Australia says it has no duty to asylum seekers in PNG

Pacific refugee camp

The Australian government says it is not responsible for 70 asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea who have been evicted from temporary accommodation.

The asylum seekers have been in limbo since the 2017 closure of the Manus Island regional processing centre, which Australia operated as part of its offshore programme.

The Melbourne-based Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) says refugees depending on the PNG government for accommodation in at least nine separate properties in Port Moresby have either been evicted or warned their removal is imminent.

An Afghan refugee, his heavily pregnant wife and two young children were forcibly evicted from their accommodation in Port Moresby on Monday, said Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Coalition Action.

One Pakistani asylum seeker, speaking on condition of anonymity fearing repercussions, says he is afraid for his family’s safety.

“Everyone is feeling very worried because police forcibly removed the Afghan family, so I stay up the whole night to try to protect my family,” he told AAP.

He has been in PNG for over a decade, first in the detention centre on Manus Island until 2017 and now at serviced apartment complex Citi Boutique in Port Moresby.

“The owner of the apartments has openly threatened us, telling us ‘you have to leave’.

“He (the landlord) says he hasn’t received money in the last 10 months and says we will be kicked out soon.”

The ASRC says the evictions have been triggered by the PNG government’s failure to pay service providers over an extended period.

It is calling for a “humane response” from the Albanese government, urging it to evacuate the refugees to Australia.

In July, parliamentary documents revealed the Morrison government signed a “confidential bilateral arrangement” with the PNG government in December 2021.

The Albanese government has refused to release details of the funding agreement, saying it would damage foreign relations in the region.

The Home Affairs department maintains this is a matter for the PNG government since it assumed full and independent management of the asylum seekers from Australia in January 2022.

“The department does not have any role in the ongoing management of, or service delivery arrangements for, individuals remaining in PNG,” a department spokesperson told AAP.

The Pakistani asylum seeker says the PNG accommodation contract is run through a company called Chatswood, which he has been trying unsuccessfully to contact for weeks to find out his status.

He has also contacted PNG’s Immigration and Citizenship Authority to no avail.

“PNG is 100 per cent unsafe for me and family so we stay inside the room the whole time,” said the asylum seeker, who escaped Pakistan a decade ago after threats from Taliban sympathisers.

AAP has contacted Chatswood in PNG but has not received a reply….

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