23 Jan 2003

PNG's Catholic Church hopes UN can prevent repatriation of border crossers to Indonesia

11:13 am on 23 January 2003

Papua New Guinea's Catholic Church is hoping the UN's knowledge of why Papuans fled Indonesia into Sandaun will protect them from being repatriated during a possible crackdown by PNG authorities against Free Papua or OPM rebels.

The Secretary for Caritas, Samson Mesambe, says the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is aware of the bordercrossers plight and the PNG government would not want to attract international criticism by deporting them.

Mr Mesambe says bordercrossers, who fled Indonesia three years ago because of increasing violence, fear that they will be mistakenly identified by PNG Police as OPM rebels.

The Somare Government gave OPM rebels, accused of launching anti-Jakarta attacks from PNG, until January 31 to go back to Indonesia or face deportation.

Mr Mesambe says the UN's knowledge of the Papuans in PNG maybe the only thing protecting the bordercrossers from being deported to Indonesia.

"We have advised them not to be frightened because the case has been brought to the UN and the government can't do anything at the moment. ....Although this fear is still among them, and they have been frustrated, we have advised them not to worry to much about this."

Samson Mesambe, PNG's Caritas