Unease over refugees in PNG's Manus
The MP for Manus Open in Papua New Guinea, Ronnie Knight, has warned of growing social problems around the presence of refugees in the community as questions remain over where they will be re-settled by the PNG government.
The MP for Manus Open in Papua New Guinea, Ronnie Knight, has warned of growing social problems around the presence of refugees in the community.
Hundreds more refugees processed at the Australian-run asylum seeker processing centre on Manus Island are to be moved into a second accomodation facility in Lorengau which is a transit facility as they wait for resettlement in PNG.
But Mr Knight told Johnny Blades it remains uncertain where the refugees will be re-settled.
RONNIE KNIGHT: They're finding more genuine asylum seekers, I don't know what criteria they're using. They're moving them from one camp to another, that's as far as it goes. There has not been any move to move them onto another place, or settle them anywhere.
JOHNNY BLADES: So you're saying they're not actually integrating into the community in Manus?
RK: No, no, no they're causing more problems than anything in Manus. They can't stay in Manus, there's no place for them. Manus is a very small town, it's a one street town, you blink twice you miss the town, and there's not enough employment for these people. We have our own people to cater to. The idea was for us to help with a problem, not adopt a problem. So we expect the government to move them to where they are supposed to go next, and it's not Manus.
JB: You've been warning the parliament about the potential for social problems around this. Is the government listening?
RK: Well, nodoby is doing anything about it. At the moment we have people, about 80 of them are in the new centre there, and they have 24 hours access to and from that place. They're involved in home brew, they're involved in marijuana, they're around in messing around with the local girls, I think there's about three girls pregnant now to them. If the government has a plan for these people, what is going to be the next step? There's going to be another 300 plus released into the community and that will make matters much, much worse. It's a situation where I don't think the government has thought much through what's happening next. We have been advised by the Prime Minister and promised by the government that none of these people will be resettled in Manus and we expect that to be honoured.
JB: Who is in charge of this whole process?
RK: Conveniently our government now has taken control of it so it's stuck with our immigration people, which is probably the wrong thing to do, we should have left it with the Australians to deal with. Now we have adopted the problem, now we are stuck with these people, I don't think anywhere in Papua New Guinea people will be happy to assimilate these people into their communities. You have to realise aobut 97% of all the land in PNG is owned by local people, it's customarily owned. They can only be settled in towns, government owned areas. Those government owned areas are very, very few and far between and you will rub people the wrong way if you start taking land deserted land that somebody else wants and local people try to make business out of and earmark it and give it to these people. I'm just seeing the situation escalating in the next few months, or years. I really believe that something should be done quickly. I'm not against the asylum seekers, maybe they have genuine cause to leave their countries but they did it the wrong way and they ended up in this situation. Australia should take a little bit more of the lead to find a third country for them. In Papua New Guinea, these people will not be able to go and beat sago in somebody elses sago patch, and they will not be able to go fishing in somebody else's waters. They will end up being speared, or murdered, and that'll be the next problem.
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