Legal responsibility unclear: Injia

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CHIEF Justice Sir Salamo Injia says it is unclear whether Papua New Guinea or Australia has legal responsibility for the welfare of detainees on Manus.
He said this while refusing an application to the Supreme Court by a refugee on Manus to restore power, water and medical services to the 600-plus asylum seekers refusing to leave the closed detention centre.
Sir Salamo said he was satisfied that the PNG Government with the assistance of Australia had provided alternative accommodation at three sites outside the regional processing centre.
But he said it was unclear as to whether PNG or Australia had legal responsibility for the detainees’ welfare.
“I am unable to make any definitive and conclusive finding on the question whether the PNG government takes sole responsibility, legally speaking, to cater for the future welfare of the asylum seekers after the closure of the Manus Regional Processing Centre,” he said.
“The same is said of Australia’s obligations under international law to the extent that Australia may have some responsibility over asylum seekers who were destined for Australia but redirected to PNG to process their refugee status on PNG soil.”
He said the new camps on Manus allowed for free movement and access by the asylum seekers.
“The services provided are of good standard and that the allowance paid to the asylum seekers is sufficient for their daily sustenance,” Sir Salamo said.
“There is no real good reason why they should not voluntarily move to those new facilities.
“The security and safety concerns, the intimidation and harassment complained of, cut to services in water and food occurred in the process of closing the MRPC.
“If the asylum seekers suffered any injury from those actions taken by the officers employed by the government of PNG or even Australia, the asylums seekers’ remedy lies in damages.”
He said their constitutional rights might have been breached in terms of withdrawal of basic services such as food, drinking water and medical services. And the threat and intimidation to them would continue if they remained in the closed MRPC.
“It is fair to say that the asylum seekers have brought those upon themselves in refusing to vacate the premises and move into the new transit centres,” he said.