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Plea for PNG & New Zealand to intervene to resolve Manus crisis


Asylum seekers at the Manus facility (Nick McKim)
Senator Nick McKim's recent photo of Manus refugees

Read the full Fairfax story here

SYDNEY - Lawyers are hopeful Papua New Guinea may dramatically intervene in the desperate situation on Manus Island by reopening the abandoned detention centre or striking a resettlement deal with New Zealand.

About 600 refugees and asylum seekers have spent two nights in darkness at the decommissioned Australian-run refugee processing centre, sustaining themselves on stockpiled food and water, since official personnel left on Tuesday.

An injunction application was before PNG's Supreme Court chief justice on Wednesday evening that would effectively force PNG to reopen the facility and provide food, water and electricity.

Ben Lomai, acting for Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani, said he had reason to believe PNG's government might "agree to the order", but there had not yet been official talks.

He also said the election of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was "a window of opportunity for the PNG government to deal directly with New Zealand".

Ms Ardern has already reiterated her country's longstanding offer to resettle 150 refugees and is expected to at least recommit to that in scheduled comments on Thursday - as well as when she meets Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this weekend.

Australian barrister Greg Barns, who is working with Mr Lomai, pointed to acting Prime Minister Julie Bishop's remarks on Wednesday that "PNG is a sovereign government".

"If PNG is a sovereign country, cut a deal with New Zealand," he urged.


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Murray Bladwell

It would appear that PNG is not the only government to be "pressured" by the Australian government.

New Zealand seems to have equivocated, stating its offer to take 150 refugees applies only to a request from Australia.

The NZ prime minister said she would not consider an approach from the PNG government for resettlement as the offer was to Australia only.

It seems that any potential approach from PNG has been quickly blocked before it could get off the ground.

The Australian government seems happy to corrupt other nations in pursuit of its own grubby goals.

Murray Bladwell

Touche! If PNG is a sovereign government, as Julie Bishop insists, then Australia has snookered itself well and truly.

PNG should definitely do a deal directly with New Zealand. This would be a small but important moral victory against the injustices of Australia's immoral and shameful treatment of the refugees.

It will also allow PNG to emphasise that, as a sovereign nation, it acknowledges its human rights obligations, unlike a morally corrupt Australian government.

I am hopeful that in these circumstances the PNG government can withstand any political pressure from the Australian government to do otherwise.

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