PNG Government Given Approval To Deport 166 Asylum Seekers

Supreme Court decision does not impact ongoing separate suit for damages relating to breech of constitutional rights

By Daisy Pakawa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 15, 2017) – The Waigani Supreme Court yesterday gave the Government and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Rimbink Pato, the green light to deport 166 non-refugees.

Last November, Behrouz Boochani and 730 other refugees, non-refuges and asylum seekers who were held at Manus Regional Processing Center (MIRPC) commenced proceedings in the Supreme Court seeking damages for the breach of their constitutional rights.

As the substantive application was heading towards trial, 166 non-refugees filed an interlocutory application to restrain the Government and Mr Pato from deporting them, until final determination of the case.

Yesterday, a bench comprising of Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, Deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika and Justice Derek Harthshorn refused that application.

Justice Harthshorn and Justice Salika agreed that the interlocutory application failed to provide relevant laws that gave the court jurisdiction to grant such orders. The two judges added that even if this was not so, the application would still be dismissed as there is a disconnection between it and the substantive application; the substantive application concerns their detention whereas the interlocutory application concerns their status as non- refugees, a point which was not addressed in the substantive application.

The two judges pointed out that the applicants could still pursue the substantive application even if they were not in PNG.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia agreed with the two judges.

According to the Chief Justice’s recount of events, on April 26 last year, a five men Supreme Court bench found the detention of transferees held at the MIRPC to be unconstitutional and illegal.

MIRPC was closed down and they were accommodated at the nearby PNGDF Navy base (Lombrum base).

"It is now eleven months since the full court’s decision.

‘‘The result is that of the 888 transferees population as at March 6, 2017, 614 have been determined to be genuine "refugees", 205 (including the 166 applicants) determined to be "non-refugees" and 69 categorised as "asylum seekers" are awaiting processing.

‘‘Those determined to be non-refugee have had their exception from entry requirements given to them when they first entered PNG, to be withdrawn, thus rendering their presence in PNG unlawful and liable to deportation back to their home country.

Those transferees who have been determined to be genuine refugees will be given the option of returning to their own country or secure a third country including PNG and Australia."

PNG Post-Courier
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