December 02, 2014 | ABC News
Australia is building a new immigration detention facility near Papua New Guinea’s capital that PNG officials say is specifically for asylum seekers currently on Manus Island.
The details of the project remain unconfirmed, but it is believed the facility will accommodate asylum seekers who have had their refugee applications rejected and are being deported.
The new immigration jail will be built at Bomana prison, outside Port Moresby.
“I can confirm that the Department will be building an immigration transit facility in Papua New Guinea,” Federal Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, said.
“This will be a transit and removals centre as proposed and agreed to in the Regional Resettlement Arrangement by the previous government.”
PNG Correctional Services spokesman Richard Mandui said the facility was “being built purposely for those asylum seekers detained on Manus”.
PNG’s Immigration and Citizenship Authority and the country’s Correctional Services signed an agreement about the facility last month, according to local media.
“We recognise that there is a need to manage those foreign nations who are refused entry to Papua New Guinea or who are detected having overstayed or having entered the country illegally,” PNG’s chief migration officer, Mataio Rabura, said.
“It will enhance PNG’s national security and will allow for the detention of such persons separate from the prison population,” he told The National newspaper.
Mr Rabura said the new facility was part of amendments to the Migration Act – approved by Cabinet and to be tabled in Parliament soon – that would “properly define immigration detention, enhance powers to detain and remove those unlawfully in the country”.
He said work on the new immigration jail was expected to start next year.
No current candidates for new facility
The need for a designated facility for immigration offences appears limited, with Correctional Services spokesman Richard Mandui telling the ABC there are currently no foreigners in detention for overstaying their visas or illegal entry.
However, Papua New Guinea, with assistance from Australia, has started making decisions about whether to accept or reject asylum claims on Manus Island.
Papua New Guinea has accepted the refugee applications of at least 10 men, who will be transferred to a centre at East Lorengau on Manus Island for training and job placement on a 12-month bridging visa.
As of October 31 there were 1,056 asylum seekers in detention on Manus Island, according to the website of Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
The International Organisation for Migration is currently running a transit centre in Port Moresby for asylum seekers being “voluntarily returned” to their home country.
This accommodation is not a locked-up detention centre and asylum seekers are free to move around Port Moresby during the days or weeks they spend waiting for paperwork and return flights.
Several-hundred asylum seekers detained on Manus Island have chosen to return home, receiving a cash payment if they choose to do so.