He said the court found that the governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia agreed to close the Manus Regional Processing Centre on the 31st of October 2017, which is in compliance with the Supreme Court’s previous ruling in April 2016.
“The court stated that residents of the now decommissioned MRPC are required to vacate the MRPC and move into the new facilities provided which affords them the exercise of their constitutional rights.
“The court dismissed the application of the PNG-determined refugee, finding that he had chosen to remain behind in the closed MRPC and he has himself to blame for the hardships he is facing,” said Minister Thomas.
Minister Thomas commended the ruling and for accepting the clear facts that the alternative accommodation sites for the refugees and non-refugees offer safe, reasonable and good quality accommodation, with access to basic services including medical and other necessities of life.
He reiterated that the options available for the MRPC residents are that refugees can move into the East Lorengau Transit Centre or other accommodation known as West Lorengau Haus, and wait for third country resettlement or settle in PNG.
Support will be provided for those willing to settle in PNG while non-refugees can voluntarily return home or face involuntary removal because they have no lawful right to stay in PNG.
“The PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority also advised that since the Supreme Court ruling, 22 refugees and 2 non-refugees have indicated they want to move immediately to the new facilities.
“We expect the rest to move in the next few days and I thank them for making an informed decision for their best interest and welfare,” said Thomas.
“Any person using threat and intimidation to stop others from moving will be dealt with accordingly and will be held responsible for the security and health consequences those remaining face.”
Minister Thomas also clarified the issue of which government is responsible for ongoing care and support for those that remain in PNG and durable solutions for the refugees and return non-refugees.
He said the legal advice from government lawyers based on domestic and international law is that Australia is still responsible for any persons transferred to PNG under the regional resettlement arrangement, as they have initially sought asylum in Australia and Australia has an obligation as a signatory to the 1951 refugee convention.
“This responsibility cannot be transferred to PNG for the purpose of being processed to determine their status as either genuine refugees or not and if they have any complimentary protection needs.
“Further, the RRA is very clear that PNG does not have any obligation on refugees refusing to settle in the country and non-refugees that cannot be returned.
“Australia maintains the responsibility of finding durable outcomes for persons who cannot reside or remain in PNG.”
(Loop file pic)