People presently detained on Manus Island will not by coming to Australia when the Papua New Guinea centre closes, no matter how hard refugee advocates push, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says.
The Manus Island detention centre is due to close on October 31, but Mr Dutton says those refugees who aren’t taken under an agreement with the US will settle in the PNG, while non-refugees will be sent back to their home country.
“They are not coming to Australia,” Mr Dutton told Sky News on Sunday.
“The advocates can bleat all they want, they can protest all they want, we have been very clear those people are not going to settle in our country because that would restart the people trade.”
He said the threat from people smugglers and boat arrivals “will never go away” and he doesn’t want to see people drowning at sea trying to get to Australia.
Because of that, he said there would be an enduring need to keep the Nauru detention centre open.
Mr Dutton said the government was working with the PNG government, the US Homeland Security and other state departments who are looking at each individual case in their decision who would be settled in the US.
“We think there is scope for a large number of people but we don’t have an exact number as yet,” he said.
He said under the agreement with the Rudd Labor government, PNG had the responsibility to settle refugees not taken by the US.
He said 36 people had already settled in the PNG community.
He said people found to be refugees on Nauru can be resettled in Cambodia, and some people had done that, or they could settle on Nauru under a 20-year visa agreement.
Opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann said while Labor supported 1250 refugees from Manus and Nauru being resettled in the US, potentially hundreds would miss out.
He said the Turnbull government needed to clarify what the government’s role would be in Manus once the offshore processing centre closed in October and what support and assistance would be offered to refugees who were forced to remain in PNG.
“The Turnbull government has put all their eggs in one basket with the US agreement and failed to secure other third country resettlement arrangements,” Mr Neumann said in a statement.
“Immigration officials confirmed last month that the Turnbull government is not negotiating other resettlement options.”