Thursday, November 13, 2014

Papua New Guinea moves to allay asylum seeker safety concerns ahead of Manus Island releases

By Liam Cochrane

Papua New Guinea's immigration minister says refugees released on temporary visas will be safe on Manus Island, despite fears of further attacks after deadly riots in February.
The comments came as he announced the first 10 positive refugee determinations for those detained on Manus Island.
"They will have temporary visas for an initial period of 12 months called the refugee visa," immigration and foreign minister Rimbink Pato said.
"[This visa] will entitle them to move about Lorengau town and generally be absorbed in activities in the community," he said.
Mr Pato was in Sydney to meet with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.
In the past, asylum seekers have expressed fears of further attacks, after local police, centre staff and residents entered the detention centre in February, beating 24-year-old Reza Barati to death and injuring dozens of others.
Since the attacks, police have arrested two Papua New Guinean men and charged them with murder.
"Their relatives will kill us, piece of cake for them," one asylum seeker told the ABC from the Manus Island detention centre.
"There's no guarantee for our safety here."
PNG's immigration minister declined to guarantee the safety of refugees released into the community on Manus Island but said security would not be an issue.
"We have moved swiftly ... to address the breach of the law by having those concerned arrested and dealt with and the matter is pending in the courts," Mr Pato said.
"One of the reasons for the violence that occurred was the fact that there was no movement on the determination of the resettlement of refugees process, [and] information is now available and therefore there is an element of excitement."
Refugees to receive cultural, language and job assistance
The accommodation facilities for refugees on Manus Island are located at East Lorengau, on the outskirts of the island's main town.
The purpose-built centre cost Australia $137 million and can accommodate approximately 290 people.
While at East Lorengau, refugees will be offered lessons in English, Tok Pisin [language], and local culture. They will be assisted to find work elsewhere in Papua New Guinea.
Mr Pato said the centre would be entirely run by PNG officials.
"We have the resources, the police are empowered, the local staff are empowered and the facility is well secured and manned," he said.
The latest available statistics from the Australian Government showed 1,056 people were detained on Manus Island.
At that time, 104 Refugee Status Interim Determination assessments had been completed with 56 found to be positive and 48 negative.
The PNG government said they expect to make a further 10 refugee determinations each week.
However, a policy to guide the permanent resettlement of refugees is yet to be approved by the country's cabinet-like National Executive Council.

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