The Australian Human Rights Commission acknowledges the Federal Government’s announcement that it will stop the offshore processing of asylum seekers on Papua New Guinea at the end of 2021.
The Commission notes that people who were transferred to PNG for processing who do not agree to be transferred to Nauru by the end of the year will have their protection claims assessed by PNG. It is possible that those who remain may be able to access a permanent settlement option through pathways to becoming PNG citizens, with access to long-term support, settlement packages and family reunification. The Commission recognises that such options may provide certainty for those whose claims are successful.
However, the Commission notes that Australia has obligations under the Refugee Convention to people who arrive in its territory seeking asylum. Those obligations remain, even if Australia transfers people to a third country for their claims to be processed.
The Commission continues to hold serious concerns that third country processing arrangements could see Australia in breach of its human rights obligations. In particular, the Commission has concerns about:
- the potential for breaches of Australia’s non-refoulement obligations
- the potential that asylum seekers may be subjected to arbitrary detention
- living conditions for asylum seekers on PNG
- the lack of robust independent monitoring mechanisms
- the health and safety of people in detention on PNG.
The Commission has urged that all people who arrive in Australia and make claims for asylum should have those claims assessed here. Australia has an established system for determining refugee status and complementary protection claims. This system should be followed in a way that respects the inherent dignity and humanity of people who come seeking asylum, and that provides durable solutions to those found to be owed protection.
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