WITH the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruling that the Manus Island refugee processing centre is illegal, Australia may be forced to look to other Pacific islands to house 800-odd residents. Australia’s detention facility on Nauru has proven to be difficult at the best of times with claims of human rights abuse against security staff. Fiji – identified as early as 2001 as a possible processing centre – could find itself on the cards again as the region’s policeman looks for options to replace its Manus facility.
The Great Council of Chiefs which was scrapped by Fijian Prime Minister Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama’s after his 2006 coup stood in the way of Australia’s bid to use the former Makogai leper colony as a processing centre. But Fiji has at least 13 refugees after taking in an initial 17 asylum seekers. Immigration Department Director Major Nemani Vuniwaqa told local media the foreign nationals arrived in Fiji by legal means. Three of them have been relocated to New Zealand and a Congolese national has moved on to France.
Vuniwaqa said each asylum seeker who staked his claim at the border would undergo a Refugee Status Determination Process administered by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). If their claims of why they could not return to their native country were verified, they would be given refugee status and cared for by the UNHCR, he said…
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