10 Feb 2015

IOM denies preying on PNG asylum seekers

3:17 pm on 10 February 2015

The International Organisation of Migration is denying allegations it is preying on vulnerable jailed asylum seekers on Manus Island to have them agree to return to their countries of origin.

The Refugee Action Coalition says 60 asylum seekers detained in Lorengau jail since participating in a mass hunger strike were solicited by the IOM last week in a bid to have them voluntarily return home.

But the IOM's chief of mission in Papua New Guinea, George Gigauri, says that is incorrect.

He says the IOM went into the jail at the request of asylum seekers, and was not there to do an Assisted Voluntary Return, or AVR, screening.

Asylum seekers in Manus Island camp

Asylum seekers in Manus Island camp Photo: supplied

"From the outset, we made it clear that there will be no discussion about return in a jail setting. We will only do those interviews once the people are back in the refugee processing centre. The discussion was merely to see what the people, what those individuals wanted from IOM, it was not an AVR screening by any means."

George Gigauri says the process of voluntary return is treated on a case-by-case basis, involves a number of interviews and in no way is coercion involved.