First asylum seekers arrive on Manus Island | Pacific Beat

First asylum seekers arrive on Manus Island

First asylum seekers arrive on Manus Island

Updated 21 November 2012, 17:58 AEST

The first group of 19 asylum seekers from Australia arrived on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea this morning.

The families from Iran and Sri Lanka were flown in from Australia's detention centre on Christmas Island for processing.

There was tight security with riot police presence at the Momote airport as they were being taken to the centre.

Ronnie Knight, Manus MP, says the islanders welcome the detainees, but are upset about what they see as the Australian and PNG governments rushing through the project. Mr Knight says local people have missed out on security and catering contracts and want outstanding concerns resolved before the group of the 600-asylum seekers ultimately destined for Manus arrive.

Presenter: Firmin Nanol

Speaker: Ronne Knight, MP for Manus, Papua New Guinea

KNIGHT: They have been taken straight to the processing centre and they will be there for sometime, until they are sorted out and mostly all families, no individuals. This one was just families, Afghanistan or Iraq or somewhere like that. They said they were going to trial 25, the total processing facilities set up for 600, so within the next month or so, there should be 600 on the ground.

NANOL: Member, do you think the facilities enough to cater for 600 asylum seekers?

KNIGHT: Yeah, there's enough tents and everything there on the ground at the moment for them to do that, there's no problem.

NANOL: The people on Manus Island were a bit concerned over benefits and generally contracts they were going to get from the original processing centre. Has that issue been settled or is there an issue still outstanding that both the Australian and PNG Government and the Manus Provincial Government needs to iron out?

KNIGHT: I think there was a lot of disinformation in the first place. To be honest with you, it has to be sorted out, we must sort it out. Looking at this development budget that came in today and both me and the governor are really disappointed. They told us that you won't get anything that's not in the development package and the Australian Government will give what they want to the PNG Government and the PNG Government will look to help Provincial Government. With the project part of the budget, Manus got nothing out of it.

NANOL: The Australian Government and PNG Government are working out something separately as far as the Manus original processing centre was concerned and demands from the landowners. So that doesn't seem to be the case now, is it, is that what you're saying?

KNIGHT: No, no, what Australia's committed that eight million Australian dollars to Manus, that is very little in what we're looking at. We're really happy with what extra they can give us, but we expected PNG to be happy with us for providing Manus and we expected our government to give us a little bit more along normal projects, eh, that didn't happen.

NANOL: So what particular things are the people of Manus looking at, like what kind of contracts in specific. Like for the security, there's a company called G4S already engaged in?

KNIGHT: This is a contentious issue that we're talking about. We don't want G4S there. G4S took over from the former Wormold firm and they left a lot of people unpaid, left a lot of Manus landowner guards stranded in Moresby. Now we have the capacity to handle the security contracts, that was from day one we told them that. We also told them that catering. We have at least give something to our landholders. Obviously at the end of the day, it is state land, it is the Australian Government talking to the PNG Government over state land. You can understand that. But that land was probably appropriated by the German Government before from the original landowners for maybe some beads, or maybe some bags of clothing or some tobacco sticks or something at that time, so people are still looking at trying to get what they can out of it. Unfortunately, with our people at home, getting their act together in a way that they come together single front, too many factions there. People saying two or three different landowner companies and I think that maybe they took advantage of that, that could have been the problem in the first place.

NANOL: Would the Manus people and you as the leader would you welcome if there was an extention for them to stay longer or maybe a year or even integrating to Manus?

KNIGHT: Well, I think it's supposed to be a long term thing. They're looking at putting a permanent facility on the island, but I'm telling you now, that the way it was done with the large school on the ground, we have not done this diplomatically with the people, so we're looking at problems down the track, maybe small problems, and now they've put the mobile squad in Manus, they need to keep them there. Because obviously as soon as they leave, something will happen. With me as a politician and as mayor of Manus if Australia wants to be genuine about this, and they could have told us we could have sorted out security ourselves and that would be on the table for all the local business and the landowners could come in with their, under an umbrella company. With catering, we could still say give it to the landowners, They can take it. They have engineers, they have cooks, there up to date. If worse comes to worse, give them the money and they will bring in new national food catering or whatever else they can handle it or something stays at home.

At the moment now, it's just 30 people 2001. I wasn't a politician then, but I was involved as a policeman with my unit looking after the security at Lombrum.

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