PNG To Devise Laws To Enable Refugee Resettlement

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Foreign minister says new visa class will ensure recognition

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, August 7, 2013) – Papua New Guinea's foreign minister says his government intends to pass legislation setting up a new visa class so refugees can live in the country.

Both PNG and Nauru have recently signed agreements with the Federal Government, which will see refugees who come by boat to Australia resettled in the Pacific nations.

The Opposition has ridiculed the Nauru deal because it has emerged the island nation does not have a permanent residency visa class.

Furthermore, the MP representing Manus Island, Ronnie Knight, last month predicted no refugees would be resettled in PNG because of its strict citizenship rules.

But PNG's foreign minister, Rimbink Pato, says the deal his country has struck will involve legislation ensuring refugees can live there.

"Once they are determined under PNG law that they are genuine refugees then there will be legislation passed, which will ensure that they are recognized or they're given a different class of visa under our law," he said.

"So I can say to you that the process and the terms are well and truly working."

The PNG government has signed the Memorandum of Understanding with Australia formalizing the deal to send all asylum seekers to Manus Island.

Australian Immigration Minister Tony Burke was in Port Moresby to witness Mr. Pato sign the document late yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Burke says there can be no doubt about the desire of both country's to tackle people smuggling.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Bob Carr has expressed concern over Papua New Guinea's laws prohibiting homosexuality.

Homosexual asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat will be resettled in PNG despite facing prison under local laws.

Senator Carr says the laws conflict with contemporary Australian values.

"I am concerned about... what we see as a grotesquely outdated, legal position applying in PNG," he said.

"I understand - and I know this is little comfort - but there have been few if any charges laid or persecutions made under laws prohibiting homosexual activity in PNG."

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