Asylum seekers bound for PNG

Last updated 17:14 29/07/2013

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Fiji has attacked Australia's new hardline asylum seeker policy, warning it could alter the social fabric of the Pacific islands.

Fiji Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola today launched an acidic broadside against the government's plan to send all asylum seekers coming by boat to Papua New Guinea for processing and possible resettlement.

He says Australia used its economic muscle to persuade a Melanesian country to accept thousands of people who are not Pacific Islanders into the region.

''For an Australian problem, you have proposed a Melanesian solution that threatens to destabilise the already delicate social and economic balances in our societies,'' Kubuabola told the 20th Australia-Fiji Business Forum in Brisbane.

''This deal, and those mooted with Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, clearly threatens our interests by altering the fundamental social fabric of any member country that accepts a deal.

''We are deeply troubled by the consequent threat to the stability of these countries and the wider Melanesian community by the scale of what is being envisaged.''

The foreign minister said that while he respected the PNG  government's sovereign right to make the deal, it was done to solve Australia's domestic political problem for short-term political gain, without proper consideration of the long-term consequences.

''This was done without any consultation, a sudden and unilateral announcement, which is not the Pacific way and has shocked a great many people in the region,'' Kubuabola said.

''We share the horror of many in the international community at the deaths of more than 1000 asylum seekers trying to reach Australia.

''But we cannot remain silent when the current Australian government dumps this problem, which is arguably of its own making, on our doorstep.

''This deal continues a pattern of behaviour on the part of the Australian government that is inconsiderate, prescriptive,  high-handed and arrogant.''

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- AAP

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