November 21, 2012
The federal government has begun transferring asylum seekers, including women and children, to Manus Island.
Amid concerns for the welfare of asylum seekers on Nauru, the Department of Immigration announced on Wednesday that 19 people had been transferred to Papua New Guinea.
The charter flight included people from Iran and Sri Lanka.
According to a statement by the department, ”all of the people in the group arrived after August 13 and were therefore subject to transfer to a regional processing country.”
The group, which left Christmas Island on Tuesday at 11pm, were escorted by the Australian Federal Police, interpreters and immigration and medical staff.
Manus Island MP Ronnie Knight told AAP the asylum seekers landed on the PNG island at 8.30 (09.30 AEDT) this morning.
”Nineteen arrived, all families,” Mr Knight said via text message.
The transfers to Manus Island come as the government confirmed the arrival of two more boats.
HMAS Broome intercepted a vessel carrying 82 people south-west of Christmas Island on Tuesday night. The passengers will be transferred to Christmas Island for initial security, health and identity checks.
Also last night, border protection command intercepted a boat carrying 55 people west of Cocos Islands.
The passengers have been transferred to Cocos Islands for basic checks, and will be transferred to Christmas Island for further checks.
There are currently around 387 asylum seekers on Nauru. Nauru will eventually have space for 1500 people and Manus Island will have capacity for 600.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the opposition had no issue with women and children being sent to Manus Island or Nauru.
”It was always part of the policy that it should be universal, and the facilities should be in place to take people, families, individuals, single males, family groups, and that has always been the view, and that has always been consistent with Coalition policy,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison said the number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia had forced the government’s hand.
”We have had arrivals accelerating to Australia over the last five months,” he said.
”We understand that there are very strong rumours today that the Minister will be announcing the re-opening of the Pontville detention centre in Tasmania, and the other thing that he will be doing, whether he announces this today, we’ll see, is the fact that the government is going to be releasing several thousand more people into the community on bridging visas and other arrangements.
“Now, that’s for one simple reason, and that is, there are too many people turning up. Our detention centres are full.”
With AAP, Bianca Hall, Dan Harrison