Australia, PNG sign offshore processing agreement

September 09, 2012

Australia and Papua New Guinea have signed a deal to reopen the asylum seeker processing centre on Manus Island.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her counterpart Peter O’Neill signed a memorandum of understanding on the sidelines of the APEC meeting in Russia.

An agreement had already been signed, but it was revised after a High Court challenge to the Government’s Malaysia solution.

Ms Gillard says the new agreement means that work can start on the Manus Island centre within three to four weeks.

The new deal recognises the need to ensure, as far as possible, that no benefit is gained through circumventing regular migration arrangements.

Ms Gillard says that is the no advantage rule recommended as a disincentive in the report by former Defence Force chief Angus Houston.

“That is, they should wait the same amount of time for a resettlement opportunity as if they hadn’t moved,” she said.

But even after signing the deal, Mr O’Neill has said he does not want delays.

“I think the quicker they are processed the better it is,” he said.

Ms Gillard says with the agreement signed, work can now commence on the detention centre on Manus Island.

“Work has already commenced on Nauru. Reconnaissance teams have been to Manus Island as well,” she said.

“Our aim here is to establish both regional processing facilities as soon as possible.”

Ms Gillard has also discussed asylum seeker issues with her Malaysian counterpart.

Meanwhile, a group of 99 asylum seekers have been found at Cocos Keeling Island.

Customs, Border Protection and Australian Federal Police officers boarded the boat they were travelling on at the entrance to the island’s lagoon yesterday.

The people were expected to have health and security checks on the island before being transferred to Christmas Island.

Ms Gillard made the memorandum announcement at the APEC summit in Russia.

She will today meet with her counterparts including from Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Peru.

Asylum seeker issues are expected to be on the agenda in those talks.

Earlier at the Vladivostok summit, Ms Gillard outlined her goals for Australian education and her Government’s response to the Gonski review.

She told business people at APEC of her recently-announced goal to lift Australia into the world’s top five by 2025.

Summit host Russia is also prioritizing education and has built a huge new university on an island in Vladivostok aimed at attracting students from nearby Asian nations.

Ms Gillard said the APEC move to make it easier for universities to expand into other nations fits with her Government’s agenda.

“It makes sense to build on that national development of our education system… to enable our students, our education providers and our researchers to move more freely across the region,” she said.

“It’s a good vision of the future that we in the growing region of the world would see greater and greater exchange between our higher educational institutions.

“The most important thing for nations understanding each other over time is people-to-people links. And that happens at a series of levels. It happens when leaders meet other leaders.

“It also happens when a young person decides that they will travel to another nation to undertake a course of study, to spend some of their time in university and they come back with that experience, with their outlook changed for a lifetime.”



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Filed under Asylum Policy, Australian Government and Opposition, PNG/Pacific Solution

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