21 Jul 2013

Latest asylum seekers to be processed in PNG

11:06 am on 21 July 2013

A boatload of asylum seekers intercepted near Christmas Island on Saturday will become the first asylum seekers to be processed in Papua New Guinea under Australia's latest policy on boat people.

Those who are approved for asylum will be resettled in PNG.

Immigration Minister Tony Burke said two boats which arrived on Friday afternoon will not be processed under the new regime, which was announced earlier that day in Brisbane by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

But a third boat carrying 81 passengers and two crew was intercepted early on Saturday and the new rules will apply to them.

The ABC reports the boat was intercepted near Christmas Island after the Australian Maritime Safety Authority received a distress call from a person in Australia.

Mr Burke said single men will be sent first, while children and families may remain on Christmas Island until facilities on Manus Island are ready to house them.

''As facilities are improved, then more groups will be able to go," he said.

"If they have a settlement outcome, everybody will end up in Papua New Guinea," Mr Burke added.

Under the deal if the asylum seekers are found to be refugees they will be settled in PNG. The ABC reports those found not to be refugees will be sent back to their own nations or a third country.

15 returned to Vietnam

The Department of Immigration said on Sunday that 15 asylum seekers have been sent back to Vietnam from the Manus Island processing centre.