Australia to have regular talks with PNG regarding detainees' issue

March 04, 2014
Australia's immigration minister - Scott Morrison
Australia's immigration minister, Scott Morrison, has stated that from now on there will be regular (monthly) meetings held between the country's government and that of Papua New Guinea. News reports also say and indicate that an agreement has been reached between Papua New Guinea and Australia which essentially states that there will be monthly meetings between the two countries regarding the detainees who are ‘asylum seekers’, but have only been granted ‘refugee status’ by the Australian government, so far. These will be ministerial-level meetings and will seek to avoid the kind of incidents that occurred in that Island’s (i.e. Papua New Guinea’s ) detention camps of foreigners/aliens who were caught by the Australian authorities and detained on that island. These meetings will discuss how to go about settling the Regional Resettlement Arrangement of these refugees.

The ‘incidents’ involving the detainees who have been held there and the prison authorities in PNG, which were violent clashes between the two, occurred just some days ago and led to the unfortunate death of a detainee. So now, there will be regular monthly meetings between the two governments – that of Australia (which is a 6-month old coalition government) and that of Papua New Guinea – but apart from that, the government has not made any other declarations regarding any other measures/steps/concessions for the detainees. The Australian government still believes (or, is firm) that the refugees will not be provided any enhanced status and that they will have to retain the refugee status.

In PNG, the detainees do not have a proper visa status/category, and so it is unclear what kind of rights, freedom of movement and access to welfare, refugees would be granted, if at all. According to the news reports, the death of one of the detainees in the PNG prisons was actually caused by uncertainties, fears, etc. among the detainees regarding their status and the consequent violence between the detainees and the prison authorities, caused by the result of this. But, according to the immigration minister, there are some pilot arrangements in place, now, and an expert panel has also been set up and so, his intention of meeting with his PNG counterparts is to monitor the progress regarding all of these issues. But even now, the Australian government is refusing to guarantee the safety of the detainees stating that it is an emotive and highly charged issue and situation.

According to informed sources and press reports, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will also be attending the joint monthly ministerial meetings with the concerned PNG authorities.
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