‘Confusion, no answer’ as Australia concludes offshore agreement on asylum seekers with PNG

Omar spent six years detained on Manus Island before being transferred to Port Moresby in 2019.

He traveled to Australia by boat in 2013 after fleeing Darfur in western Sudan during a time of mass bloodshed and genocide.

The genocide in Darfur against the ethnic Darfuri people began in 2003, after ethnic African rebels revolted against the Arab-dominated government of former President Omar al-Bashir.

A displaced Sudanese woman walks past a UNAMID vehicle in the Kalma camp for internally displaced people in Darfur's state capital Niyala on October 9, 2019.

Source: Getty

People in the region are still exposed to persistent violence, in which more than 150,000 people have been displaced, according to data from the International Organization for Migration.

But for Mr Omar, who has been robbed four times since 2019, PNG does not feel safe either.

“They hit me and took my phone four times. In 2020, they attacked me in my house,” he said.

“You walk the streets, people start talking about you. They start cursing at you … They see you’re different, you’re not from this place.”

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Omar said the benefit that asylum seekers receive each week – around $ 300 China (AUD $ 118.17) – is insufficient.

“This is not enough because some of the people are getting married and some of the people have a family … so they are finding it difficult,” Mr Omar said.

He said the company responsible for the food does not provide asylum seekers with cash to buy goods themselves.

Instead, asylum seekers should choose from the company’s list of foods, which he claims are more expensive than food in stores.

“This situation will get worse when the Australia-PNG agreement ends,” he said.

End of PNG agreement, but offshore treatment in Nauru continues

About 118 refugees and asylum seekers remain in Papua New Guinea as Australia’s treatment agreement with PNG expires.

The decision to terminate the agreement with PNG comes after the Australian-run jail on Manus Island was found illegal and ordered closed by PNG’s Supreme Court in 2016.

An archive image of asylum seekers standing behind a fence in the Oscar complex at the Manus Island Detention Center.

Source: AAP

As a result, Australia was forced to pay $ 70 million in compensation to the illegally detained.

In a statement to SBS News, a spokesman for the Department of Home Affairs said that “the full transition of arrangements to PNG’s independent management is a long-term common goal for PNG’s Prime Minister [James] Marape and Prime Minister [Scott] Morrison “.

The agreement, signed by both countries on 19 July 2013, approved regional treatment in PNG of persons attempting to travel to Australia by boat.

“From January 1, 2022, the PNG government will assume full and independent control of individuals under regional treatment schemes in PNG,” the spokesman said.

“PNG will provide a permanent migration route for those wishing to remain in PNG – including access to citizenship, long-term support, settlement packages and family reunification.

“PNG has always been responsible for events and individuals under them – this change removes Australian contracts and transfers service delivery to PNG’s independent management.”

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Picture for read more article 'Questions about whether Australia can relinquish responsibility for asylum seekers in PNG'

While offshore processing is set to end in PNG, it will continue in the island state of Nauru. In September, Australia signed a new agreement with Nauru to continue offshore treatment indefinitely.

The federal government claimed that before 31 December it would support anyone subject to regional treatment schemes in PNG who wish to transfer voluntarily to Nauru.

“The end of Australia’s regional treatment involvement in PNG does not signal a change in the Australian Government’s policy,” the spokesman said.

“There is zero chance of settlement in Australia for those who come by boat illegally.”

Standoffs in housing and ‘more questions than answers’

Despite promises from the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea, Ian Rintoul, spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, said when he first heard that the offshore treatment agreement with PNG was coming to an end, that he thought it was “too good to be true”. be true “.

“A very nice glossy brochure was produced on paper, which indicated that they would be moved to a new home and even get double the income,” Mr Rintoul told SBS News.

“There were promises of family reunification and the potential for citizenship in PNG.

“But as is so often the case, the rhetoric and the newspaper simply do not correspond to reality.”

Immigration Prison on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.  It closed in 2017 and prisoners were transferred to other centers in PNG.

Source: Department of Immigration and Border Protection

Sir. Rintoul said some asylum seekers have already had their benefits reduced and that there have been tense battles where some refuse to be transferred to the new residence.

“Most people oppose the transfer to the new home because of the problems … with the money supply, the supply of food [and] other services and the big issues for citizenship, ”he said.

“We have not been able to get coherent answers or any answers in some cases from the PNG Government or the Australian Government on how the promises are actually going to work.”

Sir. Rintoul said it made no sense for asylum seekers to be transferred to Nauru and that he had only heard of eight people accepting the Australian offer to relocate to the island.

He said New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore system each year should be pursued by PNG, but there are strong indications that people in Port Moresby will not be considered eligible.

“There is no better prospect of resettlement in Nauru and there is no question of citizenship,” he said.

“There is absolutely no question of the PNG government offering anything like resettlement to a third country … or supporting any initiatives to make it possible.”

Asylum seeker photographed in Port Moresby, PNG.

Source: AAP

For Mr Omar, the precarious situation in PNG is exacerbating his mental health.

He has been rejected from the US resettlement process and is waiting to hear back from the UN after they interviewed him earlier this year.

“I try to be strong, but it’s getting harder for me. I have a lot of problems,” he said.

“I can see that other people also have problems, they stay in the rooms, they do nothing.

“Nine years already and we still do not know what will happen in the future.”

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