FOREIGN Affairs Minister Sam Abal says the Government would be prepared to reopen the Manus Island detention centre to help solve Australia’s asylum seeker problem.
Mr Abal said his Government was open to the idea of offering the facility, which Australia used for offshore detention of asylum seekers under the previous government’s so-called Pacific Solution policy.
“If there is a request from Australia, our Government will consider it,” he said.
The Manus Island detention centre was built in 2001 and closed in 2004. The facility is now used by the PNG Defence Force.
Manus Governor Michael Sapau urged Australia to revisit the centre.
Mr Sapau said his province had prospered from the detention centre, benefiting from employment and Australian government funding for schools and other programmes.
“It’s up to both national governments, but we want to be a party to this on humanitarian grounds, to support the refugees and the Australians,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Australian opposition said prime minister Kevin Rudd should fix his domestic policy first rather than seek to put Australia’s immigration problems on regional neighbours
Opposition immigration spokesperson Sharman Stone said: “If Rudd sought to open or announce the opening of more detention
centres, wherever they might be, it is an acknowledgement he has completely lost control of our immigration policy.”
Dr Stone said “the (Australian) government is absolutely bereft of ideas other than to blame others or pass the buck to other nations”.
“It is a thoughtful offer from PNG. I understand we’ve also had the Tiwi Islands (north of Darwin) make an offer to the Australian government.
“It is, of course, probably quite accurate of PNG to assess that this government has a serious accommodation problem now on Christmas Island,” she said.
Mr Rudd had failed with a so-called Indonesian solution, New Zealand solution and now there was an offer for a PNG solution, she said. – AAP