PNG Enacts Regulations To Enable Asylum Claim Processing

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Foreign minister says screening interviews already started

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 6, 2013) – Papua New Guinea has enacted new regulations that will enable the processing of refugee claims to commence at the Manus Island asylum seekers processing center.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Rimbink Pato said in a statement the new regulation under the Migration Act provides guidelines for PNG Immigration officers to use in determining the refuge status of asylum seekers at the centre.

"These guidelines are consistent with PNG commitments under the 1951 Refugees Convention," Minister Pato said.

"In hosting the regional processing centre, PNG is taking a leading role in regional efforts to prevent the scourge of people smuggling," he said.

"The regional processing centre provides protection and shelter for asylum seekers, while denying people smugglers the outcomes that they promise their clients. This discourages other vulnerable people from undertaking dangerous journeys by sea."

In recent years more than 500 asylum seekers have tragically lost their lives at sea in this region.

"When we recently visited the regional processing centre, the Attorney General (Kerenga Kua) and I conveyed to the asylum seekers that we would assess their refugee claims as quickly as possible," Mr. Pato said.

"We have already started initial screening interviews together with information that will be used in the refugee status determination process. Those who are found to be refugees will be resettled in safe countries in due course. Those who are not will be sent home."

The Minister said PNG and Australia have agreed on the site for a permanent regional processing centre and construction work will commence soon. Once finished, the facility will improve the comfort of the asylum seekers living there. Mr. Pato also highlighted that asylum seekers were undertaking a range of excursions and activities in the local community. He said this program of excursions would be expanded and he hoped that the asylum seekers would make a positive contribution to Manus’s rich cultural life.

"Manus Island has a strong history of welcoming asylum seekers and other people. I am confident there will be warm and constructive interaction between the local people and the asylum seekers."

Minister Pato noted that PNG senior officials met last week with Australian officials and representatives of the UNHCR to discuss the implementation of the new law.

Chief Migration officer Mr. Mataio Rabura said there is a lot of work ahead but there is good progress in establishing refugee status determination process.

"The establishment of a robust assessment framework for asylum seekers will be a lasting legacy for PNG and the region."

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