15 Mar 2017

PNG gets green light to deport 166 asylum seekers

7:51 pm on 15 March 2017

Papua New Guinea's government has the go-ahead to deport 166 asylum seekers at the Australian-run detention centre on Manus Island.

The Manus Island detention centre.

About 900 men have been held on Manus Island for more than three years. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

The men, who have had their applications for refugee status denied, are classed as "non-refugees".

Newspaper Post Courier reported the men have been fighting deportation.

It said they had filed an interlocutory application to restrain the government from deporting them, until the end of another case involving a larger group of refugees, non-refugees and asylum seekers seeking damages for breaches of constitutional rights.

The Waigani Supreme Court on Monday ruled against the application, effectively giving the government and Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato permission to deport them.

The ruling said the applicants could still pursue the substantive application from outside PNG.

During the proceedings, Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia summarised the ruling on 26 April 2016 in which the five-person Supreme Court found the detention of transferees held at the Manus Island Refugee Processing Centre to be unconstitutional and illegal.

The centre was closed down and they were accommodated at the nearby Lombrum navy base.

The Manus Island detention centre.

The detention centre is run by Australia. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

Sir Salamo said, as of 6 March, there were 888 transferees on Manus Island.

Of these, he said 614 had been determined to be "refugees"; another 205, including the 166 who applied for a restraint on deportation, were "non-refugees"; and 69 had been categorised as "asylum seekers" awaiting processing.

The chief justice said those determined to be non-refugees were liable for deportation to their home countries.

He said transferees determined to be genuine refugees would be given the option of returning to their own country or to reside in a third country including PNG and Australia.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs