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‘Misbehaving’ asylum seekers penalised

Tuesday 3 February 2015 | Published in Regional


LORENGAU – Papua New Guinea has granted refugee status to a further 30 men on Manus Island but has also amended laws to allow asylum seekers to be jailed for “misbehaving”.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton flew to Port Moresby on Monday for talks with his PNG counterpart.

“The relationship between our two countries strengthens through our cooperation and our desire to do good things in our region,” Dutton said.

PNG immigration minister Rimbink Pato said a further 30 asylum seekers had been granted refugee status.

“Altogether there will be 80 asylum seekers who are on the way to being resettled in PNG once a policy on the resettlement has been finalised,” he said.

PNG has yet to form a resettlement policy, despite nine refugees leaving detention and moving to a transit facility elsewhere on Manus Island to wait for a job opportunity.

It is a country with no welfare system, poor health care and a crime problem, the ABC reports.

Pato said Australia would have to shoulder the financial burden of resettling refugees into “this challenging environment”.

While Australia has committed support, Dutton said it was a domestic matter for Papua New Guinea.

“We have a very competent partner in PNG in relation to this issue,” he said.

Pato said another 80 men have had their asylum claims rejected but will appeal.

“Two of them have not appealed, they have agreed to leave Papua New Guinea, but 80 of them have sought a review of the decision,” Pato said.

Asylum seekers detained during last month’s raid of a blockaded compound within the detention centre remain locked up at the Manus Island provincial jail and at the police cells.

“The police powers are wide and they can detain people in certain circumstances,” Pato said, without explaining what those circumstances were or how long asylum seekers could be detained.

He confirmed the asylum seekers in jail and police cells had not been charged.

“There’s no proper evidence that there’s a breach of any law in this case,” he said.

The ABC understands Pato amended the law late last year to allow asylum seekers to be sent to three more secure locations in special circumstances.

As well as the Manus Island jail and police cells, Bomana prison near Port Moresby can also be used.

Pato warned protest leaders that they risked ruining their asylum applications.

“Should an asylum seeker misbehave, then he will disenfranchise himself. In other words he will not be resettled.”

It was not clear if “misbehave” referred to criminal actions or perceptions of being a troublemaker within the Australian-run detention centre.