3 Feb 2015

Transparency questions PNG leader's refugee claim

6:04 pm on 3 February 2015

The chairman of Transparency International Papua New Guinea says it is difficult to believe so called 'economic refugees' would risk dangerous boat trips to seek asylum in Australia.

Lawrence Stephens' comments follow a claim by the PNG prime minister Peter O'Neill that most asylum seekers being held at the Australia-run detention centre on Manus Island are economic opportunists whose claims will be rejected.

Mr O'Neill told the ABC most of the asylum seekers at the centre are not genuine, and his government is already in negotiations with their home countries to have them sent back.

Mr Stephens says it appears the prime minister has been ill advised or there has been a dramatic change in the circumstances.

"Because in the past, once the boat people have been processed, it has been very clear that they are people in fear of political persecution in their own countries - people who clearly needed to escape."

TIPNG's Lawrence Stephens