18 Aug 2016

No date given by Australia or PNG for Manus closure

10:03 am on 18 August 2016

No timeline has been given by either Australia and Papua New Guinea for the closure of the Manus offshore detention centre.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (L) and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop address journalists during a press conference in Nusa Dua, Bali on March 23, 2016.

Australian Immigration Minister Petter Dutton, left, has agreed to close the Manus detention centre. Photo: AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton met with PNG's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill on Wednesday in Port Moresby, following which Mr O'Neill issued a statement indicating Australia had now agreed that Manus would be closed.

Peter Dutton's confirmation that the centre will close is a departure from Canberra's earlier pattern of distancing itself from any responsibility for Manus.

PNG's Supreme Court ruled in April that holding people against their will on Manus is illegal, but the country's top judge Sir Salamo Injia last month expressed frustration that PNG and Australia's governments were not complying with the ruling by closing the centre.

no caption

Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta

There are more than 900 men held on Manus, who were forcibly transferred there by Australia since 2013 after fleeing from countries such as Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mr Dutton has reiterated that those on Manus will never be resettled in Australia.

With very few of the refugees willing to be resettled in PNG, it remains unclear where they go after Manus.

Peter O'Neill said it was important that the process is not rushed, but carried out in a careful manner, as they consider options.

After Wednesday's meeting in Port Moresby, Peter Dutton said it had been the longstanding position of his government to work with PNG to close Manus.

However Mr Dutton signalled that Australia would continue to rule out anyone from the Manus processing centre being resettled in Australia.

"While people smugglers continue to target Australia, the Coalition Government has ensured no boats have made it here in the past two years and more. This effort to combat people smugglers must and does continue," he said.

The minister also he won't say when the centre will close.

"Well I'm not going to go into a timeline because this is an issue for PNG," he said.

"The detention centre there is part of PNG sovereign territory and we'll work with the PNG government to provide assistance and we will work towards closure as quickly as possible."

Protest by refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island.

Numerous protests over poor conditions and abuse have been held on Manus with repeated calls for its closure from human rights agencies. Photo: Supplied

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs