September 11, 2014
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says there are still major problems with the refugee resettlement arrangements in Papua New Guinea.
PNG authorities have begun assessing the asylum seekers on Manus Island to determine their refugee status but so far, no one has been resettled into the community.
Mr Morrison said the former Labor government ignored the political and practical difficulties of resettling refugees in PNG when it reopened the centre in November 2012.
“Offshore processing and resettlement has been implemented. However, this has not been without challenges,” he said in a National Press Club address on Wednesday.
“There remain difficult and frustrating problems with Papua New Guinea in relation to the resettlement program there.
“Kevin Rudd and Tony Burke signed over $430 million in taxpayers’ funds in additional aid and infrastructure to the PNG government as part of what I described as a panicked announcement before the last election.
“And in return, there was a blank sheet of paper.”
Mr Morrison acknowledged Reza Berati’s death at the Manus Island detention centre in February as a “terrible tragedy”.
The minister said he was “also terribly saddened” by the death last week of Hamid Kehazaei, who cut his foot and developed septicaemia at the Manus facility and died due to complications.
“Where there are issues that need to be addressed at the processing centres this government has taken action to support the PNG and Nauruan governments who run these centres.
“The resettlement plan has now been before the PNG cabinet for several months following the extensive consultations conducted by their expert panel led by Dame Carol Kidu.
“It is important that this now proceed.”
More than 1,080 asylum seekers are being detained at the regional processing centre on Manus Island.
Eighty-four assessments have been undertaken in PNG, and more than 600 have commenced the formal assessment process, according to the Government.
“We remain committed to working through the remaining issues with the government of PNG to ensure that the agreement delivers the resettlement of refugees in PNG in return for the increased aid and infrastructure funding that is being delivered,” he said.