Papua New Guinea (PNG) said on Wednesday that Australia’s detention center for refugees on its Manus Island will close, a day after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal and must stop.
"Respecting this ruling, Papua New Guinea will immediately ask the Australian government to make alternative arrangements for the asylum-seekers currently held at the Regional Processing Centre," Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said in a statement.
Australia ruled out accepting anyone of the over 800 asylum seekers on the island. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, insisting his country’s policy is valid, said that they should go back to their homeland or a third country.
“We will work with our PNG partners to address the issues raised by the Supreme Court of PNG," Dutton said in a statement after the announcement.
Canberra defends its refugee policy saying it prevents deaths of people at sea against strong criticisms by the UN and human rights groups.
O'Neill said that the asylum seekers could stay in PNG if they wanted. "For those that have been deemed to be legitimate refugees, we invite them to live in Papua New Guinea only if they want to be a part of our society and make a contribution to our community," he said.
"It is clear that several of these refugees do not want to settle in Papua New Guinea and that is their decision."
Lawyers of detainees say they should be resettled in Australia and paid compensation for being held in custody, -some almost for three years.
Canberra currently has an arrangement with Cambodia and PNG, to resettle those found to be refugees.
Australian media have reported that it is also trying to negotiate deals with Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Most of the detainees in Manus and Nauru are escaping violence in the Middle East, Afghanistan and South Asia.
Broadspectrum Ltd, which runs the detention centres on Manus and Nauru, declined to comment.