Fiji yesterday said an “arrogant” Australia was dumping problems on its Pacific neighbors by deciding to resettle boat-borne asylum-seekers in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Fijian Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola said Australia had “shocked” Fiji when it unveiled the policy this month with no consultation in the region.
“We cannot remain silent when the Australian government dumps this problem, which is arguably of its own making, on our doormat,” Kubuabola told a function in Brisbane, Australia, in remarks posted on the Fiji government Web site.
“This deal continues a pattern of behavior on the part of the Australian government that is inconsiderate, prescriptive, high-handed and arrogant,” he said.
Under the new policy, asylum-seekers arriving by boat will not only have to be processed at a camp on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, they will also be permanently resettled in the poor Pacific nation even if found to be genuine refugees.
The UN has raised concerns about the policy, which Canberra says is designed to stop record number of boatpeople attempting the perilous voyage to Australian waters. This has led to hundreds of people drowning when overloaded boats sank.
Kubuabola said he was concerned about the potential impact of asylum-seekers being resettled in the Melanesia region, which includes PNG, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands.
“The Australian government has used its economic muscle to persuade one of our Melanesian governments to accept thousands of people who are not Pacific Islanders, a great number of them permanently,” he said.
“This was done to solve a domestic political problem and for short-term political gain, without proper consideration of the long-term political consequences,” he said.