The National – Friday, August 12th 2011
THE government has agreed to an Australian request for a refugee-processing centre on Manus, Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Ano Pala yesterday said.
“The government has made commitments to take co-operative action with Australia to enhance the region’s response to irregular migration and to combat people smuggling,” he said.
This follows a recent understanding reached between Pala and his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd in Bali, Indonesia.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill also mentioned it to Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard when she called to congratulate him last week.
Gillard released a statement from Perth yesterday acknowledging PNG’s decision.
She said: “I welcome the comments made today by the prime minister of Papua New Guinea confirming agreement to establish an assessment centre in Papua New Guinea.
“The Australian government thanks Prime Minister O’Neill and his newly-formed cabinet for giving prompt consideration to the proposal for an assessment centre on Manus Island and providing its approval for the proposal to proceed.”
Arrangements are being made for a high-level delegation of Australian officials to travel to Papua New Guinea in the near future to finalise a memorandum of understanding.
regarding the centre.
Gillard further said: “We are committed to working in partnership with Papua New Guinea to examine how such a centre might operate, including how it might best complement broader regional activities. Our officials will now work together to examine those options.
“Like this government, the government of Papua New Guinea is acutely aware of the need for co-operative approaches to addressing irregular migration while also providing opportunities for asylum seekers to have their claims for protection considered in safety and dignity.”
Pala said any final agreement on the details would be subject to negotiations by officials of an appropriate framework which would be endorsed by both governments.
He said: “PNG is not a target destination for illegal movement of people at this point in time, however, PNG would become a target destination when its economy develops and reaches a level that offers greater opportunities for outsiders looking for opportunities to better their lives.”
He said it was important that any details to be agreed to would include the strengthening of PNG’s other international border facilities and infrastructure development.
The agreement to co-operate with Australia reflects PNG’s strong interest in combating people smuggling in the region.
The Manus centre was operational under the Howard government in 2001-03.