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Manus Island refuge centre a "problem" that should end - PNG PM

PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill calls Manus Island refugee centre a "problem" that should end
Environment and immigration correspondent

The Manus Island detention centre is a "problem" that has done more damage to Papua New Guinea's reputation than any other factor, the nation's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill says, saying the facility must eventually close.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday, Mr O'Neill also said his government could not afford to resettle those found to be genuine refugees, fuelling concern that vulnerable men on the island will continue to languish with an uncertain future.
The Turnbull government is responsible for meeting the costs of detention and resettlement at the Manus Island facility, which houses single men.

As Fairfax Media reported last month, more than 60 refugees live in limbo at the Manus Island transit centre at Lorengau, while more than 900 are in their third year at the detention centre. More than half of those in detention have been found to be refugees.

Mr O'Neill said the refugee centre was "a problem" he inherited from the former PNG government.
"We have issues about cost of the resettlement, who is going to pay for it," he said.
"Certainly [the] Papua New Guinea government does not have the resources to resettle the refugees as required but we will play our role in making sure … those who've got the skills and are able to work can be allowed to work in our communities."
As previously reported, one of the first refugees to be resettled in PNG, in the city of Lae, pleaded to be returned to Manus Island, saying life in limbo was better than his new life of fear, loneliness and poverty.
Asked about the effect of the detention facility on his country's international standing, Mr O'Neill said it had "done a lot more damage for PNG than anything else" and his communities "have been accused of many things".
There have been reports of refugees and asylum seekers at Manus Island being threatened by locals outside the centre, and others have questioned the suitability of settling refugees in PNG, which suffers high levels of violence.
Mr O'Neill said refugees at Manus Island "have been well looked-after".
"Most of them are engaging very well with our communities in Manus. Manus has some of the loveliest people in the world," he said.
He added that the centre should eventually be shut down.
"At some stage of course we need to close the centre, these people cannot remain in Manus forever. We need to make a determination where they should go."
The Turnbull government has refused to accept refugees from Manus Island and Nauru, and very few refugees have taken up the offer of resettlement in Cambodia.
Australia is reportedly in negotiations with Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia to resettle refugees in those nations.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton sought to blame Mr O'Neill's sentiments on unsympathetic media and those hostile to the government's asylum seeker stance.
"PNG and Nauru have been unfairly vilified by advocates, including by some parts of the media, because of their opposition to our secure borders policy. It is unfair and the targeting of our regional partners should stop," he said.
The PNG government dragged its feet on developing a resettlement policy, prompting previous accusations from Labor that the Australian government had mismanaged the important bilateral relationship and failed to actively engage with the nation.
Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said on Thursday the Manus Island centre should be shut down, and the Turnbull government "has no exit strategy" from offshore detention.
"Clearly Prime Minister O'Neill is sick of his country being used by the Liberal Government in this way …the Liberal Government has no idea how to get out of its offshore detention mess and that is very concerning," she said.
She called for a "fair and efficient regional system" to quickly process asylum claims, and for refugees to be brought to Australia.
The debate came as Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop announced her government would expand its diplomatic presence in PNG by establishing an Australian consulate-general in Lae, the nation's commercial capital.
It would "bolster the growing trade and investment relationship between the two countries" and support the delivery of Australia's $554.5 million aid investment in PNG.
Ms Bishop said it followed positive discussions at the Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum, where "we agreed on a concrete plan to strengthen our bilateral relationship

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