MANUS ISLAND DEADLOCK
Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has said the Australian Government would not change its stance on accepting Manus Island refugees.
Yesterday, he continued to urge asylum seekers who have barricaded themselves into the closed Manus Island detention centre to move to alternative accommodation, despite concerns around safety and infrastructure.
More than a week since the compound was shut down, about 400 men remain inside the centre.
The men are adamant it is safer to stay than risk being attacked by locals at new accommodation sites near the main town of Lorengau.
Movement with a resettlement deal between Australia and the United States appears to have stalled, but Mr Dutton said there was no pushback from the US.
The Federal Government also said no to an offer from New Zealand to resettle the refugees.
‘‘We will continue to work through those cases with them and we’ve said as a priority I want women and children off Nauru, there are no women or children on Manus,’’ Mr Dutton said.
‘‘In relation to New Zealand ... we have a special relationship, and that is that if you’re a NZ citizen there’s essentially an automatic insurance of a 444 visa and you can come to Australia. It’s very clear that people see NZ as a stepping stone to get to Australia.’’
At the time of going to print, Papua New Guinean officials were on the verge of forcibly removing those still inside the camp.
Workers started removing the high security fences around the centre yesterday and PNG immigration authorities warned the safety of the men was not guaranteed.
Mr Dutton dismissed claims by the United Nations alternative accommodation for refugees on the island was not ready.
He said Australia had funded a secure, resource-rich facility and the government was not going to be leveraged into changing its position.
‘‘We’ve been very clear these people will not settle ever in Australia,’’ he said.
‘‘We want the arrangements at East Lorengau now to lock into place, we want people to move out of the regional processing centre and we want to be in a position to close that centre as quickly as possible,’’ the minister said.