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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7670

Asylum Seekers

Dear Mrs Wicks

Thank you for your correspondence of 21 May 2018 enclosing petition PN0346, concerning the regional processing and settlement arrangements in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

With the establishment of Operation Sovereign Borders on 18 September 2013, the Australian Government has focused on disrupting and deterring people smugglers, detecting and intercepting illegal maritime arrivals, and supporting regional processing and resettlement of refugees, as well as returns of those transferees not found to be owed protection. Anyone who comes to Australia illegally by boat will be subject to regional processing arrangements and will not be eligible for permanent residency in Australia.

The Government's Operation Sovereign Borders policies are designed to safeguard vulnerable people from exploitation by people smugglers, prevent the loss of life at sea and restore the integrity of Australia's borders. Restoration of Australia's border integrity has enabled the Government to increase the annual refugee intake. As a result, the Humanitarian Programme has increased from 13,750 in 2016-17 to 16,250 in 2017-18 and will reach 18,750 in 2018-19. Focusing on persecuted minorities, Australia has also welcomed 12,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict zone on top of this. The ongoing success of these strong border control policies has enabled the closure of 17 domestic immigration detention facilities.

The management of PNG determined refugees and PNG determined failed asylum seekers is a matter for PNG authorities. Australia's role is to support the PNG Government through contracting specialist services, such as security, welfare and health services.

The PNG Government closed the Manus Regional Processing Centre (MRPC) on 31 October 2017 following a PNG Supreme Court decision. Alternative Manus accommodation sites, with food and water, were available to house former MRPC residents on and before 31 October 2017. Those people that remained in the former MRPC did so against the direction of the PNG Government.

The PNG Government is responsible for the management of all accommodation sites. The sites were deemed habitable by the PNG Government. The PNG Supreme Court ruled that it was satisfied that the PNG Government had provided suitable accommodation that allowed free movement, was of good standard, and was sufficient for residents' daily needs.

Some additional minor works continue to be undertaken to enhance the facilities. This is not unusual and includes the installation of additional rainwater tanks, upgrades to kitchen facilities to allow for self-catering, minor road works, fencing and shade structures. Some facility issues were a result of apparent deliberate acts of vandalism or deliberate misuse by facility residents. Facility malfunctions are speedily addressed to remediate issues as they arise and facilities are maintained appropriately.

Refugees residing in Manus are provided with support services, which includes a weekly financial allowance, health services, employment matching services and case management support. Refugee accommodation sites offer self-catering and self-laundering facilities. Refugees are able to move freely around Manus and can visit local businesses to purchase items as they desire.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees undertakes visits to regional processing countries as part of its monitoring of the application of the provisions of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Government supports the monitoring role of non-government organisations in respect of persons transferred to PNG for processing and settlement. Decisions about monitoring visits, and responses to issues raised following such visits, are matters for the PNG Government.

Where reports on such visits make practical observations which can be implemented and which would improve operational efficiencies, the Australian Government will support the PNG Government to address any deficiencies.

Persons found to be refugees can settle in PNG, apply for resettlement in the

United States (US), move to Nauru pending third country resettlement, return to their home country or a country where they have right of entry.

Resettlement of refugees from Nauru and PNG in the US commenced in

September 2017 and continues in 2018. As at 19 June 2018, 292 refugees from PNG or Nauru have resettled in the US. This arrangement demonstrates the strength of Australia's relationship with the US, and our shared commitment to working together on a range of global refugee and humanitarian issues.

Non-refugees should return to their country of origin and many have already done so. Australia assists the Government of PNG to return persons seeking to return home voluntarily. The PNG Government has indicated it will remove non-refugees who do not voluntarily depart.

The Government's border protection policies are here to stay. No-one subject to regional processing arrangements will be resettled in Australia.

Thank you for bringing this petition to my attention.

Yours sincerely

from the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Dutton