BY EHSSAN VEISZADEH
AUSTRALIA and Papua New Guinea stand by their agreement that asylum seekers arriving by boat will be sent to PNG for processing and eventual settlement, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.
Mr Rudd was queried on Sunday about the deal, signed on July 19, after PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill told Fairfax Media he had not agreed to settle all asylum seekers processed on Manus Island and found to be genuine refugees.
Mr O'Neill was reported as saying Australia would need to take back a share of them.
Mr Rudd said his PNG counterpart was simply reaffirming the conditions of their deal.
"These are all contained and outlined in absolute detail in the agreement that we reached with Papua New Guinea," he told reporters in Sydney.
"He stands by that, I stand by it and frankly, it's there in black and white."
|PNG commited to boat deal: Kevin Rudd: SBS/Getty Photo|
On Saturday night, Mr O'Neill said PNG was "100 per cent committed" to the deal.
"People who are found to be refugees ... will be settled in Papua New Guinea and other participating countries in the region," he said in short statement.
"They will not be returned to Australia under the agreement."
Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Tony Burke says media reports that people smugglers are now offering to fly asylum seekers to Australia show Labor's hardline policies are discouraging people from taking dangerous boat journeys.
Some asylum seekers in Indonesia are apparently being told they can fly to Australia on fake tourist visas to sidestep the Rudd government's Pacific resettlement policy.
"This is just another desperate measure from people smugglers realising that the game's up," Mr Burke told reporters in Sydney.
Mr Burke denied flying was a loophole available to asylum seekers trying to reach Australia.
"If they could have gotten away with this they would have tried it years ago," he said.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison also sought to downplay the report.
"We have very strong controls on who can get on planes and who can get into the country," he told ABC television.
"That's why people get on boats and pay people smugglers many times over what they would pay to get on an airplane to come to Australia."