Priest: New asylum seeker agreement ridiculous

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The National, Monday July 22nd, 2013

 THE agreement with Australia to transfer all asylum-seekers to Papua New Guinea was a ‘ridiculous idea’, a priest said on the weekend.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill signed a regional agreement with Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd in Brisbane last Friday in which boat people seeking asylum in Australia would be redirected to PNG for settlement.

Fr John Glynn, who works with street children and people living with disabilities in Port Moresby, questioned O’Neill’s decision to sign the agreement.

“How can we accommodate settlers in Papua New Guinea when we cannot accommodate our own people? 

“Housing, education, health care, jobs – how can we supply these things for any number of settlers? How could O’Neill sign up to such a ridiculous idea?” he said in a statement.

“In other words, the deal that was signed would mean that anybody sailing to Australia on an unauthorised vessel will now automatically end up in Papua New Guinea and have to settle here.”

An asylum-seeker processing centre was established last year on Manus but only as a temporary solution before settling the genuine refugees to Australia or sending the economic migrants back to their country of origin, he said. 

“The new agreement, a few months ahead of Australia’s general elections, caught everybody by surprise. Nobody in the two countries could imagine Australia forwarding such a request and PNG accepting it. 

“The agreement appears to be clearly in violation of international conventions and UN resolutions on refugees,” Glynn said.