No third country option for Manus refugees

Manus Island centre.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says he will only help refugees on Manus Island return to their home country or set up new lives in Papua New Guinea.

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

That's the message from 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's adamant the regional offshore processing deal struck under the previous Labor government to settle all refugees in that nation 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," Mr Dutton told ABC radio on Thursday.

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," Mr 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 up-front and honest with the Australian people about their intentions," opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann said.

Mr 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."

Mr 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 on Thursday.

Asked to confirm the report, Mr 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.


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