27 Feb 2013

Bill allowing processing of refugees on Manus to go before PNG's Cabinet

4:57 am on 27 February 2013

Legislation allowing the processing of asylum seekers housed on Manus Island is expected to go before Papua New Guinea's cabinet today.

The announcement, by Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato, comes after his Australian counterpart, Brendan O'Connor, paid a visit to the three-month-old, Australian-run centre on Monday.

Mr Pato told AAP it will be approved by cabinet today and he should be able to sign off soon thereafter.

He added that obviously the prime minister will sign off and things should proceed from there.

Mr Pato says the 274 asylum seekers on Manus will be put through an interview and assessment process by the immigration department to determine their refugee status, and applicants will have the right to take disputes to a tribunal.

Australia's Immigration Minister, Brendan O'Connor, who on Monday met detainees housed at the temporary tent facility said living conditions in the centre were not raised with him.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, as well as the Australian Greens, have blasted conditions on the site following recent visits, with the UNHCR describing them as "unlawful".

The media has so far been prohibited from visiting the facility.

Mr O'Connor told reporters in Port Moresby there were no specific issues raised about the conditions and in his view these facilities are adequate.

PNG's opposition leader, Belden Namah, is expected to bring a challenge to the Manus centre to the Supreme Court, arguing the centre is unlawful under the country's constitution.