PNG offers Manus Island asylum seekers voluntary relocation to Port Moresby

A refugee on Manus Island. Source: AAP

Questions remain after a notice from Papua New Guinea's immigration authority was reportedly posted on Manus Island, offering the remaining asylum seekers the option to relocate to the capital city.

The remaining asylum seekers on Manus Island have been offered the chance to voluntarily relocate to Port Moresby, according to a notice posted on the island by Papua New Guinea's Immigration and Citizenship Authority (ICA). 

If accepted, the notice claims the men will "continue to receive services like those currently available to them", be provided with residential accommodation, health services, vocational training and employment support.

"Relocation to Port Moresby is not permanent settlement in PNG. ICA continues to encourage refugees to consider settling in PNG," the notice, on a ICA letter head, reads.

"Refugees are not subject to immigration detention and will not be detained by ICA."

The notice posted on Manus Island.
The notice posted on Manus Island.

Refugee coordinator at Amnesty International Australia, Dr Graham Thom, said the announcement was "great news".

"The PNG government are ultimately doing the right thing in welcoming these people into their community and giving them freedom from detention while a solution is found," Dr Thom said in a statement on Monday.

"It is vital that there is a long-term plan for these refugees and that their rights are protected."

Amnesty International Australia told SBS News they understand many of the men on Manus are considering accepting the offer of relocation.

Kurdish journalist and asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani said the move meant the Manus Island asylum seeker centre would be closed, but there is yet to be an official statement on the future of the camp.

"The government has officially asked 120 men on Manus to transfer to Port Moresby. It means they will close Manus prison camp and continue this political game in PNG’s capital city," he posted on Twitter.

Dr Thom said the Australian government could not "wash their hands of responsibility for them [the asylum seekers] once they have relocated".

"They put them on Manus, and they are responsible for ensuring they are suitably resettled, including bringing them to Australia where appropriate," he said.

"Greater clarity about their legal status and how it might affect their ability to settle elsewhere if they choose to transfer is also needed. Some of these men have family in Australia or elsewhere and will wish to join them."

Earlier this month, dozens of men whose asylum seeker claims had been rejected were transferred from Manus Island to a new Australian-funded immigration centre in Port Moresby.

Australian taxpayers paid $20 million for the construction of the new Bomana immigration centre, designed to house non-refugees ahead of deportation.

In July, the Department of Home Affairs told SBS News that 457 asylum seekers remain in Papua New Guinea, 117 of which, they said, had been found not to be refugees.

In a statement, the Department of Home Affairs told SBS "the PNG Government is acting under its own domestic legislation and within its sovereign right."

"The Australian Government is aware that the Papua New Guinea Immigration and Citizenship Authority has offered the regional processing cohort on Manus Island the opportunity to transfer to Port Moresby," the statement said.

"The Australian Government supports PNG's efforts to resolve the regional processing caseload through this genuine offer."

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