21 Aug 2011

Australia and PNG sign MOU for detention centre

10:08 am on 21 August 2011

Australia and Papua New Guinea say they are proceeding with plans to reopen the Manus Island detention centre.

A memorandum of understanding was signed on Friday between the two countries, agreeing to establish the centre and including some basic information on how it will operate.

It commits to treating detainees with dignity and respect in accordance with the United Nations convention on refugees, processing them as quickly as possible and at no cost to the PNG government.

Australia's Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says it was a positive first step towards re-establishing the assessment centre in line with Canberra's decade-old policy of processing its asylum seekers abroad.

However, the governor of the PNG capital district, Powes Parkop, continues to threaten instigating a Supreme Court challenge if the centre is found to breach the nation's constitution.

Governor Parkop, who has been a human rights lawyer, told AAP that under section 42 of the PNG constitution locking up detainees without charge was illegal.

The Manus Island governor Michael Sapau wants to negotiate a better deal for his community in return for his support for the detention centre.

He has given the PNG government a list of 28 demands, including a new sports stadium, an international conference centre and upgrading of roads, schools and hospitals that he wants Australia to fund.

Meanwhile, another boatload of 71 asylum seekers has arrived off Christmas Island.