Papuan citizenship promised soon for West Papuan refugees

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Refugees from West Papua in Kiunga Diocese, Papua New Guinea, stand in front of their stilted houses in 2011. The refugees are forced to build their homes on this unwanted land as more than 90 percent of the land in the country is owned by locals. Image: Peter Balleis SJ/ JRS/Spotlight

By Charles Yapumi in Vanimo

West Papuans who have been living in Papua New Guinea for many decades will be granted citizenship soon.

The PNG Immigration and Citizenship Authority will also embark on registering all West Papuan refugees who have crossed over from Indonesia to seek refugee status in Papua New Guinea.

“So far we have over 10,000 refugees from West Papua who have lived with us for a very long time, and we have commenced registration of them with the view to finally granting them legal status,” said Deputy Chief Migration officer for Refugee Division, Esther Gaegaming.

“We’re pleased to announce that for more than 1000 of them, their applications have been finalised and they will be going before the Citizenship Advisory Committee very soon for issuance of their citizenships.

“This Friday, a team from our office will commence registration in Vanimo, another one of the biggest refugee settlement areas for West Papuan refugees. We will follow onto Wewak after that and then to Lae.

“So by the end of this year, we hope to have over 85 percent of West Papuans registered.

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“I am proud to say that PNG is fulfilling its obligations as a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on the status of refugees. PNG now has a vibrant legal and procedural framework for the processing of refugee claims under the Migration Act and Regulations,” Gaegaming said.

“We also have a system in place for the registration and naturalisation of refugees from West Papua who have lived in Papua New Guinea for decades.

“We also have a national refugee policy that is clear on refugee matters, including guidance on the resettlement of refugees in Papua New Guinea and most of all, we have a dedicated team in the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Authority that is set up especially to manage this,” she said.

Charles Yapumi is a reporter for Loop PNG.

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