Manus refugees urge PNG to keep pressure on Australia to set closure deadline

Refugees on Manus Island want a definite timetable for the closure of immigration detention facilities.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his PNG counterpart James Marape discussed the future of Manus Island in Canberra on Monday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his PNG counterpart James Marape discussed the future of Manus Island in Canberra on Monday. Source: AAP

Refugees on Manus Island have urged Papua New Guinea to step up the pressure on Australia to close the island's immigration detention facilities.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape pushed his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison to act on the issue during a meeting in Canberra on Monday morning.

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While no deadline has been set for the closure of immigration detention facilities on Manus Island as Mr Marape has demanded, the two countries have agreed to develop a timetable to achieve it.

"We will ensure that we have a mutually workable timetable and closure program that is healthy for all of us – but more importantly, healthy for those people who have been part of us in Manus and PNG," Mr Marape said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister James Marape at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, July 22, 2019. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister James Marape at Parliament House in Canberra. Source: AAP


Manus Island refugee Behrouz Boochani said it was crucial PNG work with Australia to resettle about 350 men who have been on the island for up to six years.

“What is important is that the people in PNG and the authorities clearly send this message and ask the Australian government to solve this problem,” he told SBS News.

He said the only solution was to allow them to be resettled in other countries.

Governor of Manus Province Charlie Benjamin, who was also in Canberra for the meeting, stepped up pressure on Australia to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle up to 150 refugees from Manus and Nauru.

Governor of Manus Province in Charlie Benjamin wants Australia to accept the New Zealand deal.
Governor of Manus Province in Charlie Benjamin wants Australia to accept the New Zealand deal. Source: AAP


“My view is for them to go to a country as soon as possible. This journey has to come to an end, I think Australia really has to step up and take this idea,” Mr Benjamin said.

Mr Marape said PNG would prefer to work with Australia rather than approach New Zealand to do a deal directly.

“Not yet New Zealand, but we are working with this. This is a matter between Australia and PNG so we both must agree on what is the timetable going forward.”



In a joint press conference with Mr Marape, Mr Morrison stressed the progress already made in reducing the number of people left on Manus Island from the peak of 1,353 under Labor, including the resettlement of about 260 in the United States.

“We have made extraordinary progress," he said. 

He denied that the camp where refugees and asylum seekers are housed was a detention centre.

“I think it's important that Australians are no longer told that somehow there is a detention centre that's operating on Manus Island.”

Greens Senator Nick McKim, who has just returned from a trip to PNG to try to visit the immigration detention facilities, accused the Prime Minister of lying.

Nick McKim and Behrouz Boochani on Manus Island.
Greens Senator Nick McKim met Behrouz Boochani on Manus Island last week. Source: Supplied


“That would be the place with barbed wire on the fence, that'd be the place with guards at the gate preventing me from going in, that'd be the place that locks its gates at 6pm every day and detains every single person in it until 6am the following morning.”

Pacific analyst Tess Newton Cain said the agreement to develop a timetable to close the facilities on Manus Island indicated Mr Morrison was listening to PNG’s demands.

“It sounds to me that Mr Marape's been quite assertive in saying that he wants this brought to an end and that he wants a timetable.”

She said the commitment would give Mr Marape something to take home.

"There's a growing sense in Papua New Guinea that being involved in this - in the regional processing centre - is not something that is benefitting Papua New Guinea very significantly.

“It doesn't have a very significant economic affect, unlike the case on Nauru, and it certainly has some quite damaging effects on Papua New Guinea's international reputation.”


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4 min read
Published 22 July 2019 at 5:38pm
By Brett Mason, Rosemary Bolger