19 Jun 2006

PNG confirms it will take Papuan asylum seekers detained by Australia

8:11 pm on 19 June 2006

Papua new Guinea's Foreign Minister has confirmed his country will be taking back three Papuan asylum seekers who were detained by Australian authorities on a Torres Strait Island since May.

The three Papuans had arrived from PNG by boat, seeking asylum from Indonesia in Australia, however Australian authorities announced their intention to send the Papuans to PNG without dealing with their claims.

But the PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare last week cast doubt on the arrangement by hinting that he may not allow PNG's Manus Island to used again as a detention centre.

However Sir Rabbie Namaliu says Sir Michael's comments were in relation to a proposal by Australia to have the Papuans accomodated in PNG communities.

Sir Rabbie says that is something PNG is not currently in a position to do

"We have an agreement with Australia on Papuans who have lived in Papaua New Guinea for at least seven days. If they've done so, then we have an obligation to take them back. And in this case, they were here for quite some time - more than seven days - so, we're taking them back for that condition."

Sir Rabbie says Manus can still be used for processing people seeking asylum in Australia, as long as they are not from Papua.