SYDNEY – Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape insisted on Monday on the need to set an agenda for the closure of the immigrant detention center that Australia operates on Manus island.
“I’ve expressed clearly to minister Dutton that we need to establish a schedule and timetable towards full closure of the entire asylum processes,” said Marape, who appeared in a Canberra press conference alongside Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“We will ensure that we have a mutually workable timetable and closer program that is healthy for all of us, but more importantly, healthy for those people who have been part of us in Manus and PNG. Some are classified as refugees,” he added.
Marape said that “those who aren’t classified as refugees, we’ll see where they’re given encouragement to move back to their home of origin or where they’d like to move” although they may also have the option to stay in PNG.
Morrison said that Australia is working very closely with PNG to ensure the provision of services to about 300 undocumented immigrants who continue to be held in the Manus center.
Before visiting Australia, Marape already said that his priority would be to establish steps for closing the detention center.
In 2012 Australia resumed its policy of arresting undocumented immigrants who attempted to reach the country by sea, and sending them to other countries under conditions that have been denounced by international bodies, including the United Nations.
Australia financed the opening of centers on Manus and in Nauru – where another 350 people remain detained – for which they hired staff and security companies.
The precarious situation of undocumented immigrants held on Manus – which has been the site of riots, clashes with locals, and numerous attempts at self-harm and suicide – and Nauru has been denounced repeatedly by the UN and human rights organizations.
Many of the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus have fled conflicts such as those in Afghanistan, Darfur, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria while others have escaped discrimination, such as the Rohingya minorities in Myanmar and the Bedouins in the Gulf region.