Foreign minister denies talks for new asylum centre are underway
FOREIGN Minister Rimbink Pato has denied newspaper reports that Papua New Guinea is in negotiations over a second Australian facility to process asylum seekers.
One media outlet reported on Thursday that talks were under way for a second facility near Port Moresby’s airport.
Mr Pato said the report is inaccurate and PNG’s priority is to construct a permanent facility on Manus Island.
“At this point no particular site has been discussed or chosen,” Mr Pato said.
“We’re looking to speed up the process of construction of the Manus regional processing centre.”
Mr Pato said a permanent processing facility on Manus Island would have to be completed before talk of a second facility can begin.
“We don’t want to run away from our international obligations,” he said. “Our focus at this point in time is the regional asylum processing centre on Manus Island.”
He said a joint effort to process asylum seekers on Manus Island by Australian advisers and Papua New Guineans on the facility were under way.
“Our Cabinet has approved a legal structure within which the processing will occur to determine the question of whether or not one is entitled to refugee status, so that the issue of resettlement in a third country can take place,” he said.
He said there was also an appeals process in place as part of the processing. “The legislative process requires if anyone is dissatisfied as to the determination of any of the issues or the considerations that must be looked at then the process review requires that I will obviously reconsider the matter,” he said.
Mr Pato said there were currently up to 200 asylum seekers at the processing facilities and he was open to taking on more in the future.
“Once the permanent facility is developed then we can look at the expansion of the number of asylum seekers who’ll be there for processing under our legal system,” he said.
“We are always there ready and willing and able to assist our good friend – the government and the people of Australia.”