PNG plays down asylum protests

PAPUA New Guinean Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato has downplayed issues with asylum seeker arrangements and protests following a visit from Australian counterpart Julie Bishop.
PNG plays down asylum protests
PNG plays down asylum protests
PNG plays down asylum protests
PNG plays down asylum protests
PNG plays down asylum protests

In a press conference following Bishop's first official visit as Australian foreign minister, Pato said he was "happy to see all of the arrangements put in place are working" despite "very minor issues".

"Of course, we also had the opportunity to discuss the ongoing work between the Australia and PNG governments on the regional resettlement processing centre on Manus Island," he said.

"And we are happy to see all of the arrangements we have put in place are working.

"There are very minor issues but those are issues that are not difficult, they can be addressed and our technical people are working on it."

Pato warned there was a process and system that would deal with any law breaking and the normal system and processes would apply.

"We have ensured that the police take necessary steps to ensure that there is no disruption to the activities," he added.

"Papua New Guinea and Australia are working together in terms of the regional processing centre so those who break the law will be dealt with according to law."

Questioned by a local journalist about the PNG Supreme Court's recent comments about asylum seekers, Bishop confirmed she was aware of the challenge to the asylum seeker arrangement.

"I am certainly aware there is a challenge to the arrangement and that is currently before the courts so it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment about legal proceedings in Papua New Guinea but most certainly the foreign minister and I discussed that issue in our meeting," she confirmed.

Bishop was also questioned on protests at the Manus Island facility and of reports of a hazardous material at the development site including unexploded ordnance, asbestos and a mysterious white substance.

"I understand that all these matters will be dealt with by the contractor who is handling the expansion of the facility as one would expect in any situation where a contractor is required to develop facilities on a greenfield site," Bishop said.

"They would go through the appropriate environmental and other checks to ensure it is a safe site and my understanding is that those necessary and appropriate and usual standard processes are being undertaken.

"Of course there are people living on Manus Island, about 55,000 people live on Manus Island now, so we are making sure that any work that we do there, that the Australian government has contracted there, is done appropriately and with regard to all necessary risks and ensuring that we manage them.

"So I am confident that that is being handled appropriately."

Bishop arrived in Port Moresby for a two-day visit last week, during which she also met with PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.

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