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09 August 2013
The foreign minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has announced that his country will introduce a new visa class for refugees deported from Australia under a new treaty between the two countries.
Mr Rimbink Pato says that the PNG government will introduce legislation which would allow asylum seekers permanent resident status and citizenship.
On 19th July 2013, new Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd announced that, with immediate effect, all asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat would not be allowed to stay in Australia or be allowed to apply for asylum in Australia. Instead, they would be taken to PNG, to a camp on the island of Manus, or to the Pacific island state of Nauru where their asylum claims would be decided.
However, the Australian opposition Coalition has criticised the Australian government's agreements with Nauru and PNG. It says that Nauru has no permanent resident visa and so cannot grant permanent resident status to the asylum seekers.
The opposition also leapt on a statement by the MP for the island of Manus, Ronnie Knight, who said that no asylum seekers would be allowed to settle in PNG.
Mr Pato spoke to journalists on 6th August 2013. He was speaking in Port Moresby at a press conference given at the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Australia and PNG about the processing of asylum seekers.
The deal has faced considerable opposition in Australia and is likely to face legal challenges.
Even the Australian foreign secretary Bob Carr, a member of Mr Rudd's Labor Party, has expressed concern that PNG's laws banning homosexuality could present a problem. Homosexual asylum seekers could face prison in PNG. Mr Carr described PNG's anti-homosexual laws as 'grotesquely outdated' and said that they are at odds with modern Australian values.
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