PNG says Australia responsible for hundreds of asylum seekers when detention camp closes

Tuesday, 31 October 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Sydney (Reuters): Australia will not be allowed to walk away from legal, financial and moral responsibility for nearly 800 men when it closes its asylum seeker detention centre in Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Tuesday, PNG’s immigration minister said.

Human rights advocates are warning of a looming humanitarian crisis when the Manus Island centre closes if the men are not properly resettled, with hundreds of the detainees refusing to leave the centre for fear of being targeted by locals.

PNG Immigration Minister Petrus Thomas said late on Sunday that Australia will remain responsible for the welfare of the men that have been detained in the Australian-funded centre for more than four years.

Australia refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores, detaining them in camps in PNG and Nauru in the South Pacific. The United Nations and rights groups have for years cited human rights abuses among detainees in the centres.

“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 under the arrangement until the last person leaves or is independently resettled in PNG,” Thomas said in an emailed statement.

Australia has already said it would spend up to A$250 million ($195 million) housing the nearly 800 refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea for the next 12 months after its controversial detention centre closes.