10/06/2021, 15.35
PAPUA NEW GUINEA – AUSTRALIA
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Canberra ends Manus affair without taking any migrants

The agreement signed with Port Moresby ends the Regional Resettlement Arrangement by 31 December 2021 whereby asylum seekers were moved to the PNG. However, Australia’s borders remain closed for about 100 people languishing in Papua New Guinea for up to eight years. Any new refugees will be moved to the island of Nauru.

Port Moresby (AsiaNews) – The governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea have agreed to end by 31 December 2021 the Regional Resettlement Arrangement (RRA), a 2013 agreement whereby asylum seekers trying to reach Australia by sea were "diverted" to special camps in Manus, an island in Papua New Guinea in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Australia will no longer send migrants to Papua New Guinea, but neither will it open its doors to the approximately 100 asylum seekers (mostly Asians, including some Afghans) still held in the neighbouring country for up to eight years.

According to the new agreement, if the refugees want, they can settle in Papua New Guinea as permanent migrants, be welcomed in a third country, or move to Nauru.

In fact, the RRA remains in place with Nauru allowing Australia to implement its zero-migrant policy.

According to the joint Australia-Papua New Guinea communiqué, “Australia’s strong border protection policies – including regional processing – have not changed. Anyone who attempts to enter Australia illegally by boat will be returned, or sent to Nauru.”

The new agreement has left the Catholic Church of Papua New Guinea and other groups opposed to Australia’s inhumane system with a bitter taste.

In a statement released last July to mark the RRA’s anniversary, the Refugee Council of Australia reported that more than 200 of the 3,127 asylum seekers blocked at sea are still stuck in Port Moresby (after the holding centre on Manus Island was closed) and on the island of Nauru, many of them for up to eight years.

A lasting solution was found for only a thousand people, almost all resettled in the United States.  More than 750 were repatriated to their countries of origin, either voluntarily or by force. Finally, at least 14 people died, including one killed by guards and six from suicide.

The Catholic bishops of Papua New Guinea in July appealed to the Australian parliament to accept at least “those who have been detained in Manus and Nauru at any stage after 19 July 2013 and have no way, now and in the future, to be resettled to a third country.”

“Under the current legislation, they have no right to be resettled in Australia. But they have no duty to live in Papua New Guinea either, unless that is their free choice.

“Australia forcing them to stay indefinitely on PNG soil against the wish of anybody here, contradicts the spirit of PNG self-determination.

“We believe it is time for Australia to erase any trace of past colonial demand and fully implement a new style of compassionate and participative leadership in the Pacific.”

The agreement signed by Australia and Papua New Guinea proves that the bishops’ appeal fell on deaf ears.

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