SYDNEY - More than 20 asylum-seekers have become the first refugees to resettle on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea as part of Australia’s tough boat-people policies, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday.
Thirteen asylum-seekers, nine from Iran and four from Pakistan, spent their first night outside detention on the Pacific island of Nauru on Wednesday, while a further seven had their refugee applications rejected.
Another 11 - four Iranians, three Pakistanis, an Afghan, an Iraqi and two men with nationalities yet to be established - resettled on Manus Island where an outbreak of violence at the Australian detention centre earlier this year left one man dead and more than 70 injured. “There is an initial six-week intensive resettlement arrangement and it is all designed to get people standing on their feet within 12 months,” Morrison said of the refugees resetting in Nauru.
“They are on a temporary visa which enables them freedom of movement, enables them to work, enables them to leave the country and re-enter the country, but they will not be able to enter Australia.” Under Canberra’s punitive offshore detention policy, asylum-seekers attempting to arrive by boat are transferred to camps in Nauru or Papua New Guinea for processing and permanent resettlement outside Australia.
The rejected applicants on Nauru were four Iranians, two Pakistanis and one Cameroonian. Another 15 asylum-seekers who had their resettlement applications rejected on Manus Island were primarily Iranians, Morrison said. The latest immigration department figures, to the end of April, show there were 1,177 people in the Nauru camp and 1,273 at Manus Island.
The minister said the refugees released on Nauru would be provided with living allowances and accommodation and given access to vocational training and trauma counselling, while children would be schooled at a local Catholic college.
Nauru’s Justice Minister David Adeang added that his country was “ready to welcome our new guests and we have put in place a buddy system to help them integrate into island life”.
The first resettlements came as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Cambodia which has agreed in principle to join Nauru and PNG in taking Australia-bound asylum-seekers was looking for people to contribute to their communities.
“They are very keen to have people working,” Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about the possible deal with one of Asia’s poorest nations, which has been criticised by Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
“They’re looking for able-bodied people who would be able to contribute to Cambodian society. If people are seeking to flee persecution, they’ll be looking for a safe haven and that’s what Cambodia is offering.”
On Tuesday, Morrison dismissed concerns that any money given to Cambodia to accommodate refugees could end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.