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PNG has no obligation to keep refugees

Posted On: Thursday, 2 November 2017

PORT MORESBY, 02 NOVEMBER 2017 (POST COURIER) --- Papua New Guinea will be pushing for a review of the current Refugee Resettlement Agreement (RRA) on the future of the remaining refugees on Manus Island. Acting Chief Migration Officer Solomon Kantha said that PNG currently does not have an obligation to continue keeping the refugees on Manus Island.

“The key aspect in the revised agreement and PNG’s position is that we will put on the table, one is the clear understanding of responsibilities, obligations, what type of level of funding or other support that must be provided to PNG,” Kantha said

“Another issue is a reasonable time-frame. Obviously individuals who are here are not going to remain forever in Manus. We will try to reduce their numbers as much as possible.”

Kantha in an interview in Lorengau said that going forward there are a lot of challenges as the Minister for Immigration and Border Security Petrus Thomas has highlighted, PNG has no obligation under the current arrangement to deal with new groups that have come out in terms of processing.

“Initial agreement is for us to accept the transfer of asylum seekers, process them and resettle them and only those willing to resettle in PNG will stay,” Kantha said

“Now we have two groups who do not want to resettle in PNG and those who do not have any legal basis to remain as refugees.

“This falls outside the current agreement and that is why Australia will continue to support the facility until we find a solution.”

He said the way forward will be what PNG Immigration and Australian Border Force decides in the next week. Kantha said himself and Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari had a meeting on Tuesday with the Australian High Commissioner and a representative of the Australian Border Force to “urgently” request a meeting to discuss a way forward in the interest of both Governments on how to deal with the people remaining on Manus.

“For PNG’s interest what we want to do is we want a clear way forward in terms of the future of refugees who do not have any basis for remaining in the country so they have to go,” he said.

“There is a handful of them that cannot return to their country because they cannot accept them so there is a need for Australia to support PNG to move them out.”

Kantha said many under this category are the biggest group of Iranians, Iraqis and Pakistanis who remain defiant at Lombrum and are not refugees.

“Way forward is to get an understanding on how we can deal with them, the sooner we reduce the number, it is better for us to manage and better in terms of local perception in terms of their security concerns both for refugees and locals,” he said.

Meanwhile, the PNGDF will have no choice but to forcefully evict the protesting refugees if the situation gets uncontrolled, Lombrum Naval Base Commanding Officer (CO) Begsy Karaki said. But CO Karaki assured no arbitrary actions on their part will be instigated as the 600 odd refugees and non refugees were still under the “care” of the PNG Immigration Office with Australia.

“They will not be forcefully removed. They are here at the military camp and most of their base in military camp are out of bound to any civilian and they will not be seen wondering around in the camp?but if anything happens, with instructions from Head Quarters, we can act,” he said.

The Lombrum Naval Base in Manus is a sensitive military base operated by the Maritime Operations Element of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. Australia and the PNG Governments agreed in 2013 to have the Manus Regional Processing Centre set up in the premises of the military camp, with full knowledge of the military rules. CO Karaki also explained that there was no call out and that there was no real threat right now but the military base operations was on standby for anything.

“There is no panic and those that have pre-conceived ideas developed by the asylum seekers. I reiterrate that there is no threat,” he said.

“This is Australia’s problem now being brought in here, and we are getting blamed for issues we did not create. We cannot get involved, we have no say in this, but because they are placed here at our military camp, we hope there are some solutions quickly, so we carry on with our duties and tasks.

“This programme has placed more responsibility on us, but we have to carry out the tasks.

“If anything happens in the vicinity of the camp, if any threat ? I will only act on HQ instructions,” he said.

When asked about the facilities now at MRPC which is inside the Lombrum Naval Base, whether it was now the property of the military base, CO Karaki said he had no idea.”I have nothing on my table saying that, at the moment we don’t own anything because there is no gifting or there is no arrangement or even myself I am not aware of this one or any of that arrangement. We don’t own anything, although it is in the military establishment but we don’t own anything. It is still in the higher process level where they will sort it out,” he said....PACNEWS

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