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Australia, PNG sign MOU on reopening Manus detention center

(Xinhua)

16:59, August 19, 2011

CANBERRA, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Friday announced the federal government and Papua New Guinea have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on reopening Manus Island to process asylum seekers.

Bowen said the MOU signed on Friday afternoon will see asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia to be sent to Papua New Guinea for processing.

He said it signals an important step to stop unauthorized arrivals in Australia.

"The Manus Island center will complement the Malaysia transfer arrangement and provide further disincentive for people considering risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys (to Australia)," Bowen said in a statement released on Friday.

"This MOU sends a clear message that countries in this region are working together towards a lasting regional response."

The MOU recognizes the need for a regional solution to people smuggling and notes that both countries are signatories to the United Nations convention on refugee rights.

It also commits to treating detainees with dignity and respect, to processing them as quickly as possible, while noting that Australia will bear all the costs of their assessments.

Bowen said the two countries were working to have the Manus Island detention center operational "at the earliest opportunity".

The Manus Island detention center was built in 2001 and was closed in 2004 after its final detainee was resettled in Australia.

Under Australia's refugee swap deal with Malaysia, Australia will accept 4,000 extra refugees from Malaysia over the next four years. In return, Malaysia will take 800 asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat.

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