West Sepik administration fumes over handling of Papua border crossers

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By Jeffrey Elapa in Vanimo, PNG

The West Sepik administration is not happy with the way illegal border crossers are being handled by the Indonesian and Papua New Guinean consular officials in Jayapura amid the worsening covid pandemic crisis.

Administrator Conrad Tilau said the provincial administration had now withdrawn its support and involvement in anything to do with border crossers due to the hike in covid-19 pandemic cases in the province.

He said the total covid-19 cases in West Sepik had increased to 336 and it was a concern for the provincial administration.

Tilau said the border crossing was one transmission pathway and the provincial administration was concerned that an isolation centre had not been established in the province.

He said the issue of border crossing was a major concern for his administration, particularly with the surge in the covid-19 cases, and illegal activities along the border.

Tilau said the border crossing into Indonesia was an illegal activity that needed Indonesian authorities to deal with them using their laws instead of sending perpetrators back to Papua New Guinea and creating more problems.

“Border crossing is still going on unnoticed and those crossers are conducting illegal activities and they should be subject to the Indonesian laws,” he said.

‘Poses more risk to PNG’
“For the PNG Consular [officials] in Jayapura to send back those illegal border crossers poses more risk to the country.

“They are illegally in Indonesia so they should be subject to Indonesian laws instead of deporting them to PNG and creating more problems like the increase in covid-19 pandemic cases.”

Tilau said the provincial administration was involved in the exercise along the border when covid-19 first entered the country in 2020 but since then it had stopped its support.

“When we tested the first case in 2021, we said no repatriation but the consular-general got approval from the Pandemic Controller [Police Commissioner David Manning] to send those people back; we do not have an isolation centre in Vanimo to deal with border crossers infected with covid-19,” he said.

‘Indonesia should help PNG’
“Indonesia should help PNG amid the surge in sovid-19 cases.

“What kind of bilateral relationship is this?

“PNG and Indonesia must cooperate to protect their borders from covid-19 and … illegal activities.

“The provincial government and provincial administration have withdrawn our involvement.”

He urged the national government, through the Pandemic Controller, to fund a covid-19 isolation centre in Vanimo given the surge in infections and movement of people along the border.

Meanwhile, the Pandemic Controller has issued a travel restriction along PNG’s international borders.

Jeffrey Elapa is a PNG Post-Courier reporter.

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