Offshore processing: refugee status determination for asylum seekers on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea

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  Download factsheet: Refugee status determination on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea               

This factsheet describes current arrangements for refugee processing and protection on Manus Island in the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (PNG). It introduces Manus Island and the offshore processing regime that has been in place there since August 2012, and then sets out the arrangements for refugee status determination (RSD) in PNG, including the relevant legislation, early observations about PNG capacity to perform RSD, how RSD is performed in practice, and the search for durable solutions for people found to be refugees on Manus. The factsheet also sets out more general information about PNG, including information about the country’s human rights obligations under international and domestic law, key facts and figures, and key dates in relation to refugee processing since 2012.

This factsheet is part of a series on offshore processing, including a factsheet on RSD for asylum seekers in Nauru, and a factsheet on Australia’s responsibility for asylum seekers and refugees in Nauru and Papua New Guinea under international law.

 

Further information

For more information or queries about refugee status determination in Manus, please contact Madeline Gleeson, Director of the Offshore Processing Project.

  • 1. Department of Immigration and Citizenship, ‘Annual report: 2012-2013’, 24 September 2013, <https://www.border.gov.au/ReportsandPublications/Documents/annual-report..., p. 205.
  • 2. Under the Migration Act, an officer may bring a ‘transitory person’ back to Australia from an offshore processing country ‘for a temporary purpose’, however they must be transferred back offshore ‘as soon as reasonably practicable after the person no longer needs to be in Australia for that purpose’. Transitory persons cannot apply for a visa while in Australia unless given written permission from the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection to do so: Migration Act, ss. 46B, 198(1A), 198AH, 198B.
  • 3. Scott Morrison, ‘Reintroducing TPVs to resolve Labor's asylum legacy caseload, Cambodia’, press conference, Canberra, 26 September 2014, <http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/143035/20141222-1032/www.minister.immi.gov... Commonwealth of Australia, Parliamentary Debates (Senate), 4 December 2014, p. 10,313 (Glenn Lazarus) <http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/chamber/hansards/031d80d7-6....
  • 4. Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Asylum Trends 2012 – 2013, <https://www.border.gov.au/ReportsandPublications/Documents/statistics/as... pp. 27-30.
  • 5. Senate Select Committee, Parliament of Australia, ‘A certain maritime incident’, 23 October 2002, <http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Former_Co..., chapters 10, 11.
  • 6. Evidence to Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, Parliament of Australia, ‘Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 to 18 February 2014’, Canberra, 10 June 2014 <http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/commsen/6cc7b021... and Constitutional Affairs References Committee_2014_06_10_2564_Official.pdf> p. 12 (Mark Cormack).
  • 7. Ibid., p. 29.
  • 8. Robert Cornall, ‘Review into the events of 16-18 February 2014 at the Manus Regional Processing Centre’, 23 May 2014, <https://www.immi.gov.au/about/dept-info/_files/review-robert-cornall.pdf> pp. 8-9;  Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, ‘Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014’, 11 December 2014, <http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and... [8.7], [8.9].
  • 9. PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority, ‘Refugee Determination Guidelines’, July 2013 (Attachment 1 to Submission 19 of Elizabeth Thompson to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, ‘Inquiry into the Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014’, available at: <http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and...).
  • 10. UNHCR, ‘UNHCR Monitoring Visit to Manus Island, Papua New Guinea 11-13 June 2013’, 12 July 2013 <http://www.refworld.org/docid/51f61ed54.html> pp. 7-8.
  • 11. UNHCR, ‘UNHCR Monitoring Visit to Manus Island, Papua New Guinea 23-25 October 2013’, 26 November 2013 <http://www.refworld.org/docid/5294aa8b0.html> p. 9.
  • 12. Refugee Determination Guidelines, pp. 49-50.
  • 13. Refugee Determination Guidelines, p. 53.
  • 14. Refugee Determination Guidelines, p. 67.
  • 15. UNHCR Monitoring Visit to Manus Island, Papua New Guinea 23-25 October 2013, p. 10.
  • 16. Mark Cormack, Answer to Question Taken on Notice by Senator Hanson Young, Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Budget Estimates, 26-27 May 2014, available at <http://www.aph.gov.au/~/media/Committees/legcon_ctte/estimates/bud_1415/....
  • 17. A reservation is ‘a unilateral statement, however phrased or named, made by a State, when signing, ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to a treaty, whereby it purports to exclude or to modify the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty in their application to that State’: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, art. 2(1)(d). PNG has made reservations to articles 17 (1), 21, 22 (1), 26, 31, 32 and 34 of the Refugee Convention, and stated that it does not accept the obligations stipulated in these articles. These articles contain obligations relating to access to wage-earning employment, housing and public education, freedom of movement, the rights of refugees who are in PNG unlawfully, expulsion and naturalisation.
  • 18. UNHCR Monitoring Visit to Manus Island, Papua New Guinea 23-25 October 2013, p.7.
  • 19. By signing a treaty, a State expresses a willingness to become a party to the treaty in the future and commits to refrain from acts that would defeat its object and purpose in the meantime. States that have signed a treaty may then ratify it in order to become a State party and legally bound by its terms. States can choose to become a party to a treaty either by signing and then ratifying it, or by acceding to it in a single act. Both ratification and accession have the same legal effect of binding the State to the terms of the treaty. For more information see the United Nations’ Glossary of terms relating to Treaty actions.