Aus: 'Struggling' PNG Should Not Be Burdened With Refugees

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Human Rights Commission president on refugee resettlement

By Stephanie Anderson

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, October 31, 2015) – Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs has criticised moves to resettle refugees on Papua New Guinea, describing the country as struggling.

PNG announced earlier this month that it would begin resettling processed refugees from within Manus Island, three years after the detention centre opened.

The development was welcomed by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and his Opposition counterpart Richard Marles, despite concerns for the welfare of gay refugees in a country where homosexuality is still illegal.

Professor Triggs also voiced concerns over the economic capabilities of PNG.

She told the ABC that the country was facing pressure to provide services to its own people, many of whom live in unsafe and unhygienic situations.

"Seventy per cent of the women there allege rape or sexual assault in their lifetime," she said.

"Infant mortality is poor, the mortality of the mothers is poor. Health care generally, access to clean water, is very limited. Access in particular to the courts or police services is very limited.

"I think it is not a country that should be asked to accept the burden of refugees, whereas obviously Australia is a wealthy country with huge opportunities.

"I think it's an extraordinary request to make of a country that struggling to service the needs of its own people."

Her comments come ahead of the unveiling of PNG's budget next week, which economist and former PNG treasury official Paul Flanagan said would be "very, very tough".

Mr Flanagan told Pacific Beat that falling commodity prices, drought and pressures such as exchange rate controls have slashed revenue predictions.

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