Australia still responsible for asylum seekers, says Minister


Immigration and Border Security Minister Petrus Thomas says Australia is still responsible for any persons transferred to PNG under the regional resettlement arrangement (RRA) as they had initially sought asylum in Australia.
In a statement, Thomas said: “Legal advice from government lawyers based on domestic and international law is that Australia is still responsible for any persons transferred to PNG under RRA
“This responsibility cannot be transferred or passed on to PNG. These persons were only transferred to PNG for the purpose of being processed to determine their status as either genuine refugees or not and if they have   any complementary protection needs.
“Further, the RRA is very clear that PNG does not have any obligation on refugees refusing to settle in the country and non-refugees that cannot be returned. Australia maintains the responsibility of finding
durable outcomes for persons who cannot reside or remain in PNG.”
In relation to a Supreme Court ruling which dismissed a refugee’s application attempting to prevent the relocation of residents from the decommissioned Manus regional processing centre (MRPC) this week, Thomas acknowledged the ruling of Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia.
The court found that the governments of PNG and Australia agreed to close the MRPC on Oct 31 in compliance with a Supreme Court ruling in April 2016.
The court stated that residents of the now decommissioned MRPC are required to vacate the MRPC and move into the new facilities provided which affords them the exercise of their Constitutional rights.
The court dismissed the application of the PNG-determined refugee, finding that he had chosen “to remain behind in the closed MRPC and he has himself to blame for the hardships he is facing.”
Thomas commended the ruling for accepting the clear facts that the alternative accommodation sites for refugees and non-refugees offered safe, reasonable and good quality accommodation, with access to basic services including medical and other necessities of life.
He reiterated that the options available for the MRPC residents were that refugees could move into the East Lorengau transit centre or other accommodation known as West Lorengau Haus and wait for third country resettlement or settle in PNG with support provided for those willing to settle in PNG; and that non-refugees can voluntarily return home or face involuntary removal because they have no lawful right to stay in PNG.
“The PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority also advised that since the Supreme Court ruling, 22 refugees and two non-refugees indicated they wanted to move immediately to the new facilities,” Thomas said.
“We expect the rest to move in the next few days and I thank them for making an informed decision for their best interest and welfare.
“Any person using threat and intimidation to stop others from moving will be dealt with accordingly and will be held responsible for the security and health consequences those remaining face.”