PNG Moves To Reopen Asylum Center On Manus Island

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Islanders ready to cooperate, but only with adequate consultation

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Aug. 16, 2012) – Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Foreign Affairs and Immigration officials are now ready to implement the decision by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to re-open the asylum detention and processing centre in Manus.

The Foreign Affairs and Immigration advance team led by Immigration boss Mataio Rabura should be in Manus today to begin the process.

They will face the Manus people today as they demand negotiations on a fair and just understanding with clear guidelines and policies on the matter.

While the PNG Government is now in negotiations with the Australian Government to start the process, Manus Islanders through their Open MP Ronny Knight have told the Post Courier yesterday that stand ready to receive the asylum seekers from the Australian and PNG Governments, but on condition that full local participation is highlighted and on the agenda.

"Like the Governor, I as the Open Member for Manus stand ready to accept and welcome the Asylum seekers but there will have to be full consultation, negotiations and agree to full local participation," Mr. Knight said.

Mr. Knight said that it would also take a while to re-do or extract the asylum processing centre as there is only a fence standing and all the structures eaten away by termites.

He also singled out that the previous projects and contracts awarded to Australian owned companies that erected the structures and the fence and others, without involving the locals in their operations would have to be done away with.

"Manus did not fully benefit when the detention centre was built in 2001 as part of Australia’s Pacific Solution and that’s why we will have to call for full participation this time around," he said.

But the adamant newly appointed Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato acknowledged yesterday that the PNG Government needed to consult fully with the Manus Provincial Government.

Mr. Pato said that he had already directed Foreign Affairs and Immigration officials to undertake internal preparation consultations as soon as applicable.

He said that he had already directed Foreign Affairs and Immigration officials led by Mr. Rabura to travel to Manus to asses and do a report on the existing facilities on the ground.

The minister indicated that consistent with the Prime Minister’s directives, he would take full charge of the matter, once the PNG Government is approached.

He said he already met with acting Australian High Commissioner to PNG Margaret Adamson to discuss the matter and initially and officially request Australia to send a working group to PNG to enable serious discussions on the issue.

Mr. Pato said that Australia was a close partner of PNG and would wait for the submission by the Australian Government to re-open Manus.

"PNG is a party to the Bali understanding on regional cooperation to deal with illegal movement of people and also the United Nations Convention on Refugees of 1951," Mr. Pato said.

"Manus is not a new Asylum Processing Centre. It is an existing facility but needs to be upgraded and maintained. We need to also assess with the Manus Provincial Government the infrastructure needs and other spin off benefits for Manus to support the Asylum Centre," he said. "PNG has made its position on this known and this position has not changed," Mr. Pato said.

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