The National, Monday November 4th, 2013
PAPUA New Guinea is ready to open more asylum seeker detention centres if Australia asks, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says.
He said the asylum seeker deal, signed with the previous Australian government, was recently affirmed by the Tony Abbott government.
O’Neill told The Australian newspaper last Friday he was absolutely committed to “lifting our share of the weight” when it came to people smugglers.
“The Manus (Island) detention centre is being rapidly expanded and if needed, we will expand it even further, or approve the construction of other detention centres around the country, if requested by the Australian Government,” he told a business luncheon in Brisbane on Thursday.
While he spoke at the Hilton Hotel, a large contingent of police watched over a tiny group of noisy protesters outside, calling for the Manus centre to be closed.
An incident last week on Manus Island involving members of PNG’s police and military prompted a “red” alert at the centre, and staff had to be moved to a more secure location within the facility.
Asked if he was confident of PNG’s capacity to process asylum seekers at the centre, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said “there is nothing to suggest otherwise”.
As of Friday, there were 1,061 detainees in the centre.