Government to ‘Negotiate’ on Manus Island Closure
27 April 2016 at 4:43 pm
Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said he would negotiate with the Papua New Guinea Government over demands to close the Manus Island detention centre after its Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the centre is illegal.
In a statement responding to PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s announcement that the centre would close following the court decision, Dutton said he would continue discussions with “the neighbouring government”.
“We will work with our PNG partners to address the issues raised by the Supreme Court of PNG,” Dutton said.
“It is also the case that the government has not resiled from its position that people who have attempted to come illegally by boat to Australia and who are now in the Manus facility will not be settled in Australia.”
PNG Prime Minister O’Neill said on Wednesday that he “will immediately ask the Australian Government to make alternative arrangements for the asylum seekers”.
“For those that have been deemed to be legitimate refugees, we invite them to live in Papua New Guinea only if they want to be a part of our society and make a contribution to our community,” O’Neill said.
“It is clear that several of these refugees do not want to settle in Papua New Guinea and that is their decision.”
“The undisputed facts clearly reveal that asylum seekers had no intention of entering and remaining in PNG. Their destination was and continues to be Australia. They did not enter PNG and do not remain in PNG of their own accord,” the judgement said.
As part of the judgement, the Supreme Court ordered the PNG and Australian governments to immediately take steps to end the detention of asylum seekers in PNG.
It is understood that there are more than 900 men in the detention centre on Manus Island.
The federal government has already been under strong pressure from advocacy groups and the Human Rights Commission to act on the ruling by the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea.
The Human Rights Commission led by Professor Gillian Triggs said the court’s decision affirmed the commission’s long-standing concern that the prolonged and indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea may lead to breaches of Australia’s obligations under international law.
“This ruling is further confirmation that Australia’s detention policies are increasingly out of step with international norms,” Professor Triggs said.
The commission – along with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Committee against Torture – have all expressed concern about the arbitrary detention of refugees and asylum seekers in regional processing centres.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said on Tuesday that Australia was not a party to the legal proceedings in the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea.
“It does not alter Australia’s border protection policies – they remain unchanged. No one who attempts to travel to Australia illegally by boat will settle in Australia,” Dutton said.
“The government will not allow a return to the chaos of the years of the Rudd-Gillard Labor governments when regional processing was initiated to deal with the overwhelming illegal arrivals of more than 50,000 people.
“The agreement with Papua New Guinea to establish the Manus Island RPC was negotiated by the Labor government. Those in the Manus Island regional processing centre found to be refugees are able to resettle in Papua New Guinea. Those found not to be refugees should return to their country of origin.”
Human rights lawyer Julian Burnside told Pro Bono Australia News that the decision was “absolutely right” .
“It is alarming that Australian politicians might want to find a way around the judgment,” he said.
“A few things are clear. The people held on Manus are innocent of any offence, they were taken to PNG by force, and against their will and they are being detained in breach of the PNG constitutional guarantee of freedom.”