Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) agreed to end a controversial asylum seekers detention deal Wednesday, said officials.
They agreed to finalize the Regional Resettlement Arrangement (RRA) at the end of 2021, according to a statement by the Australian Home Ministry.
Australia was authorized by PNG to send asylum seekers who attempted to travel to Australia illegally by boat to the Pacific island nation, under the RRA.
"Under the timeline announced today, Australian Government regional processing contracts in PNG will cease on 31 December 2021 and will not be renewed. From 1 January 2022, the PNG Government will assume full management of regional processing services in PNG and full responsibility for those who remain," said Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews.
"Prior to 31 December 2021, Australia will support anyone subject to regional processing arrangements in PNG who wishes to voluntarily transfer to Nauru," Andrews added.
“PNG will provide a permanent migration pathway for those wishing to remain in PNG – including access to citizenship, long-term support, settlement packages and family reunification,” according to the statement.
“PNG will also provide support to people temporarily in PNG awaiting movement to a third country,” it added.
"Australia’s strong border protection policies – including regional processing – have not changed," said Andrews. “Anyone who attempts to enter Australia illegally by boat will be returned, or sent to Nauru.”
Under its immigration policy, Australia detains asylum seekers who arrive by boat, in processing centers on Manus and Nauru, where conditions have been described as appalling by rights advocates.
In 2016, PNG's Supreme Court ruled that the Manus center was unconstitutional and ordered the government to close it.
*Writing by Islamuddin Sajid
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