THE Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea says the Manus Regional Processing Centre will now be closed.
PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced the closure this afternoon after Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island was ruled as illegal by a Papua New Guinea Supreme Court.
In a statement, Mr O’Neill said that his government “will immediately ask the Australian Government to make alternative arrangements for the asylum seekers”.
The Manus Island detention centre will be closed.
The court ruled the detention breached the right to personal liberty in the PNG constitution.
The Supreme Court’s ruling means refugees and asylum-seekers are being illegally detained on Manus Island.
The decision handed down late yesterday means the Manus Island detention centre must be shut down, according to Loani Henao, counsel for the PNG opposition leader.
“It effectively means both governments must take steps to effectively shut down the Manus Island detention centre,” he told Sky News.
PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill is asking the Turnbull Government to “make alternative arrangements for the asylum seekers”. Picture: Ray Strange.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed legal avenues were being considered.
“We were not a party to the litigation as you know but this is something that’s under consideration,” he said.
“We’re getting briefed on it and I’ll meet with the Immigration Minister later to go through it.”
Today, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the PNG government was seeking legal advice before deciding how to proceed.
He told the ABC responsibility for the regional processing centre on Manus Island lay with PNG, saying the Supreme Court decision bound the PNG government, not the Australian government.
“We want to see people off Manus and off Nauru but they won’t be coming to Australia,” he said.
“And the government has been very clear and consistent in that message because we know people smugglers right now are trying to put ventures together and if they think the door to Australia has reopened then we will be in strife again and we are not going to allow that dysfunction to re-occur.”
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in Parliament House. Picture: Kym Smith
“We will work with PNG to provide what support is needed to them to help people return to their country of origin or to a third country otherwise. But we have been very clear again today that these people will not be coming to Australia.”
Minister Dutton said discussions with the PNG government were continuing.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the government wouldn’t allow people smugglers who don’t care whether people live or die to “usurp the role of government” by deciding who could enter Australia.
“I understand that some people find it abhorrent, but the reality of the policy is this,” he said.
“We have stopped people drowning at sea. Who is going to stand up, why don’t people talk about the women, the children, the people, men, who have drowned? Why don’t they get a voice in this?
“We have come up with a policy that has stopped that. It’s working.
“Let’s not go back and reinvest in a policy that sends people to their deaths at sea. It’s just wrong.”
Treasurer Scott Morrison said: “No-one on Manus Island is coming to Australia. Full stop. End of section.”
Defence Minister Marise Payne said whether the 850 people on Manus Island would be allowed to come to Australia should they be found to be refugees was a “matter for the (Immigration) Minister and the government”.
But she told Sunrise further legal action was a possibility.
“There may be (legal proceedings) if that’s part of the process,” she said.
“As I said, the government will take advice from the Minister for Immigration, the Attorney General and we will look at our options.”
Yesterday former immigration minister Scott Morrison said the case of an Iranian asylum seeker who died after developing a leg infection while in detention on the island was upsetting.
Doctors have labelled a bureaucratic delay to transfer Hamid Khazaei from Manus Island as pathetic, after he suffered three heart attacks before he was finally evacuated to Brisbane’s Mater Hospital where he later died in 2014.
“It was a very upsetting case at the time. There are a lot of factors there and I’ll let the coroner do their job,” Mr Morrison told ABC radio.