Pacific / Papua New Guinea

Aus, PNG to schedule end of Manus Island detention

18:44 pm on 22 July 2019

The governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia have agreed to establish a timetable to end the offshore processing of refugees on Manus Island.

PNG PM James Marape and Australian PM Scott Morrison. Photo: PNG Govt

About 450 refugees and asylum seekers remain in PNG, where they have been indefinitely detained for six years.

In a joint press conference today, PNG prime minister James Marape said a "mutually workable" schedule would be created.

"I've expressed clearly to Minister Dutton that we need to establish a schedule and timetable towards full closure of the entire asylum processes," Mr Marape said.

"We will ensure that we have a mutually workable timetable and closure programme that is healthy for all of us but more importantly healthy for those people who have been part of us in Manus and now in PNG for some time now," he said.

"That's a work in progress but both governments have agreed to establish a schedule going forward."

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison denied there was a detention centre on Manus Island, despite the existence of three compounds that refugees cannot leave between 6pm and 6am.

"The detention centre on Manus Island is closed and has been closed for some time. There is no detention centre on Manus Island," Mr Morrison said.

"The accommodation facility at East Lorengau which now accommodates - there's about 300 odd people currently on Manus Island who are refugees and that's down from 1353 at the peak when Labor were in power," he said.

Mr Marape agreed refugees and asylum seekers were no longer detained on the island.

"There's no more detention. People are living freely in Manus and also some who have moved to Port Moresby for medical and associated reasons are moving around freely," he said.

Refugees currently detained on Manus reacted angrily on social media to the press conference.

Sri Lankan refugee Shaminda Kanapathi pointed to the 6pm to 6am curfew as evidence refugees were still being detained on Manus.

Celebrated author Behrouz Boochani accused Mr Morrison of "blatantly" lying.

Australian Green senator Nick McKim, who was last week was refused entry to the East Lorengau refugee compound on Manus, also tweeted disdain for Mr Morrison's position.