Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Manus management 'needs improvement': PNG

  Source: Rhiannon Elston, SBS

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O'Neill, has responded to allegations of abuse on Manus Island by saying management at the Australian-funded facility needs improvement.
Yesterday, SBS's Dateline program broke allegations of rape, abuse and serial self-harm among asylum seekers on PNG's Manus Island.
"We've got our Immigration Department that is working very closely with their Australian counterparts in managing the processing centre and of course we do get regular briefs from our own people," Mr O'Neill told PNG radio program FM 100 this morning.
He added that the construction of a permanent facility would help improve conditions.
"The ongoing issue is you've got people from different areas living together," he said. "Our aim is to try and build a permanent facility that is going to reduce those kind of opportunities.
"There are some issues about management of the refugee processing centre, and I think as governments we need to manage that better.
"Some of the contractors who are managing the facility are not doing the job that they are paid to do," he said.
The PNG PM also highlighted the financial benefits of the new asylum seeker deal for his country, which will see all asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat sent to Manus Island for processing and settlement.
"With the recent deal we have done with the Australian government, we are rebuilding the University of Papua New Guinea and also the University of Technology," he said. 
He also discussed a plan for Australian police forces to fly to Port Moresby to help train graduate police officers in a bid to reduce corruption.
"We are discussing this matter with the Australian government to train police forces," he said. "Fifty policemen will be here before Christmas under the agreement we have just reached."
Mr O'Neill said his nation would "set the priorities" on how aid money from Australia would be spent. "The PNG government knows the priorities we have, but sometimes we do not have the money to do it ourselves."
He added that he didn't believe many asylum seekers would choose to stay in Papua New Guinea in the longer term.
"This is a very Christian thing to do," he said. "We are just fearful because [many asylum seekers] are Muslims or coming from places we don't know."
"Most of them, we know they are not genuine refugees, that means they will be flown back to their country of origin, and if they do not want to go there they will be taken to a third country," he said.
"I don't think the numbers people think will come and flood our country will be as big as people think," he added.
"In fact, I am very certain this will not be the case."
Meanwhile, the director of the only hospital on Manus Island disputed claims of rape and self-harm at the asylum seeker facility, saying he had not seen or heard of any evidence to suggest they took place.
Immigration Minister Tony Burke says he's taking the whistleblower's accusations seriously, and will travel to Manus Island this week to investigate the claims.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott told press this morning the government should have known about the alleged problems earlier.
"They have to be investigated and if people have done the wrong thing, well they ought to be punished," he said.
"I should point out that Scott Morrison has been warning the government for months that there were serious risks of bullying and abuse and violence in detention centres both here and overseas. I'm disappointed that the government has made light of Scott Morrison's warnings."

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