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.