August 08, 2013
A third group of asylum seekers has been sent to Papua New Guinea under Labor’s new hard line stance against asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat.
The department of immigration says 39 asylum seekers landed in Manus Island about 7.30am on Tuesday on a chartered flight from Christmas Island.
It says the group will never be settled in Australia, and will instead be processed in PNG and, if found to be refugees, settled in PNG or a third country.
‘‘If people are paying thousands and thousands of dollars to a people smuggler, they are buying a ticket to a country other than Australia,’’ an immigration department spokesman said in a statement.
The men are from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
They follow another 39 Iranian men sent to the tropical island on Friday.
Since the new policy was announced, 25 boats have arrived with 1809 people on board. Of those new arrivals, 118 asylum seekers have been transferred to Manus Island.
The department said in a statement that there was no cap on the number of people who can be transferred to PNG and said transfers would continue on a regular basis. It said women, children and unaccompanied minors would be transferred ‘‘in due course as appropriate arrangements are made’’.
However, serious questions remain about the risks asylum seeker women and children face by being sent to Manus Island, with the department warned eight months ago that pregnant women risked losing their babies, or their own lives, by taking anti-malaria medication.
And International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), which runs medical services throughout the detention network, recommended in November that children younger than five not take anti-malaria medicine and said they and pregnant women should not travel to the island, which has endemic rates of malaria.
Immigration Minister Tony Burke told Fairfax last week that despite an ‘‘endless series of attempts’’ to have him rule out particular groups, ‘‘people will be be sent to Manus Island when I am confident they will be safe and there is appropriate accommodation and services in place’’.
Last week he and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced a plan with Nauru President Baron Waqa to send families and unaccompanied minors to Nauru for processing. At the time, Mr Burke said single men would not be sent to Nauru.
Asked on Monday whether the government had decided to send women and children to Nauru because of the health risks posed at Manus Island, Mr Burke said: ‘‘People will be sent to either location, based on me being confident that they will be safe and that appropriate accommodation and health services are in place.
‘‘The discussions on the new agreement with Nauru commenced prior to me being involved with discussions with Papua New Guinea.’’
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on Tuesday described Labor’s PNG deal as ‘‘just a pre-election fudge’’ and said the government should not rely on other countries to ‘‘solve our problems’’.