Manus stocked

Main Stories, National

The National, Tuesday July 30th, 2013

 A MAJOR logistical effort is underway in Port Moresby to ship heavy equipment, tents and supplies to Manus Island to rapidly expand the PNG detention centre. 

While prime ministers Peter O’Neill and Kevin Rudd’s asylum-seeker deal kicks into gear in Port Moresby and on Manus, opposition is mounting in Papua New Guinea, Australia and the region.

A quick street poll by The National in Lae city showed that the majority of people are against the deal and feel that Australia is pushing its problem onto PNG to manage.

In Brisbane, Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola has accused Australia of using its economic muscle to persuade PNG to accept thousands of people who are not Pacific Islanders into its country.

“For an Australian problem you have proposed a Melanesian solution that threatens to destabilise the already delicate social and economic balances in our societies,” he said.

“This deal reveals a pattern of behaviour that is inconsiderate, prescriptive, high handed and arrogant.”

Following a review of a new Australian asylum agreement, the United Nations refugee agency yesterday said that it was “troubled” by a lack of protection standards and safeguards in the policy, under which Australia will move asylum-seekers to Papua New Guinea (PNG).

“We recognise that these measures take place against a backdrop of rising arrivals by people taking exploitative, dangerous sea journeys — including disturbing numbers of families, unaccompanied children and other vulnerable individuals,” UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told journalists in Geneva.

She added that while UNHCR shared the Australian Government’s concern at the risks of life associated with these journeys and the country’s commitment to addressing the complex challenges, “Australia’s Regional Resettlement Arrangement (RRA) with the Government of PNG raises serious, and so far unanswered, protection questions.”

Thousands of people marched through the streets of Sydney and other Australian cities to protest the decision but Rudd has said he will never apologise for the decision, believing steadfastly that this is the long term answer to people smuggling and the endless flood of asylum seekers to Australia.

“Our policy is very clear … you will not be settled in Australia,” Rudd said.

Immediately, however, the hardline plan to banish boat asylum seekers to PNG appears more to have encouraged than deterred the flood.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare on Sunday confirmed a boat with 83 passengers was spotted on Thursday northeast of Christmas Island.

That takes to 17 the number of boats that have been intercepted since Rudd’s declaration on July 19 that new arrivals will never be settled in Australia and will instead be sent to PNG for processing and possible resettlement.