Australia’s “Unconstitutional” Refugee solution forced to end

“Pacific Solution” no more

It seems Australia’s days of outsourcing its Asylum-Seeker problem are over. In 2001, the government first introduced the “Pacific Solution” whereby it would fund the processing of asylum seeker applications overseas. In its current iteration, Australia bankrolls centres on Nauru as well as Manus Island which has proven to be a highly controversial issue back home.

A day after it was found that Australia’s offshore processing centre on Papua New Guinea (PNG) was unconstitutional, PNG‘s Prime Minister has announced that the facility will close. Australia will need to make “alternative arrangements” following the ruling by the country’s Supreme Court. Such a ruling by the Supreme court is binding for the government of PNG, which has benefited from a boost in foreign aid from Australia, and extensive logistical and monetary support in exchange for the facility.

Image taken of a clash between riot police and asylum seekers at the Manus Island Detention Centre in Papua New Guinea. January 14, 2015. Photo: AAP Image/Refugee Action Group

The swift action undertaken by the PNG government presents a distinct blow to Australia’s conservative Coalition Government. A centrepiece of the party’s election agenda was to stop the arrival of so-called “boat people”, a mix of asylum seekers, refugees, and economic migrants that have polarized the country. Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, held high level talks with the country overnight to enable the centre to continue, though it is now clear that such a compromise has not been reached. As of publishing, neither he nor the government has released a comment on the development.

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No closing date was given during the press-conference, however it was confirmed that such details would now be at the centre of negotiations between the two governments. An assistance package is also being drawn up to help Manus Island’s economy cope with the transition.

850 men remain in the Manus Island centre of which half have been confirmed to have valid refugee claims. Under Australia’s uncompromising border policy however, those men will not be transferred to Australia even if their boats landed on its sovereign territory.

In a statement, PNG’s PM told the media that “For those that have been deemed to be legitimate refugees, we invite them to live in Papua New Guinea only if they want to be a part of our society and make a contribution to our community”. Touching on the highly publicized tension between refugees and locals, he added that “it is clear that several of these refugees do not want to settle in Papua New Guinea and that is their decision”, illuminating the broader pressure that has surrounded the centre.

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