided by the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment, for refugees and non-refugees on Manus.

Food and drink­ing wa­ter at the de­ten­tion cen­ter were cut on Sun­day and elec­tric­ity is due to be cut off on Tues­day. Most of the refugees are from Iran, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Pak­istan and Bangladesh.

The liv­ing con­di­tions in the camp, as well as re­ports of high rates of men­tal ill­ness and in­ci­dents of self-harm among the asy­lum seek­ers, have been con­demned by the United Na­tions, rights groups and an Aus­tralian par­lia­men­tary in­quiry.

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