Australia ends migrants housing deal with Papua New Guinea
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia is ending a deal with Papua New Guinea to house asylum-seekers, leaving scores who have spent years on the South Pacific island nation the options of resettling in the United States or the tiny atoll of Nauru.
Australia has been paying Papua New Guinea and Nauru since 2013 to house thousands of asylum-seekers who attempt to reach Australian shores by boat.
Australia’s pledge that migrants who come by boat will never be allowed to stay has all but ended the people smuggling traffic from Southeast Asian ports.
Australia and its nearest neighbor, Papua New Guinea, announced on Wednesday that the asylum-seeker deal will end on Dec. 31.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said asylum-seekers who don’t want to settle in Papua New Guinea can move to Nauru or apply to resettle in the United States. The Nauru agreement will continue indefinitely.
Australia struck a deal in the final days of President Barack Obama’s administration for the United States to resettle 1,250 migrants that Australia refuses to accept because they had come by boat.
Former President Donald Trump reluctantly honored the agreement to resettle the predominantly Muslim migrants.
Andrews said 250 places remain available in the United States. But those who have left Papua New Guinea and Nauru for the United States in recent years have complained they have received less government support than they would have expected in Australia.
“Another 250 places are there. There are a number of people who have expressed interest. We are working through that process with the United States,” Andrews told Brisbane Radio 4BC.
“This is a long-term durable solution for those people who will never have the opportunity to settle here in Australia. So it’s a good option for them,” she added.
Papua New Guinea had been reserved for single men and Nauru for other asylum-seekers.
Papua New Guinea now accommodates 124 asylum-seekers and Nauru 107, the Australian government said. Only 88 of Papua New Guinea’s asylum-seekers are recognized as refugees, meaning they were forced to leave their homes to escape war, persecution or natural disaster.