Papua New Guinea to take Australia's unwanted refugees

Australia in negotiation with Papua New Guinea to send refugees for settlement

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Australia is reportedly in negotiation with the Papua New Guinea /PNG) to send unwanted refugees as it welcomed on Friday a pledge by PNG to begin resettling refugees from an Australian immigration detention center, despite questions about how their safety would be guaranteed in one of the region's most dangerous countries.

The refugee issue is one of the most important topics in Australian politics and successive governments have vowed to stop them reaching the mainland.

According to an UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) survey conducted in 2014, just 3 percent of the total asylum claims was made in Australia.

Australia has struggled to find a permanent solution to settling those seeking refuge. In recent years, Australia had made multi-million dollar deals with Philippines and Cambodia for resettlement of refugees despite strong criticisms.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton praised PNG for the decision to begin moving those found to be genuine refugees into the community. PNG has not resettled anyone in the three years it has hosted the center.

"The PNG Government has shown with this announcement its commitment to permit those found to be refugees to get on with their lives and have a fresh start in this dynamic nation with a growing economy," Dutton said in a statement.

Papua New Guinea struggles with endemic violence and poverty. It is unclear where the refugees would be resettled in PNG and what support they would receive after they were moved into the community.

According to estimates, In the Nauru, another country which Australia has an agreement to resettle refugees, there are about 680 refugees sent by Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is under growing pressure to address country's hardline policies after reports of systemic child abuse and sexual assault on Nauru and criticism by the United Nations and human rights groups.

On Thursday, police in Nauru raided the offices of aid group Save the Children for a second time, the latest in a series of incidents involving the detention center there.

Refugee rights and human rights organizations do not want the transfer of refugees to PNG or Cambodia.

NGO's have been organising protests across Australia to protest the government's refugee policy since last year.

Australia's highest court is considering whether the policy of sending refugees there is in breach of the constitution.

TRTWorld and agencies