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PNG court orders Australia to provide resettlement plan for Manus Island detainees

Staff Reporter 8/02/2016 | |
The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court has ordered the Australian government to provide a resettlement plan for immigration detainees being held on Manus Island, with answers required this week.

On Tuesday, the court said a plan for resettlement of the about 900 asylum seekers being held on Manus should be offered on Thursday, after ruling in April that the Australian-government funded detention centre was illegal.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was contacted for comment after the ruling on Tuesday night.

Some experts and human rights groups expect the latest ruling will delay determination of the next steps for the detainees, many of whom have spent years in detention under the control of the centre operators and the PNG government.

“The level of frustration on Manus Island is as high as it has ever been," Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul told Reuters.

“The court action, while a glimmer of hope, is frustrating them as there has been no action despite detention being found to be unlawful.”

The PNG government said it would close the detention centre after the April ruling but there has so far been no change for asylum seekers held there after trying to reach Australia by boat.

Last week, the federal government reportedly doubled its offer of compensation to asylum seekers who are willing to return home from on Manus Island voluntarily.

The Refugee Action Coalition said detainees would receive as much as $20,000 to return to their countries of origin.

The Australian government could share liability for more than $1 billion in compensation claims from people illegally detained on Manus Island, as lawyers for detainees seek more than $450 for each day detainees have been held in the centre.

The April decision left the men, more than half of whom have been found to be genuine refugees, in limbo as locals resist resettlement in PNG.

A lawyer for some of the detainees, Ben Lomai, told Reuters the resettlement process was a matter for the Australian and PNG governments.

“What we want is for them to be released,” Lomai said.

Staff the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby were present for the hearing. PacNews

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