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Fiji slams Australia's PNG boatpeople plan

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Fiji said Monday an "arrogant" Australia was dumping problems on its Pacific neighbours by deciding to resettle boat-borne asylum-seekers in Papua New Guinea.

Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola said Australia had "shocked" Fiji when it unveiled the policy this month with no consultation in the region.

"We cannot remain silent when the Australian government dumps this problem, which is arguably of its own making, on our doormat," he told a function in Brisbane in remarks posted on the Fiji government website.

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

Under the new policy, asylum-seekers arriving by boat will not only have be processed at a camp on PNG's Manus Island, they will also be permanently resettled in the poor Pacific nation even if found to be genuine refugees.

The UN has raised concerns about the policy, which Canberra says is designed to stop record number of boatpeople attempting the perilous voyage to Australian waters. This has led to hundreds of people drowning when overloaded boats sank.

Kubuabola said he was concerned about the potential impact of asylum-seekers being resettled in the Melanesia region, which includes PNG, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands.

"The Australian government has used its economic muscle to persuade one of our Melanesian governments to accept thousands of people who are not Pacific islanders, a great number of them permanently," he said.

"This was done to solve a domestic political problem and for short-term political gain without proper consideration of the long-term political consequences."

Kubuabola, whose military-led government seized power in Fiji in a 2006 coup, said the policy could lead to instability in the region.

Australia has battled to stem rising numbers of asylum-seekers arriving by boat in recent years, with almost 16,000 coming this year alone.

The government has already claimed its hardline policy has succeeded in deterring people-smugglers.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130729/fiji-slams-australias-png-boatpeople-plan