12 Jul 2018

Ask Canada to take Manus, Nauru refugees - lawyer

2:25 pm on 12 July 2018

Canada should be asked to resettle refugees exiled by Australia that cannnot enter the United States, a Papua New Guinea lawyer says.

Protesting refugees on Manus Island.

Protesting refugees on Manus Island. Photo: Supplied

The US has agreed to resettle up to 1250 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru but has banned migrants from five majority muslim countries.

About half of Australia's exiles come from those nations.

The lawyer Ben Lomai, who represents Manus Island refugees, said Canada continued to accept refugees from countries banned by the US and should be approached.

"Prime minister for Canada has put his hand up to get asylum seekers from those countries that are rejected by the US," Dr Lomai said.

"So Australian government, PNG government they can talk to Canada and see if they can get them in there."

To improve the refugees' mental health, hope needed to be given to those who were ineligible for US resettlement , he said.

"That's the issue that needs to be addressed seriously."

"If we can be able to give them some indication... that might give them some bigger hope that at least there is something for them at the end of the tunnel," Dr Lomai said.

After a mission to Manus Island in June, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) concluded the lack of resettlement options was putting the refugees at risk.

"A deep seated fear of being abandoned in Papua New Guinea by Australia without adequate support has contributed to an acute sense of insecurity and helplessness," UNHCR said.

"The government of Australia should immediately identify and secure alternate durable solutions outside of the bilateral arrangement between Australia and the United States of America, including acceptance of the continuing New Zealand offer."

Dr Lomai said Australia's reluctance to let New Zealand resettle 150 of the refugees was contributing to their stress.

"We had so much discussion between your (New Zealand) prime minister and Australian prime minister but we have no definite position on that yet so again it's a waiting game."

A banner from 104th day of protest on Manus Island

A banner from 104th day of protest on Manus Island Photo: Behrouz Boochani

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