Australia, Papua New Guinea sign pact over asylum seekers

Canberra, July 19 (IANS) Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) have signed an agreement to ensure no asylum seeker arriving by boat can settle in Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his PNG counterpart Peter O'Neill announced Friday.

Under the pact, from now on, any asylum seeker who arrives in Australia by boat will have no chance of being settled in Australia as a refugee. They will be sent to Papua New Guinea's Manus Island to assess their refugee status, reports Xinhua.

"If they are found to be genuine refugees, they will be resettled in Papua New Guinea," Rudd said, adding that the arrangement would apply for the next 12 months and be subject to annual review.

In exchange, Australia will fund further aid initiatives, including redeveloping a major referral hospital, in Lae, PNG's second largest city, and assisting with its long-term management.

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