PNG, Australia Finalize Asylum Deal For Manus Island

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Rimbink Pato: we will get better approach to deal with refugees

By Malum Nalu

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, August 7, 2013) – Papua New Guinea Foreign Affairs Minister Rimbink Pato last night signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Australia, effectively setting the wheels of the July 19 Manus Island asylum seekers agreement between Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Peter O’Neill in motion.

Pato signed the MoU in the presence of Australian Immigration Minister Tony Burke, Australian High Commissioner to PNG Deborah Stokes and senior foreign affairs and immigration officials from both countries at the Airways Hotel.

Australia had already signed the MoU through Stokes.

The document supports the Regional Resettlement Arrangement between Australia and PNG on further bilateral cooperation to combat people smuggling, signed between Rudd and O’Neill in Brisbane last month.

It also supersedes the memorandum of understanding between the PNG and Australia governments relating to the transfer to and Assessment of Persons in Papua New Guinea, and Related Issues, signed on Sept 8, 2012.

"A couple of weeks ago, O’Neill and Rudd signed an agreement that would be a new regional settlement arrangement," Burke said.

"At that time, they indicated that it would be moved through to a full memorandum of understanding, a full formal agreement between the two governments to be able to implement the new arrangement for the processing and settlement of asylum seekers.

"Today, that memorandum of understanding has now been signed between the two governments.

"Papua New Guinea is playing a very significant role in terms of their commitment to the UN Refugee Convention, and Australia continues to play its role in making sure that we resettle people under the convention.

"What we’re making sure of, though, is that the pathway to using the Refugee Convention is an orderly one, not a pathway that is driven by people smugglers, who put people’s lives at risk on the high seas with the consequence of many people drowning.

"Out of all of this, we will get a better approach to dealing with refugees, and we continue to deepen the cooperation between Australia and Papua New Guinea, from an Australian perspective our nearest neighbor and our closest friend."

Pato said the MoU was a partnership between the Australian and PNG governments.

"We intend to and we want to make it work," he said. "We have taken all steps necessary to ensure that our obligations under United Nations conventions relating to refugees are implemented. We think this is a very good deal for the government and people of Australia, as well as our country, because our partnership has matured."

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