December 17,2 014 | ABC News
Papua New Guinea has approved 50 refugee applications from the 1,000 men on Manus Island, but is yet to resettle anyone.
PNG’s foreign minister Rimbink Pato said the assessment of asylum applications on Manus Island was going “full speed on every front”.
“Fifty asylum seekers have been determined genuine refugees,” Mr Pato said.
He said the men will be resettled in PNG but that has been delayed by the lack of a policy framework.
Amnesty International has raised concerns about what will happen to those deemed to be refugees.
“Without people actually being released, people are being told ‘yes you’re a refugee’ but they’re still stuck,” said Graham Thom, Amnesty’s refugee coordinator.
“What is going to happen to them and what kind of safety will these people have if they are released into the community?”
While a permanent policy has been under review for months, an interim plan has been announced.
Papua New Guinea will give refugees 12-month bridging visas and help them find jobs but the longer-term prospects for refugees are not clear.
Australia is funding a new immigration detention centre near Port Moresby that PNG officials say is for asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected and are being deported.
There have been no reports, so far, of negative assessments.
Julie Bishop thanks PNG government
The detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island and the resettlement of those found to be refugees in PNG is a major plank of the Australian government’s asylum seeker policy.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who is in PNG for the annual Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum, denied Australia had “traded” its right to criticise PNG’s government in return for its cooperation on asylum seekers.
“I don’t believe that we have traded any rights in relation to this matter,” Ms Bishop told the ABC.
“The issue of boat people paying people smugglers to travel to Australia is a regional one. PNG is playing its part as part of the Bali Process [the regional co-operation framework on people smuggling].
“Other countries are also supporting Australia in different ways and PNG has agreed to take some people who are deemed to be refugees.
“Of course, under the Refugee Convention, ‘safe haven’ doesn’t mean you get to choose the economy or the nation where you want to end up.”
Ms Bishop thanked the PNG government for its announcement on refugee approvals and said the two countries were working “in partnership, as we always have”.
“We are the closest of neighbours and the dearest of friends and I think today’s ministerial meeting certainly underscored the level of co-operation on so many fronts.”
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, Defence Minister David Johnston and Justice Minister Michael Keenan also took part in the ministerial talks.