MP: Refugee processing has started

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The National, Thursday February 13th, 2014

 A POLICY framework will be developed to determine whether asylum seekers in Manus will resettle in the country or elsewhere, Parliament has been told.

Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato said the process to determine the refugee status of asylum seekers in Manus had started. 

But as to whether any of them will or will not resettle in PNG has to be worked out in accordance with a policy framework.

“Because Papua New Guinea has come into this sort of activity for the first time trying to exercise leadership on a regional issue, we have not yet had the opportunity to have the relevant policy put in place,” he said.

He was responding to a question from Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin on the matter in Parliament yesterday. 

“Cabinet has recently decided to appoint a group of eminent Papua New Guineans who will be assisted by expertise from the United Nations (UN), Australian government and other relevant stakeholders to come up with a responsible policy framework,” Pato said.

“There is a process under the UN framework under the convention relating to refugees that will come into play. 

“As a consequence of that, should these people not able to settle in PNG because they do not meet our policy or requirements, then they can be settled elsewhere.”

Benjamin raised the resettlement of the asylum seekers issues because of Australian media reports stating that once the processing was completed in PNG, they would not go back to Australia.

Benjamin asked Pato if there was a package designed for Manus under the current agreement between PNG and Australia.

He said there should be a separate package for Manus in the agreement so that they could receive funding to be apart from the A$420 million given by the Australian government. 

He said it would be appropriate that the Manus provincial government and the people knew how much they would receive on an annual basis rather than wait for Australia to decide how much would be allocated to PNG and Manus.