PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Salesian missionaries hold roundtable to discuss situation of 400 refugees in need on Manus Island
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries in the city of Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea held a roundtable discussion at the end of November 2018 on the needs of some 400 refugees on Manus Island which is part of Manus Province in northern Papua New Guinea. For many of these refugees, it was their sixth Christmas season far from home and living in difficult situations.
In April 2016, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea declared that a detention center for asylum seekers on the island of Manus, established by the Australian government through an agreement with the government of Papua New Guinea, was illegal and unconstitutional.
Today, some 400 refugees are still waiting to be resettled, subjecting them to a series of human rights violations and social jeopardy. In an attempt to find a solution to the current situation, Salesian Father Ambrose Pereira, secretary of the Communication and Youth Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, launched the roundtable discussion.
“On December 15, 2017, I met the first two refugees who had been taken away from the Isle of Manus and sent to the Bomana penitentiary,” explained Fr. Pereira. “Last year was characterized by constant interaction with refugees from Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, Syria and many other countries. Fortunately, some have been resettled, but most of them are still in Papua New Guinea.”
The roundtable, entitled “Manus Refuges,” brought together the government, the Church, students, refugees and Papuan citizens for an open discussion. Monsignor Bernard Unaballi, bishop of Bougainville, strongly committed himself to finding a definitive solution and suggested the Christmas period for a deadline. Despite this, no agreement was reached and the refugees spent their sixth Christmas in terrible conditions.
“I have waited with hope, but the promised meetings with the Prime Minister and the Australian High Commissioner never materialized,” explained Fr. Pereira. “The offices are now closed and everyone has returned home for the holidays while beyond 400 refugees struggle to gain access to essential health and services.”
Salesian missionaries in Papua New Guinea provide primary and secondary education as well as technical skills training to prepare youth for the workforce. Missionaries also help to ensure that basic needs like shelter, food and water are met so students are able to focus on their studies. The Don Bosco Technical School in Gabutu, an area within the city of Port Moresby, is providing close to 1,000 students a chance to gain the skills needed for employment. Some students have already graduated and are now employed at the school. Martin Dai, the current principal, was one of the first 120 students who graduated from the Don Bosco Technical School in 1988.
Papua New Guinea has a population of approximately 7.5 million. It is a resource-rich country with oil, gas and gold reserves as well as fertile land capable of producing high crop yields. Despite this, an estimated 40 percent of Papua New Guineans live below the poverty line of $1.25 per day, according to the World Bank.
Close to 50 percent of adults are illiterate and 25 percent of children are unable to attend school in Papua New Guinea. Part of the problem accessing school, work and hospitals has to do with the country’s infrastructure. In rural areas, where nearly 88 percent of the population resides, there are few roads or means of transportation.
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World Bank – Papua New Guinea Poverty