Immigration Department says first transfer of asylum seekers under PNG plan has been delayed

July 31, 2013

Manus Island

Manus Island Detention Centre (Photo: ABC)

The Immigration Department says the first transfer of asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea under Labor’s new border protection policy has been postponed due to bad weather.

More than 1,300 people have arrived in Australia since the Government announced that all asylum seekers arriving by boat would be transferred to PNG and resettled there if found to be refugees.

The first group of asylum seekers was expected to arrive at the Manus Island detention centre this morning.

But a spokesman for the Immigration Department says the group has not yet left Christmas Island.

The spokesman said arrangements are being made to transfer them as soon as possible.

Immigration Minister Tony Burke says initially, only single adult men will be initially sent to the detention centre.

“At the moment, the facilities on Manus in my view are not currently ready for family groups,” he said.

“So, at the moment, I’m only comfortable with single adult males going across.

“In my view you shouldn’t have family groups housed in the same area as where you’ve got single adult males.

“You need to be able to separate different groups and I want to be able to have the capacity to do that.

“I want to get the standards to a point where more can go across and I don’t believe it will take a long time to do that.”

The Greens say women and children should not be detained in PNG because they cannot safely take the recommended anti-malarial medications.

But Mr Burke says he will not exclude any category of asylum seeker from detention on PNG, because people smugglers would use it to their advantage.

“If, for example, I carved out children of a particular age, it would take about a fortnight … before we saw boatloads of children of that age being pushed across the Indian ocean,” he said.

“That is not a compassionate way to behave. My policy principle is that everyone will end up being sent offshore but they will be sent at a time that I am confident they are safe.”

Mr Burke says the men will only be sent to the island if their health checks are complete.



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