PNG Has No Obligation to Keep Refugees : Kantha

By ISAAC NICHOLAS ( Post Courier )

Papua New Guinea will be pushing for a review of the current Refugee Resettlement Agreement (RRA) on the future of the remaining refugees on Manus Island.

Acting Chief Migration Officer Solomon Kantha said yesterday that PNG currently does not have an obligation to continue keeping the refugees on Manus Island.

“The key aspect in the revised agreement and PNG’s position is that we will put on the table, one is the clear understanding of responsibilities, obligations, what type of level of funding or other support that must be provided to PNG,” Mr Kantha said

“Another issue is a reasonable time-frame. Obviously individuals who are here are not going to remain forever in Manus. We will try to reduce their numbers as much as possible.”

Mr Kantha in an interview at Harbourside hotel in Lorengau said that going forward there are a lot of challenges as the Minister for Immigration and Border Security Petrus Thomas has highlighted, PNG has no obligation under the current arrangement to deal with new groups that have come out in terms of processing.

“Initial agreement is for us to accept the transfer of asylum seekers, process them and resettle them and only those willing to resettle in PNG will stay,” Kantha said

“Now we have two groups who do not want to resettle in PNG and those who do not have any legal basis to remain as refugees.

“This falls outside the current agreement and that is why Australia will continue to support the facility until we find a solution.”

He said the way forward will be what PNG Immigration and Australian Border Force decides in the next week.

Mr Kantha said himself and Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari had a meeting on Tuesday with the Australian High Commissioner and a representative of the Australian Border Force to “urgently” request a meeting to discuss a way forward in the interest of both Governments on how to deal with the people remaining on Manus.

“For PNG’s interest what we want to do is we want a clear way forward in terms of the future of refugees who do not have any basis for remaining in the country so they have to go,” he said.

“There is a handful of them that cannot return to their country because they cannot accept them so there is a need for Australia to support PNG to move them out.”

Kantha said many under this category are the biggest group of Iranians, Iraqis and Pakistanis who remain defiant at Lombrum and are not refugees.

“Way forward is to get an understanding on how we can deal with them, the sooner we reduce the number, it is better for us to manage and better in terms of local perception in terms of their security concerns both for refugees and locals,” he said.

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