MOSCOW, November 12 (RIA Novosti) – The first group of people being held at the Australian detention center on the Manus Islands has been granted refugee status, Papua New Guinean Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Rimbink Pato revealed Wednesday.
"The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Hon. Rimbink Pato, LLB, OBE, MP announced today that he made the first ten refugee status decisions for asylum seekers at the Manus Regional Processing Centre," the minister's media release stated.
The refugees will be given temporary protection visas and located at the facility in East Lorengau. The minister added that 10 refugee decisions are expected to be taken per week.
"Now that I have started to hand down refugee decisions, these people can start to take the first steps towards their new lives," Pato said.
The Manus Regional Processing Centre is a detention center for asylum seekers located on the Manus Islands in Papua New Guinea. The center was established by the Australian Government in 2001 as part of an offshore program to provide assistance to individuals in need of humanitarian resettlement.
As of November 2014, over 2,000 asylum seekers are still waiting for their refugee status to be processed so that they can leave the center, Amnesty International reports. Over $1 billion has been spent to detain a volume of asylum seekers in excess of the center's capacity, but people are barely surviving due to intense heat and humidity, according to the watchdog.