The Australian government needs to respond to the current allegations of fraud in the PNG Humanitarian Program to which Australia is a party.
Refugee advocates are demanding that Home Affairs Minister, Clare O’Neil, comes clean on the secret 2021 deal struck by the Morrison government to provide funds to support Australian refugees in PNG.
O’Neil has admitted that Labor last made a payment in July 2022. But those funds are gone. The allegations suggest that in just one year over A$1 million has gone in cosy arrangements over hire cars. The connections between the service provider companies need to be thoroughly investigated.
The letter between the deputy prime minister and the Chief Migration Officer (CMO) indicates that there has been no proper accounting of the PNG Humanitarian program. Invoices that should have been sent to the PNG Immigration Authority were sent directly to the CMO.
“The secrecy surrounding the deal, maintained by the Labor government, can only have facilitated opportunities for corruption of the program that is meant to be providing services for refugees,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “There needs to be a full investigation in Australia as well as PNG to find out where the funds have gone.
“More importantly there needs to be urgent action to restore the services and action to immedately evacuate all refugees from PNG. The cuts to services have created a dire situation for the refugees in PNG.”
Despite assurances and meetings between Home Affairs and PNG officials in Port Moresby over the past few weeks, some refugees are still going with food vouchers and income allowances, which were already below the poverty line. Some refugees had no electricity because they cannot afford to pay out of their own pockets.
Transport for refugees has been cut making it impossible to get to appointments or even go shopping without being vulnerable to robbery or assault. Security services at some accommodation blocks have also been cut, similarly leaving refugees at risk.
Now, the Pacific International Hospital, which claims it is owed millions of dollars by the humanitarian programme, has effectively cut its services, telling refugees that they will have to pay for future appointments.
“Refugees cannot wait for days or weeks to have those services restored; they are literally a lifeline for very unwell refugees,” said Ian Rintoul.
“We welcome the news from the PNG Chief Migration Officer that very unwell refugees will be sent to Australia. These transfers need to start now, not in several weeks’ time.
“All the refugees should be brought to Australia while those who have third country resettlement wait to get to Canada or New Zealand, if that is what they want. Third country resettlement has proved fraught with uncertainty and is exceedingly slow. After more than 10 years, the refugees need safety and security. Labor needs to come clean on the deal that has covered-up the ongoing mistreatment of refugees and take action to bring them to Australia.”
For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713.