Refugees in PNG point to Australia’s negligence

August 25, 2023
Photo: Refugee Action Collective/Facebook

Jason Siwat, a representative of the PNG Catholic Bishops Conference told a forum on August 21 that refugees who were sent to Manus Island are now stuck in Papua New Guinea (PNG). About 15 of suffer from chronic mental and/or medical issues and cannot take care of themselves, he said.

The forum was organised by the Refugee Action Coalition (Sydney) and the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).

Australia was responsible for sending hundreds of refugees to Manus Island, where they were detained between 2012 and 2017.

The PNG Supreme court ruled in 2016 that the detention of refugees, who had committed no crime, was illegal and the centre was closed in 2017.

Many remained on the island until 2019, when they were pressured to move to Port Moresby. Some are working, but for others language barriers have been an obstacle to finding a job. Many have been assaulted and robbed in Port Moresby, which has a high crime rate.

While the Australian government refuses to take responsibility, saying these refugees are PNG’s problem, it does send them a small monthly allowance.

Yasir, a Somali refugee living in Port Moresby, described the inadequate, or non-existent, health care. The Pacific International Hospital is “not helpful in any way”.

Yasir said that when he was working he was paid less than others. Refugees feel very insecure because of the high level of crime. “PNG people don’t accept us,” he said. He was supposedly on a “pathway” to New Zealand, but does not know when he will go. He has been told it will happen “when Australia agrees”.

Thanus Selvarasa, a Tamil refugee formerly on Manus but now living in Australia, spoke about the difficulties of life on a 6-month temporary visa. He cannot find a permanent job or rent a house in his own name. He cannot study, nor see his family.

Farhad Bandesh, a Kurdish refugee and former Manus detainee, also spoke of the hardship of “living in limbo” on a temporary visa.

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