PNG to Shut Manus Island Camp for Asylum Seekers

PNG to Shut Manus Island Camp for Asylum SeekersPNG to Shut Manus Island Camp for Asylum Seekers

Papua New Guinea is to close a detention center used by Australia for asylum seekers, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has announced. 

His statement followed a Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday that detaining people in such a camp was unconstitutional.

Australia sends asylum seekers to the Manus Island detention center under its offshore processing policy. Earlier on Wednesday, Australia’s Premier Malcolm Turnbull said the asylum seekers were the responsibility of Papua New Guinea, BBC reported.

“Naturally we are working; we’ll work with them, support them,” Turnbull said, “but it’s a matter that we’ve got to go through the judgment, got to go through the implications, what the options are for the PNG government.

“So, I can’t provide a definitive roadmap from here right today,” he added.

Currently, about 850 men are held on the island, about half of whom have been judged genuine refugees.

 ‘Out of Step’

O’Neill said that, following the ruling, “Papua New Guinea will immediately ask the Australian government to make alternative arrangements for the asylum-seekers currently held at the Regional Processing Center”.

He said that those “deemed legitimate refugees” would be invited to live in Papua New Guinea “if they want to be part of our society and make a contribution to our community”.

“It is clear,” he added, “that several of these refugees do not want to settle in Papua New Guinea.”

O’Neill’s announcement leaves Australia with a headache: What to do with the asylum seekers, says the BBC’s Jon Donnison in Sydney.

One option is for Australia to shift them to its offshore detention centers in Nauru and on Christmas Island, he adds.

Following the Supreme Court ruling, Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton made it clear that the asylum-seekers would not be allowed to come to Australia.

President of the Australian Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs said the court decision showed Australia’s immigration policies were “increasingly out of step with international norms”.

 Illegal Detention 

Five judges on Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court’s bench ruled that the Manus Island camp breached section 42 of the constitution, which guarantees personal liberty.

The court said “all steps” should be taken to end the “illegal” detention. Papua New Guinea’s Constitution guarantees personal liberty for all people, except in defined circumstances relating to crime, illegal immigration and quarantine.

In 2014, Papua New Guinea’s government amended section 42 of the constitution to add a paragraph that allowed for “holding a foreign national under arrangements made by Papua New Guinea with another country”.

But the Supreme Court ruled this amendment was unconstitutional, as it did not meet a requirement to respect “the rights and dignity of mankind”.