Manila will accept only in-transit refugees

The Philippines will not accept any refugees sent by Australia if they are expected to live in the South-east Asian nation permanently, President Benigno Aquino said yesterday.

Mr Aquino said he was “seriously considering” an Australian government proposal to accept some refugees, but only if they were to transit in the Philippines before moving to another country.

“If this proposed agreement is not transitory in nature… we feel we are not in a capacity at this point in time to afford permanent residency to these people,” Mr Aquino told reporters. “Australia can recognise that we do have a significantly bigger population than they do. We have challenges to meeting the needs of our people right now. We would want to assist, but there are limitations.”

The Australian government said on Oct 9 it was in talks with the Philippines to send refugees to the nation of 100 million people, roughly one quarter of whom live in deep poverty.

This came after a front-page report in Australia’s The Daily Telegraph said both countries’ foreign ministers had agreed to the Philippines accepting refugees for resettlement in exchange for A$150 million (S$151.5 million). Australia has not disclosed details of the proposal and Mr Aquino did not elaborate.

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