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Papua New Guinea’s bishops denounce refugee agreement

Catholic World News - July 25, 2013

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands has denounced an agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea on refugees seeking asylum.

Under the agreement, those seeking entry into Australia by boat will be transported to Manus Island, the fifth-largest island in Papua New Guinea, and those declared to be genuine refugees would be allowed to stay in Papua New Guinea.

“As of today asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia,” Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said as he announced the agreement.

“Like everyone else, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands was taken by surprise with the announcement that all asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat will be processed on Manus Island PNG, and those deemed to be genuine refugees will be resettled in Papua New Guinea (and other participating regional, including Pacific Island, states),” a conference official said in a statement. “Until more facts become available it is difficult for us to comment on all the social and moral implications of this decision.”

“However, we can certainly say this, that while Papua New Guineans are not lacking in compassion for those in need, this country (unlike Australia which is a stable and thriving nation of immigrants) does not have the capacity at this time in its history to welcome a sizeable influx of refugees and provide for their immediate needs and a reasonable hope for a new and prosperous beginning,” the statement continued. “The leaders of Papua New Guinea and Australia surely know this and therefore appear to be making a very unwise decision.”

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