Justice and Attorney-General Minister Davis Steven has sent a blunt message to Canberra that it cannot simply shut the Manus regional processing centre and walk away, leaving the 800-plus asylum seekers in PNG as announced at the end of October
“No one wants to see a situation where Australia withdraws from Manus leaving behind unwilling foreign nationals who we will not be able to cater for and accommodate in our country,” Mr Steven said at the weekend.
“The Government will not allow that to happen.” The Australian Government has announced that it will close the centre at the end of October.
Last Friday, Mr Steven summoned the Australian High Commission representative to his office at Waigani where he relayed the PNG Government’s position. He told the High Commissioner’s representative that the October 31 closure date of the Manus Regional Processing Centre was not correct because that date had not been agreed to by the PNG Government.
Both countries signed an agreement in 2013 for a Regional Resettlement Arrangement for Asylum Seekers and Minister Davis Steven said the existing agreement is current, effective and binding for both the Australian Government and PNG Government.
Mr Steven said a submission for Cabinet is now being prepared by Immigration and Border Security and the Office of the State Solicitor to be passed to other government agencies for input, including implications, before the NEC could consider the recommendations.
The Supreme Court had ruled that the detention of the asylum seekers on Manus was unconstitutional following a Supreme Court reference by then opposition leader Belden Namah.
After the decision was handed down, both Canberra and Waigani agreed to shut the centre.
A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection said when contacted: “Australia remains committed to working with Papua New Guinea towards the closure of the centre. We look forward to further discussions with the PNG Government over the coming days and weeks.”