3 Mar 2003

Catholic Church criticises PNG decision to repatriate bordercrossers

4:43 pm on 3 March 2003

The Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea's Vanimo province has criticized the government's decision to repatriate 400 bordercrossers who fled Indonesia's Papua province in 2000.

The Church, which has been caring for the bordercrossers ever since, says the decision breaches the human rights of the Papuans who fear for their lives if they return to Indonesia.

The PNG Government has issued an order for the bordercrossers to voluntarily go back to Indonesia by March 13 or face deporation.

Father Tomi Thomas from the Vanimo Diocese says the bordercrossers have already indicated that they will not return voluntarily.

"from the time they arrived until this day the emphasis is that they are fearing for their lives and so they will never go back until independance is granted. We always will stand for the human rights with the help of because Papua New Guinea has also signed the convention on human rights"

Father Thomas says six Papuan families have been granted refugee status.

Earlier this year, the PNG government told Free Papua or OPM rebels to go back to Indonesia or face deportation after a series of border clashes with Indonesian military last December.

The rebels have since moved their camps but it is unknown if they have crossed back into Indonesia.