Australia increases pressure, cash offers for asylum seekers to return home

Officials at an Australian immigration centre in Papua New Guinea are increasing pressure on asylum seekers to return to their home countries voluntarily, including offering large sums of money, amid fears a deal for the United States to take refugees has fallen through.

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Officials at an Australian immigration centre in Papua New Guinea are increasing pressure on asylum seekers to return to their home countries voluntarily, including offering large sums of money, amid fears a deal for the United States to take refugees has fallen through.

About a dozen Bangladeshi and Nepalese asylum seekers on Manus Island told Reuters they are being repeatedly called to meet with Australian officials and pressured to take amounts of up to $25,000 to return to those countries, or face deportation.

The men, who have been ruled ineligible for refugee status by Papua New Guinea, said officials are also acting with urgency on deportation notices filed weeks or months ago. At least one Nepalese man was removed from his accommodation in the middle of the night last week, they said.

"They told me and others that if you go back voluntarily you will get money about $20,000, if you guys go in group you will get more money," detainee Mohammad Bilal, a crane driver who says he fled Bangladesh for political reasons, told Reuters about a meeting with Australian officials last week.

Germany recently announced plans to offer up to 1,200 euros ($1,275) to asylum seekers to voluntarily return home.

"Substantial assistance packages are available to help non-refugees depart voluntarily, return home and re-establish their lives in their home country," Australia's immigration department said in an emailed statement to Reuters. "In cases where non-refugees refuse to depart voluntarily, the government of PNG has indicated that it will enforce the removal of those individuals, in accordance with normal international practice."

The department declined to comment in more detail.

Australia does not reveal the cost of its offshore processing program. However, a 2016 report from Unicef and Save the Children estimated the policy had cost A$10 billion ($7.7 billion) over the previous three years.



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