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Refugee test case adjourned

Tuesday 26 July 2016 | Published in Regional


PAPUA NEW GUINEA – A court case involving five refugees at the Australian-run detention centre on Manus Island has been adjourned until next week.

Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court was yesterday expected to issue guidelines for the release and resettlement of the detainees.

However, the case has been adjourned until August 2 to allow time for government lawyers to examine the refugees’ statements that were submitted in court.

Ben Lomai, the lawyer representing the refugees, said the case was based on a Supreme Court ruling in April that found the Manus facility was unlawful and unconstitutional.

All five refugees are hoping their legal arguments will allow them to resettle in Australia.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has previously said that April’s ruling would not alter Australia’s border policies.

Lomai said if the refugees were not allowed into Australia, the governments of Australia and PNG would still owe them compensation.

“They should be given their travel documents and then given their compensation, so they can move on to a third country of their choice so they can seek resettlement there,” he told the ABC’s Pacific Beat current affairs programme.

Lomai said Australia may need to reconsider its position.

“The court has the power under Section 57 of the constitution that even a party that is not part of the proceedings, the court can still make an order against it,” Lomai said.

Australia says the court case is an issue for the PNG government.

In May Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said PNG must resettle men found to be refugees, citing the memorandum of understanding entered into by the former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd with the PNG Government “and our expectation is that that MOU will be honoured”.

“Those people that have been found to be refugees under the MOU signed between Mr Rudd and the PM in PNG – the arrangement was for those refugees to be settled in PNG,” Dutton said.

Lawyer Lomai said: “Australia is literally in charge of the offshore processing here in PNG, so we say they are equally responsible in respect to the management and control of the processing on Manus Island.

“They should be able to stand up and take responsibility, especially in this case where we’re looking at an option to resettle the refugees.”

There are almost 900 men in the detention centre on Manus Island, about half of whom have been found to be refugees.

The centre operators and PNG’s immigration authorities have moved refugees out of detention and into a transit centre near the main town of Lorengau.