World

Australia accountable for refugees: Papua New Guinea

SYDNEY: Australia will not be allowed to walk away from legal, financial and moral responsibility for nearly 800 men when it closes its asylum seeker detention centre in Papua New Guinea (PNG) today, PNG's immigration minister said.

Human rights advocates are warning of a looming humanitarian crisis when the Manus Island centre closes if the men are not properly resettled, with hundreds of the detainees refusing to leave the centre for fear of being targeted by locals.

PNG Immigration Minister Petrus Thomas said late on Sunday that Australia will remain responsible for the welfare of the men who have been detained in the Australian-funded centre for more than four years.

Australia refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores, detaining them in camps in PNG and Nauru in the South Pacific.

The United Nations and rights groups have for years cited human rights abuses among detainees in the centres.

"It is PNG's position that as long as there is one individual from this arrangement that remains in PNG, Australia will continue to provide financial and other support to PNG to manage the persons transferred under the arrangement until the last person leaves or is independently resettled in PNG," Thomas said in an e-mailed statement. - REUTERS

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