No numbers yet on refugees US-bound:Dutton
- Author: Joanne Flowers Apr 09, 2017,
Apr 09, 2017, 21:42
Malcolm Turnbull has backed Papua New Guinea's plan to shut the Manus Island refugee centre, but offered no solution on where the residents would go.
But Turnbull dodged questions about exactly where the government planned to send the men if the United States did not accept them all under a deal struck by the Obama administration.
Should the asylum seekers not accepted by the U.S. be resettled in Australia? .
Turnbull's trip to Papua New Guinea comes a day after he met with Baron Waqa, the president of Nauru, and thanked him for hosting Australia's second detention centre in the Pacific.
PM Turnbull avoided questions on the fate of the refugees while at a press conference with Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill in Port Moresby on Saturday.
The immigration department last month confirmed that Australia is not in negotiations with any other third countries. "We'll take this process one step at a time".
Mr Dutton said he expected the Manus Island detention centre to close before the end of October after a court decision past year.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Dutton said the government had been clear about the future of legitimate refugees from the start.
The push to move the more than 800 refugees on Manus has sped up with the camp due to close down after a PNG Supreme Court ruling past year declared that holding people there was unconstitutional and illegal. The decision sent Australian officials scrambling to find a place to resettle the detainees.
Mr Turnbull would also not be drawn, saying the process with the U.S. was still underway.
"It's clearly worked in a number of cases and the Prime Minister and I talked about that earlier", Mr Turnbull said, inviting Mr O'Neill to expand.
"They're staying in PNG that's the arrangement as it now stands". There are few details on what that would entail. Of these, about 15 have agreed to resettle in PNG. The vast majority have expressed concerns about a lack of job opportunities in the impoverished country, as well as safety fears.
"We cannot force people into a resettlement exercise if they are not willing to accept our offer", Mr O'Neill said. "But if a third country is willing to accept their resettlement, we are quite happy to participate".
Asked whether those on Manus who are not accepted by the U.S. could be resettled instead on Nauru, Turnbull said only, "We'll take this process one step at a time".
After leaving Papua New Guinea, Turnbull will travel to India where he will seek to advance trade between the two countries.