6 Oct 2004

Papuan refugees moved within PNG

3:21 pm on 6 October 2004

More than 260 refugees were told by Papua New Guinea that they may be forced back to Indonesia's Papua province if they refused to relocate within PNG.

One hundred and eighty-five refugees from Papua were relocated late last week from the PNG border town of Vanimo to PNG's remote East Awin refugee camp.

Up until shortly before their relocation last Thursday, the refugees -- in Vanimo since the year 2000 -- refused to leave at all for the inland camp, 300km away.

The Department of Provincial Affairs director in charge of the relocation, Chris Kati, says 185 refugees eventually agreed to move, but the rest absconded.

Mr Kati says the refugees were given no other options, and were told they may be sent back to Papua, or forced to move to East Awin, if they didn't go voluntarily.

"We told them in straight language that if you don't accept, if you refuse to move to East Awin, it would imply that you are refusing the PNG Government's offer of asylum, protection, so the next option that may be available to the Government was for them to be repatriated back."

Chris Kati.