21 Nov 2012

Australia expands asylum seeker processing to PNG

6:28 pm on 21 November 2012

The Australian government has sent the first of a possible 400 asylum seekers to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

And it has dismissed concerns raised by Amnesty International after specialists from the watchdog group toured the camp on Nauru.

Don Wiseman has more:

"The first 19 people sent to Manus from Christmas Island as part of Canberra's plan to deter boat people seeking refugee status consist of 7 Sri Lankan and Iranian families and include 4 children. The Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says the camp will be overseen by both the Australian and PNG governments, with welfare services from the Salvation Army, health by International Health and Medical Services, and security from British security firm G4S. Local Manus Island residents have also been employed at the camp while Save the Children would provide services such as child protection and education activities. Mr Bowen says an advisory committee to play an oversight role for the Nauru detention camp will be set up. He says preliminary interviews for the processing of refugee claims are likely to begin early next year while a contract for the building of permanent facilities at Nauru has now been signed. Amnesty has called the Nauru camp completely unacceptable but Mr Bowen dismisses this. He says the government had an over-riding moral and humanitarian obligation to stop people drowning at sea and that means difficult decisions must be taken."