Port Moresby: The Catholic Bishops Conference (CBC) of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands has released an open letter to the Australian Parliament regarding their inability to resettle Manus/Nauru Asylum seekers and refugees.
The letter was presented by General Secretary of CBCPNGSI, Fr Giorgio Licini PIME, during a press conference held at 11am on Monday 19th July 2021, at the CBC headquarters in Gordons. Panellists for the conference also included Migrants & Refugee Desk Director, Mr Jason Siwat, and Sr Mary McCarthy, Voluntary worker and Chaplain of POM General Hospital.
Three main agendas were presented beginning with the Letter to the Australian Government, the remaining 127 ex-Manus refugees, and the experience and insight into volunteering with sick asylum seekers and refugees living in POM.
After reciting the contents of the letter, Fr Giorgio urged for the Australian Government to amend legislation that would provide the leeway necessary to cater for the remaining 127 refugees. “This is a small number of people who were transferred to PNG since 2013, and they still look forward to the day when they will be given a change to resettle elsewhere. The fact that they are being detained indefinitely could possibly mean, for the rest of their life,” he said.
Mr Siwat said that although the laws initiated by the Australian Government were in its best interests, for the asylum seekers and refugees these laws only created 8-years of misery and pain. “Refugees have now become destitute and have now come to a depressing conclusion that resettlement elsewhere outside of PNG is highly unlikely,” he added.
He noted how the continued detention within PNG was a serious breach of Section 42 of PNG’s National Constitution and implored both the Australian and PNG Government to respect the rule of Law. “Our leaders are not conscious about what happens in our existing bilateral relations. Australia needs to start respecting the sovereignty of PNG as a fully independent nation,” he stressed.
Sr Mary said that among the hurt and difficulties of being unable to be resettled, many of the refugees suffered psychological nervous breakdowns due to the detention. This had an impact on their families who lived abroad. “Their families could not understand why they were being detained against their will which added to the burden of stress that they were already experiencing,” she said.
A strong message to address the pleas of the refugees and asylum seekers was outlined in bold in the letter, in an effort to resolve the matter once and for all after eight years of living in PNG. “…We strongly urge the Australian parliament to legislate for the freedom and a home in Australia at least for those who have been detained in Manus and Nauru at any stage after 19 July 2013 and have no way, now and in the future, to be resettled to a third country,” it stated.
It further read, “Australia forcing them to stay indefinitely on PNG soil against the wish of anybody here, contradicts the spirit of PNG self-determination. We believe it is time for Australia to erase any trace of past colonial demandand fully implement a new style of compassionate and participative leadership in the Pacific.”
The letter’s endnote made a humble call for the Manus and Nauru chapter to be shutdown immediately. “Please, close the Manus and Nauru chapter as soon as possible by allowing people who have sacrificed so much for your country, and whose acute suffering we see every day, to access a reasonable and acceptable level of freedom and dignity in Australia; specifically, those who have been in Manus and Nauru after 19 July 2013 and have no option for a third country of resettlement and, as we all well know, can’t return to their home country,” it appealed.
Source: SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
an Agency of Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands