22/07/2013 16:50

Priest critical of Rudd-O’Neill agreement on refugees

20 JUL 2013. “How can we accommodate settlers in Papua New Guinea when we cannot accommodate our own people? Housing, education, health care, JOBS! - how can we supply these things for any number of settlers? How could Mr. O'Neill sign up to such a ridiculous idea!” This was the first reaction today by Fr. John Glynn, an elderly Irish priest working with street children and disabled people in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby.

Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his PNG counterpart Peter O’Neill signed a deal in Brisbane on Friday to allow Australia to transfer to their nearest and poorer neighbor on a permanent basis all asylum-seekers arriving by boat. In other words, anybody sailing to Australia on an unauthorized vessel will now automatically end up in Papua New Guinea and have to settle there.

An asylum-seeker processing centre had already been established by last year on the remote PNG island of Manus, but only as a temporary solution before settling the genuine refugees to Australia or sending the economic migrants back to their country of origin.

The new agreement, a few months ahead of Australia’s general elections, caught everybody by surprise. Nobody in the two countries could imagine Australia forwarding such a request and Papua New Guinea accepting it.

The Australian government says that they are trying to combat people smuggling and the tragedy of refugees perishing at sea. But the agreement appears to be clearly in violation of international conventions and UN resolutions on refugees. More than fifteen thousand refugees are reported to have already arrived on Australian shores this year alone.  How Papua New Guinea may be able to accept and resettle such numbers it remains something that certainly defies human understanding, let alone government capabilities.