The Regional Processing Center at Lombrum in Manus Province may have shut down…but the four years of operation has changed the island province forever.
Locals says the asylum deal between the Australia-PNG Governments has not only brought economic benefits, but devastating consequences.
The establishment of the Regional Processing facility at Lombrum had delivered a booming economy, jobs for the local people and the much-needed services that Manus province needed for many years.
But on the other hand, the Manus people don’t have much say over how the center should be managed on their own land.
“The asylum seeker deal brought about developments that change the way of life, financially, upskill training for the workers and other services in terms of road infrastructures”, said Ishmael Poienou, a resident of Manus.
About 90 million kina have been provided as aid to the province through health, education and road infrastructure projects.
Although it provided some relief to the province that rarely sees such big funding, it was viewed by many locals as a modest slice of the total payoff to the PNG government amounting to over K1 billion kina that were spent elsewhere in the country.
“When the center was established in Manus, a large portion of the financial package wasn’t only given to Manus, but other province in Papua New Guinea also benefited from it which I think it is good, but personally I feel that much of the money should have been spent in Manus to develop the province”, Joe Abraham, a former worker at the asylum center said.
More than 1, 000 job opportunities were provided, that cut off more than 50 percent of the unemployment rate in the province.
Many young people left their remote villages and flocked into Lorengau town in search for rewarding opportunities.
Since then many people in the province have been asking if the facility would last as it didn’t include social mapping and no future sustainability plans before it started.
And it was not until 2017 when the supreme court handed down its decision to close the center after rendering it illegal.
“There is always a good and bad side of development. Likewise, when the asylum seekers were brought into Manus, they brought with them both good and bad”, Mr. Abraham said.
Since 2017 after the closure of the processing center, nothing much has changed for the island province.
And life returned to what it was 4 years before the center was established.
“When the center was closed and the refugees removed, everything went back to normal. Subsequently, no more assistance was given”, said Felicity Moe, a primary school teacher at Lorengau.
For now, the province is going through a transitional period.
Issues of inter-racial marriage between local women and the refugees, have increased over the last three years.