Papua New Guinea said efforts are being made to close Australia’s immigration processing center on Manus Island following a meeting with Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Wednesday.
Papua New Guinea has asked Australia to make alternative arrangements for asylum seekers at the controversial Australian-run immigration processing center after PNG’s Supreme Court declared its existence unconstitutional in April.
“Both Papua New Guinea and Australia are in agreement that the centre is to be closed,” Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said in a statement following a meeting with Dutton in Port Moresby.
O’Neill did not indicate an exact time table but said “series of options are being canvassed and implemented.”
“It is important that this process is not rushed but carried out in a careful manner,” O’Neill said.
Though the number of refugees trying to reach Australian shores pales in comparison to those that attempted to enter Europe, the authorities controversially ship asylum seekers to two Australian offshore immigration processing centers on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and the island nation of Nauru.
The policy, adopted in 2013, is designed to stop the flow of asylum seekers using people smuggling operations to reach Australia by boat following a spate of tragic deaths at sea.
O’Neill has become less enthusiastic to host the controversial Manus Island processing center over the past years, claiming his country’s reputation has suffered as a result and that the struggling nation could ill-afford the cost of refugee resettlement.
“I look forward to further updates as the process of closing the centre moves forward,” O’Neill said.
A spokesperson for Dutton did not immediately respond to Xinhua’s questions on where the detainees would be transferred.
The news comes as the United Nations continues to urge Australia to expeditiously end the model of refugee processing following the leak of over 2,000 incident reports alleging wide spread abuse at Australia‘s Nauru facility.
“It is not clear to what extent the alleged incidents were properly investigated either by the companies contracted by Australia to run the regional processing centre or by the Nauru police force,” spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, told Xinhua in a statement.
“We have urged (Australia and Nauru) to promptly put in place measures to prevent the kinds of incidents revealed in the reports from occurring and to ensure that the physical and mental integrity of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers is protected.”
A joint investigation by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International released earlier in August alleged the failure to address systemic abuse was a deliberate policy to deter asylum seekers from arriving in Australia.
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