Australian Immigration Minister: No third option for asylum-seekers on Manus Island

Minister Peter Dutton has been working with the PNG Government to close the immigration detention centre on Manus Island.
Minister Peter Dutton has been working with the PNG Government to close the immigration detention centre on Manus Island.

The 854 asylum-seekers on Manus Island only have two choices: settle in Papua New Guinea or return home.

That's the message from Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who has been working with the PNG Government to close the immigration detention centre on the island following a court ruling.

But he also said the Government would try to stop any who chose to stay and got PNG passports from travelling to Australia.

Asked whether asylum seekers granted PNG passports would be able to travel to Australia, Dutton told 2GB radio that the Turnbull Government would seek Labor's support to change the law to prevent this.

Closing the detention centre would take years and cost billions of dollars, he said.

Earlier, he confessed less than 20 asylum seekers had been resettled on PNG.

Dutton told ABC radio that he's adamant the regional offshore processing deal struck under the previous Labor Government to settle all refugees in PNG still stands.

"There is no third-country option available for people out of Manus at this point in time. That's the reality that we deal with," he said.

However, he conceded that while hundreds of those sent to Manus Island had returned to their home countries, fewer than 20 had resettled in PNG communities.

He blamed refugee advocates in Australia for messaging refugees urging them to stay in the centre in the hope the federal Government would change its mind.

"The very people they're trying to help, unfortunately they're trapping them in a situation which is not desirable," Dutton said.

It was counter-productive for academics and people from the ABC and the Guardian to offer up free advice on how people should stay and not accept or take a different course of action.

Western Australia has offered to take asylum-seeker families now in Nauru should the federal Government change its position and allow them to resettle in Australia.

Liberal Premier Colin Barnett says so long as people don't pose a security or safety risk he would welcome them.

Catholic nuns across Australia are calling for an amnesty for Manus Island refugees, saying they should be brought to Australia "not to some other temporary or unsafe context".

Federal Labor is demanding the Government find third-party settlement options, and if refugees were to be settled in PNG, to detail which services such as education and housing they'd get.

"The Turnbull Government must be upfront and honest with the Australian people about their intentions," opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann said.

Dutton also accused the Guardian and the ABC of trivialising reports of abuse within the Nauru immigration detention centre.

"I take these issues very seriously and, like all Australians, I completely abhor all violence, particularly of a sexual nature, against any people, in particular women and children," he said.

"The trouble, frankly, with the approach of the Guardian and the ABC has been to trivialise the very serious issues by trying to promote the 2100 reports as somehow all of those being serious when they're not.

"Many of those reports relate to corporal punishment by children by their own parents. They report about some minor assaults by detainees on detainees."

Dutton, along with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis, received a dossier in May outlining ongoing harm to children on Nauru, the Guardian reported yesterday.

Asked to confirm the report, Dutton said: "We received correspondence from Save the Children that we do on a regular basis."

He accused the aid agency of leaking the reports and said it wasn't helpful to the Government's investigations that only redacted versions had been published.

- AAP, news.com.au

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 23 Feb 2017 13:50:15 Processing Time: 727ms