26 Jul 2013

Australia's Burke says Manus can cope with large increase in detainees

8:12 am on 26 July 2013

Australia's Immigration Minister says there is no doubt an asylum seeker processing centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island can cope with a large increase of detainees.

Tony Burke made a two hour visit to the facility yesterday, almost a week after the government announced its controversial solution to send asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea.

Accompanied by Australian high commissioner Deborah Stokes, Mr Burke talked with staff and detainees saying minimum welfare standards at the camp were being observed.

He told journalists he had no doubt all that a processing centre on Manus can operate even with a significantly increased capacity.

He expects new arrivals to come to the centre within two weeks.

Mr Burke's visit comes amid accusations of sexual assaults and suicide attempts at the facility.

Mr Burke said he had spoken with former Manus centre employee Rod St George who claimed acts of self-harm and attempted suicide were occurring "almost daily", as well as sexual assaults.

He says Mr St George was not able to give him names of victims or perpetrators.

His visit also happened a day after almost all the asylum seekers on Manus were moved off the island - with some being taken to the Australian mainland.

The immigration department indicated they were moved to accommodate Australia's new policy for dealing with would be refugees