News Pacific

Nationwide Registration for all West Papuans in PNG

By Scott Waide – EMTV, Lae

The Papua New Guinea government will begin a registration for all West Papuans living all over the country, more than 40 years after the first group of West Papuans crossed the border as political refugees.

The decision was prompted largely by a public backlash after the Asylum deal with Australia.   

At various forums, the PNG government came under heavy public criticism that questioned why  the West Papua issue was ignored for  nearly half a century while asylum seekers sent to Manus were expected to be proceeded in under a decade.

The deal  between Australia and Papua New Guinea to have off-shore processing centres   on Manus and Nauru  came with a clause which residents of the centre viewed as genuine refugees would never be settled in Australia but in a third country like Papua New Guinea.

The government responded by setting up a refugee division a more than 18 months ago – the first such move  since  Independence. 

The Refugee Division is now  spearheading moves to  address the backlog of refugee related  issues  including  new cases created by the Processing centre deal with Australia.

In its role to  meet the expectation of Government policy spurred by the Asylum centre deal with Australia,  the division is  also managing a delicate public relations exercise.  It is trying to  get   Papua New Guineans to accept a new wave of refugees from  countries outside of Melanesia through  a campaign to win over the hearts  and minds of people.

It is a subtle approach through various media to appeal to  the strong sense of Christianity and  Melanesian values of support and brotherhood. Its also puts  the West Papuan Refugee issue in the fore whilst keeping the resettlement of Manus refugees in the back ground.  

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