21 Jan 2003

PNG Catholic Church concerned about safety of Papuan bordercrossers

5:13 pm on 21 January 2003

The Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea says Papuan bordercrossers in the country fear being forcibly sent back to Indonesia during a possible crackdown on OPM or Free Papua rebels by PNG police.

Samson Mesambe, the Secretary for Caritas, says the PNG government's ultimatum and threats of a rebel crackdown will jeopardise the safety of bordercrossers in the church's Vanimo camp.

The Somare government gave an ultimatum to the OPM rebels accused of launching anti-Jakarta attacks from PNG in December, to go back to Indonesia by January 31st or face deportation.

Mr Mesambe says the bordercrossers who fled into PNG during an escalation of violence there three years ago do not want to be associated with the OPM rebels.

He says bordercrossers are worried that PNG police may mistakenly identify them as rebels because OPM fighters could hide in the church camp during a crackdown.


This feeling of fear is very big because they'refrightened because the government might forcibly send them back. Rebels who want into come into this camp that the Diocese is looking after then the authorities can go in and bring them into the hands of the law.

DUR:...14 SECS

Samson Mesambe from PNG Caritas.

The Papua bordercrossers have applied for refugee status which the PNG government has refused to grant.