Contempt charges mooted against PNG government

5:21 pm on 10 October 2016

A lawyer representing detainees on Manus Island says he may file contempt of court proceedings against the Papua New Guinea government.

Protestors call for an end to Australia's offshore detention camps at a protest outside Parliament in Wellington 25 August 2016

Protestors call for an end to Australia's offshore detention camps at a protest outside Parliament in Wellington 25 August 2016 Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

The lawyer, Ben Lomai, said the Government has failed to enforce the PNG Supreme Court's ruling in April that the detention of asylum seekers was unconstitutional.

Recently, the government has suggested it may close one of the island's detention facilities and keep another open.

Mr Lomai said his contempt proceedings could target the Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato, the Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and the Chief Immigration Officer, Mataio Rabura.

"All the detention centres should be closed, whether it's in Lobrum or in East Lorengau or even in any other part of Manus or for that matter any other areas in Papua New Guinea. With respect to Rimbink Pato, he has misconstrued the judgement and that's why I am contemplating filing contempt proceedings against him and the Chief Migration Officer and the Prime Minister."

Mr Lomai, who represents more than 300 of about a thousand detainees on Manus, says the transit centre in East Lorengau town can only house about 300 people.

"It could be less than 300 or if not 250. It's a very tight facility and also the landmass is very small in terms of the flexibility for the asylum seekers to move around. And it's another place where even if it's open, it still amounts to detention in itself."

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