PNG urged to discuss Manus Island refugees with NZ govt

Papua New Guinea (PNG) should discuss resettling Manus Island refugees in New Zealand, says the Catholic Church in PNG.

The general secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG, Giorgio Licini, wrote to PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape in January about this.

In the letter Licini reminded Marape of New Zealand’s long standing offer to resettle 150 refugees each year from Australian offshore detention in PNG and Nauru.

New Zealand’s offer was first extended to Australia in 2013 by former prime minister John Key. The offer has been restated by Jacinda Ardern’s government.

The Australian government has refused to take up the offer.

It says it would encourage more people smuggling by boat and that it would create a back door for the refugees to enter Australia.

Giorgio suggested Marape should “not hesitate to discuss this option with the prime minister and the government of New Zealand”.

It would give “psychological relief to individuals now almost totally exhausted after seven years of uncertainty and restricted freedom of movement”, Giorgio said.

There are about 200 refugees left in PNG.

One hundred of the refugees are unlikely to be accepted for resettlement in the United States, Father Giorgio said.

A similar number remains on Nauru.

In July 2013, the Australian government ruled that no refugees being detained offshore would be resettled in Australia.

Since then, the Australian government has locked up 3127 people without trial in Nauru and on Manus Island.

The office of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court last week described Australia’s detention of refugees in PNG and Nauru as cruel, inhuman, degrading and illegal under international law.


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