30 Oct 2017

PNG govt disapproves of Manus contracts for Fijians

5:08 pm on 30 October 2017

Papua New Guinea's government says Fijian workers should not be brought in to provide security on Manus Island.

Protesting refugees on Manus Island.

Protesting refugees on Manus Island. Photo: Supplied

42 Fijians have been hired by Paladin Solutions, the company set to take over management of new locations for refugees and asylum seekers on Manus this week.

Australia's immigration detention centre on Manus is due to close tomorrow, although hundreds of refugees are refusing to move to Manus' main town due to security fears.

PNG's Immigration Minister Petrus Thomas said recruitment of the Fijians breached provisions of the agreement between PNG and Australia that sub-contractor jobs go to locals.

"It's not acceptable at this stage, because they currently have [local] sub-contractors who are providing services. And those security companies have gone through many trainings in the last four years to meet the requirement and the standard of Australia. They've been doing fine, so there's no reason to bring Fijians in at this point in time."

Mr Thomas suggested that changing this arrangement could "create some issues", with local landowners who expect sub-contracting roles likely to not accept the presence of foreign workers.

The Fijian security workers have backgrounds in peacekeeping in the Middle East.

Their engagement by Paladin for work in PNG comes amid expectations that security problems could escalate this week on Manus as the centre closes.

The PNG police have extra manpower on standby to assist with the relocation, but Amnesty International said authorities must ensure that police refrained from using excessive force.

Amnesty said the closure of the detention centre did not mean the end of the ordeal for the refugees who've been held for four years against their will.

Australia must continue funding for Manus refugees, says PNG

PNG's Immigration Minister said Australia would be required to support refugees remaining on Manus to be self-reliant.

Mr Thomas says the government discourages the use of force to move the detainees. But with Canberra warning that food and water services would be withdrawn at the centre tomorrow, the United Nations and others are warning that the closure will cause a humanitarian crisis.

Mr Thomas said he believed most refugees would eventually transit to the new locations smoothly.

"So the refugees, I think it's Australia's intention to provide them allowances to be more self-reliant, for them to find their food and services that the refugees require."

The minister admitted it would be a concern if many refugees refused to finally leave the centre. But he downplayed suggestions that tensions could escalate over the situation.

He said the refugees had already been moving around Manus freely since last year's PNG Supreme Court ruling that holding people against their will on Manus was illegal.

That ruling paved the way for the closure of the centre and, according to Mr Thomas, meant that restrictions on movement for the refugees and asylum seekers were lifted.

"It's PNG's position that Australia must continue to maintain and continue funding for the refugees on Manus until the last refugee leaves," said the minister.

Petrus Thomas said PNG had completed its responsibility to process the asylum seekers transferred to Manus since 2013.

According to him, it remained the responsibility of Australia to pursue third country options for resettlement of the refugees.

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