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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


First Group Of Manus Asylum Seekers Includes Children
19 refugees accompanied by police, operations staff

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 22, 2012) Š The first batch of 19 asylum seekers, including four children, arrived at Manus Island yesterday in Papua New Guinea.

The group landed at Momote Airport in the morning, provincial police commander Alex NÕDrasal said.

He said the asylum seekers went through medical examinations in the presence of the Manus provincial administrator, chief immigration officer, 62 police personnel from the McGregor Barracks in Port Moresby, G4S security personnel and customs officers.

They were then moved to the Lombrum processing centre.

A statement from the Immigration Department said the charter flight left Christmas Island at 11pm on Tuesday with the 19 asylum seekers, including four children, belonging to seven families of Iranian and Sri Lankan origin. Australian Federal Police officers, interpreters, immigration and medical staff accompanied them.

Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin confirmed their arrival, saying he was informed about the trip on Monday.

"We are simply carrying out a government directive and accommodating the asylum seekers," Benjamin said.

However, he was disappointed that the 2013 Budget did not include Manus.

"I do not know whether the national government is serious in assisting Manus. This is a wrong signal to me. The national government has a memorandum of understanding with Australia, yet Australia is not prepared to sign a memorandum of agreement with Manus, so there is really nothing constructive at all."

Benjamin said he thought the government would put more into Manus under the PIP program.

"All other electorates will receive K10 million [US$4.8 million]. Manus was only given K5 million [US$2.4 million], which is a slap in the face for us, as we are a maritime province and the budget must cover the distance of the province sea-wise.

"I am very disappointed with the national budget. I will not support it when it is passed next week," Benjamin added.

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