World Bulletin / News Desk
A detention center on a tiny Pacific island where Australia has been holding asylum seekers is set to close following talks between Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
O’Neill issued a statement Wednesday saying both governments had agreed to the closure of Australia’s offshore processing center on PNG’s tiny Manus Island.
Dutton met with O’Neill in Port Moresby on Wednesday to discuss shutting down the center after a PNG Supreme Court ruling in April deemed the detention of asylum seekers and refugees on the island “illegal”.
In his statement, O’Neill said a number of options for closing down the center were being considered and further announcements would be made soon, according to a report in NewsCorp.
“Both Papua New Guinea and Australia are in agreement that the centre is to be closed,” O’Neill reportedly said in his statement. He added he was satisfied that officials from both sides were making progress but it was important the process was not rushed.
Late Wednesday, Dutton issued a statement acknowledging the meeting but failing to reference O’Neill’s words or point to imminent closure.
“It has been the longstanding position of this Government to work with PNG to close Manus and support those people as they transition into PNG or return to their country of origin,” Dutton’s statement said.
“Our position, confirmed again today with PNG, is that no one from Manus Island Regional Processing Centre will ever be settled in Australia.”
Last year, a United Nations report condemned Australia's asylum seeker policies saying they may breach the international Convention Against Torture, which Australia has signed.
International outrage about Australia's asylum seeker immigration policy is growing in response to the leaking earlier this month of more than 2,000 incident reports of abuse of refugees on Nauru, another Pacific island hosting an Australian immigration detention center.
On Sunday, the foreign affairs spokesman of New Zealand’s opposition Labour Party, David Shearer, described Australia's handing of asylum seekers as “unsustainable” and abysmal, underlining that it is diminishing Australia’s reputation.
He accused Australia of losing its “moral compass” over offshore detention, suggesting New Zealand should step in to resettle asylum seekers and refugees and bring “to an end” the detaining of asylum seekers by Australia.
In Melbourne on Wednesday, activists carrying pro-refugee placards interrupted an address by Australia’s prime minister when a group of them suddenly stood up in the room and began chanting "Malcolm Turnbull, shame on you, shut down Manus and Nauru", Fairfax media reported.