By Tokana Hasavi Jr – EM TV, Port Moresby
Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, yesterday pushed aside recent censure of plans between Australia and Papua New Guinea, to resettle refugees in PNG.
Minister Bishop, who is in Port Moresby on an official three day visit, responded to Human Rights Commission President, Gillian Triggs, who this week said PNG lacked the capacity to accommodate the needs of asylum seekers.
“I don’t accept that. PNG is aware of its obligations to resettle refugees and together with Australia; we will ensure that those who are resettled here have the resources and opportunities that they need,” Bishop said.
Gillian Triggs also raised concerns about the resettlement of gay refugees in a country where homosexuality is illegal – punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Minister Bishop referred to the issue as “cultural sensitivities.”
“Well clearly the cultural sensitivities will be taken into account. There will be instances where the PNG Government will be looking to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees for assistance in resettling some people who are found to be refugees, but these applications are still being processed and these kind of sensitivities and issues will be taken into account on a case by case basis,” said Bishop.
Three weeks ago, a two page press release from the PNG Immigration Minister, Rimbink Pato, delineated the National Refugee Policy for PNG, which was endorsed by the National Executive Council. The policy also takes into account, refugees from Indonesia’s Papua Province of West Papua.
Essentially, the policy lays the foundation for the resettlement of asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea.
However, it failed to outline the exact amount of refugees that would be resettled, the location(s) of resettlement and the type of support resettled refugees would receive.
“Already Australian job providers are working with organizations in PNG to ensure there are job opportunities. PNG is a growing economy – there are many opportunities for people to work here; there is a booming private sector so we believe that is these resettled refugees are able to have job opportunities, or able to study, got to University here and gain qualifications, that would be a great outcome” said Minister Bishop.
The Australian government has spent $1.2 billion in the past year to run its offshore refugee processing and detention centres on Christmas Island, Naru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
Evidently, the Australian government is willing to spend more as it tried to negotiate a permanent refugee resettlement deal with the Philippines.
But negotiations failed when Philippines President, Benigno Aquino said his country did not have the capacity, or the resources to accommodate refugees, as it aims to deal with its own internal issues.