Papua New Guinea wants a timetable to end asylum seeker processing and get all those involved off Manus Island.
Its leader James Marape used a joint media conference alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison to call for a “mutually workable” timetable on wrapping up Australia’s offshore processing regime.
“We need to establish a schedule and timetable towards full closure of the entire asylum process,” Mr Marape said in Canberra on Monday.
“Both governments will both work in bringing this to a conclusion which is mutually beneficial.”
Mr Morrison said enormous progress had been made in the talks on Monday.
“We’re just going to continue to work through the issue pragmatically as we have,” he said.
Mr Marape said the refugees should be resettled and those asylum seekers who had not been found to be refugees should leave PNG and return to their home countries or elsewhere.
Mr Morrison said those people “shouldn’t be in Papua New Guinea, Australia, or anywhere else”.
However, the PNG Prime Minister shied away from the suggestion his country could take up New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees a year, independently of Australia.
The Morrison government has refused to take up that offer for fear it would be marketed by people smugglers as a backdoor entry.
Manus Island governor Charlie Benjamin said PNG appreciated the New Zealand offer but respected its relationship with Australia.
“If Australia would agree to that then we have no problem. But, you know, being neighbours, Australia’s view is also important to all of us,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“My view is for them to go to a country as soon as possible … but it’s really Australia [that] has to step up and take those hard yards.”
But he didn’t see moving people from Manus Island to Nauru, where Australia also has immigration facilities, as a solution, saying that would essentially be the same as staying put.
Mr Benjamin said there had been social problems with the asylum seekers in the small community, and some of the men had fathered children to local women
“That is the problem that we now have and I don’t know how we can be able to solve that,” he said.