Australia to end PNG asylum seeker processing

More than 100 asylum seekers are thought to remain in PNG.

More than 100 asylum seekers are thought to remain in PNG.

The federal government will end offshore processing in Papua New Guinea for asylum seekers detained after trying to reach Australia by boat.

The arrangement was set up in 2013 under the then-Labor government and authorised regional processing of asylum seekers in PNG.

Under a timeline announced on Wednesday, processing in PNG will permanently end on December 31.

As of July, there were 124 asylum seekers in PNG.

From January, PNG will have responsibility for those who remain, the Australian and PNG governments said in a joint statement.

This means any asylum seekers still in PNG will be offered a pathway to permanent migration, including citizenship.

PNG will also provide support to those temporarily in the country awaiting transfer to a third country.

Prior to the December deadline, Australia will offer asylum seekers in PNG “voluntary transfer” to its offshore processing centre on the Pacific island of Nauru.

“This government’s strong border protection policies – including a commitment to regional processing – have not changed,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said.

“Anyone who attempts to enter Australia illegally by boat will be returned, or sent to Nauru.”

Ms Andrews said PNG and Nauru had been longstanding partners in the fight against people smuggling.

“I thank them for their close cooperation and support,” she said.

In September, the federal government signed an agreement with Nauru, which began offshore processing in 2012, to continue that arrangement.

There are about 107 detainees in Nauru.

Between 2008 and 2013, more than 50,000 people arrived in Australia on more than 820 boats and at least 1200 died at sea, the government said.

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