The arrival of Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Port Moresby. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Tony Abbott has raised the prospect of some asylum seekers being ''swiftly'' released from the Manus Island detention centre and permanently resettled in Papua New Guinea.
But in comments on his arrival at Port Morseby on Wednesday night, the Prime Minister has injected more uncertainty into the fate of the majority of about 1300 asylum seekers being held in the centre.
Mr Abbott meets his counterpart, Peter O'Neill, on Friday and indicated the future of those in the camp that was rocked by violence last month would be discussed.
''I'll certainly be talking to Prime Minister O'Neill about what we can do to swiftly get people out of the Manus camp and at least some resettled here in PNG as was agreed with prime minister (Kevin) Rudd about nine months ago,'' Mr Abbott said.
Under the agreement with the former government, all – not some - of those transferred to PNG and found to be refugees were to be resettled in that country.
Having ruled out any being resettled in Australia, Mr Abbott's remarks raise the prospect of a majority of the asylum seekers being settled in a third country, though no contender has emerged since the centre was reopened by the former government.
The UNHCR has expressed grave concern about PNG's capacity to process the asylum seekers, the conditions in the camp and their prospects for resettlement.
Mr Abbott's visit coincides with an inquiry by PNG judge David Cannings that has taken evidence from asylum seekers this week and will see the media allowed into the centre with the judge on Friday.
The Abbott government has consistently refused media access to the centre.
Several of those who appeared before the inquiry said they feared a repeat of last month's violence that saw one asylum seeker brutally killed and several others seriously wounded.
They have also told Justice Cannings they had never been told they were entitled to legal representation, something that is their right under PNG law.
Mr Abbott is also expected to sign a new economic co-operation agreement with PNG during his three-day visit to Australia's nearest neighbour.