PNG outlines issues for Aust to consider

Papua New Guinea did its best as a friend to support Australia in its time of need and it is important that Australia continues to consult and support PNG.

The Minister for Immigration and Border Security, Petrus Thomas, says a number of issues need to be considered by Australia as the Manus Regional Processing Centre (MRPC) closes tomorrow (Oct 31).

“Whilst the governments of PNG and Australia have agreed to close the MRPC, there remains a number of important issues that need to be addressed in a revised Regional Resettlement Agreement (RRA) going forward in dealing with the residual cases that will continue to remain in Manus and other parts of PNG.”

The Minister pointed out that PNG offered a helping hand to Australia in July 2013, to deal with the regional problem of people smuggling, by agreeing to the transfer, processing and resettlement of refugees in PNG.

“It is PNG’s position that as long as there is one individual from this arrangement that remains in PNG, Australia will continue to provide financial and other support to PNG to manage the persons transferred until the last person leaves or is independently resettled in PNG.

“Of the 1,550 asylum seekers transferred to PNG, 610 have been assessed and determined to be refugees and 201 are non-refugees. 598 of those transferred have returned voluntarily and 7 non-refugees have been deported.

“So far, 5 have died whilst in PNG.

“Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in March this year said PNG has offered refugees the option of resettlement but will not force those who do not wish to settle in the country.”

Minister Thomas outlines that currently, two groups of individuals have come about as a result of processing: Non-refugees that have to return home and refugees that do not want 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.

“PNG’s concern is about the residual caseload of refugees not willing to resettle and non-refugees who will continue to remain in the country after the closure of the MRPC at Lombrum,” says the Minister.

“There has to be a clear understanding of what Australia will continue to do and support PNG in the next few months to deal with the remaining caseload.”

Minister Thomas is also concerned about human rights issues highlighted by the United Nations and international organisations on the reduction of health services on Manus for the refugees and non-refugees.

He calls on Australia to maintain the necessary health and mental health services, preferably by a local service provider, or continue the current arrangement between the International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) and Pacific International Hospital.

“I urge Australia to respect PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority as the implementing agency and work in consultation with them to progress the closure of MRPC and address landowner and local political sensitivities.

“This is to see a successful closure of the Centre and transition arrangements,” says the Minister. 

Press Release