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Issue #1701      September 9, 2015

PNG removes appeal rights for asylum seekers

In what seems to be a knee-jerk response to the Supreme Court constitutional challenge to Manus Island, the Papua New Guinea Immigration department has summarily removed the right of appeal from asylum seekers on Manus Island.

At an “open” meeting of Manus Island asylum seekers on September 1, around 30 asylum seekers from the various compounds (surrounded by more than 40 security guards) were told that they would no longer be able to appeal against negative refugee determination decisions.

Until now, asylum seekers have been able to appeal against a negative determination. But a PNG immigration official told the meeting, the PNG Minister for Immigration had decided that people who got a negative result on the first interview would no longer be allowed to appeal.

The meeting was also told that the Minister said there would be no more cases in the court to stop them being deported. “There are two options; either you go back voluntarily by International Organisation for Migration (IOM) or you will be forcibly deported by PNG immigration,” the official told the meeting, “PNG has decided not to hold anyone with a negative result.”

The Supreme Court however has extended an injunction preventing the removal of 26 asylum seekers until the next directions hearing of the Supreme Court on September 7. The Supreme Court will also consider a general application for further orders against the refoulement of any of the Manus detainees.

The meeting of asylum seekers was also told there would be no chance to see a lawyer. Yet, the constitutional right to have access to a lawyer is one of the fundamental issues being considered by the Supreme Court. None of the detained asylum seekers have ever been informed of their constitutional rights or allowed to have access to a lawyer.

“The decision to remove appeal rights from asylum seekers is one more indication of the arbitrary circumstances of asylum seekers on Manus Island. Around 50 percent of those who received a negative decision at their first interview were being accepted on review,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“PNG Immigration is trying to pre-empt the decisions of the Supreme Court and violate the rights of asylum seekers. It is a shabby and transparent attempt to deprive them of their constitutional rights and to intimidate more asylum seekers to accept being returned.”

Next article – Return to crisis

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