(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)
There are concerns about refugees being resettled in the Pacific region after Papua New Guinea revealed it would not let all asylum seekers granted refugee status there stay on.
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For months, the Abbott Government has been insisting resettlement in Papua New Guinea is the only option for people intercepted at sea who are deemed refugees.
But now, P-N-G’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says the country will not accept the entire burden of resettlement.
In response, speaking on Macquarie Radio, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has remained adamant that none of the refugees will be allowed to come to Australia.
“No-one’s coming back here to Australia. The agreement with Papua New Guinea, I think, is very clear in their undertakings to resettle people in Papua New Guinea and, if there are any other nations that are prepared to get involved with that, then those opportunities will be pursued. But the only place the people there at the moment — and I would think into the future — are going to be if they are found to be refugees is in Papua New Guinea. And if they are found not to be refugees, well, they’ll stay in detention or they’ll go home.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Australia is working on resettlement arrangements with other nations in the region.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young is calling for details.
“Knowing now that the prime minister of PNG has backed out of the original resettlement deal, which poor nation will the Australian government chose next to dump refugees on?”
When former prime minister Kevin Rudd first announced the Regional Resettlement Arrangement last year, Papua New Guinea’s neighbours were unimpressed.
Fiji’s Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola was particularly vocal.
“The Fiji government is decidedly less than happy about Australia’s plan to move asylum seekers seeking to settle in Australia into Melanesia, into our neighbourhood. For an Australian problem, you have proposed a Melanesian solution that threatens to destabilise the already delicate social and economic balances in our societies.”
Meanwhile, there are concerns about government interference in Papua New Guinea’s judicial system as the country moves to shut down investigations into asylum seekers’ human rights.
The P-N-G government has won a legal stay against Supreme Court Justice David Cannings’ almost-finished investigation into human rights at the Manus Island detention centre.
The government successfully argued Justice Cannings was biased.
But the Justice has responded by immediately launching another inquiry into the treatment of detainees.
Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt says P-N-G government interference with the judicial system is concerning.
“Anywhere there is a lack of openness and transparency about what is done in government’s names is incredibly worrying. And the fact that we have a detention centre in a place where the Government feels quite happy about shutting down independent inquiries should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who believes in the rule of law.”
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says it is a matter for the P-N-G government, but he adds Australia supports any action the country considers necessary.
Meanwhile, P-N-G’s Foreign Affairs Minister Rimbink Pato says he has legal advice that some of the asylum seekers are not genuine refugees.
In his words, Papua New Guinea will give the asylum seekers “the flick”* in coming weeks.