This was the firm stance by Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, following yesterday’s closure of the Manus Regional Processing Centre.
“The Coalition Government has had a clear and consistent policy since coming to office.”
Dutton says the Illegal Maritime Arrivals (IMAs) who are refusing to leave the RPC have been aware since May this year that the PNG authorities would close the RPC on the 31st of October.
“Indeed the Government of Papua New Guinea indicated from mid-2016 that it would move to close the RPC.”
He points out that have been informed for a considerable period of time that there is safe and secure alternate accommodation where health and other services will be maintained.
“Refugees can relocate to the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre or West Lorengau Haus.
“Those who have been found not to be refugees should relocate to Hillside Haus.”
The Minister brushes aside claims of inhumane treatment of refugees whilst at the centre, stating the constant claims of IMAs and advocates about their situation in Manus are nothing more than subterfuge.
“They have long claimed the Manus RPC was a ‘hellhole’ – but the moment it was to be closed, they demanded it be kept open.
“They claim to fear for their safety if they leave the RPC, but held no such fears for a long period of time as around 200 of them, each and every day, travelled to and from Lorengau township, some staying in the town for extended periods of time.”
Dutton says PNG’s processing of these IMAs has been completed and there are clear pathways ahead of them.
“Those found to be refugees can settle within Papua New Guinea as agreed under the arrangement struck between the previous Rudd Labor Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea in 2013,” states the Minister.
“The Australian Government has provided reasonable alternate pathways for those who do not wish to resettle in PNG; specifically they can apply for resettlement in the United States or apply to move to Nauru.”
He says those who have been found not to be refugees are in PNG illegally and should return to their country of origin as hundreds already have done.
“The governments of PNG and Australia will facilitate voluntary returns.
“These people sought to subvert Australia’s laws by paying people smugglers to bring them illegally to Australia by boat – none will ever resettle here.”
Meantime on Monday, PNG’s Immigration and Border Security Minister, Petrus Thomas, stated that PNG still needs to sit with Australia to review the Regional Resettlement Agreement.
“The RRA is still current, but because of the date of the 31st we are just reviewing the RRA.
“Because the main idea of bringing the asylum seekers in was to process them, so now we’ve identified the refugees from the non-refugees, after the 31st we have to look for a way forward on how Australia will support them in the third country.”
(Immigration Minister Peter Dutton – Picture: Sky News)