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Jul 22, 2013

'No way': PNG reaction to the boat people plan

People in PNG have reacted with shock then anger to the deal with Australia over boat people. Freelance journalist Catherine Wilson, who has lived and worked in PNG, surveys local reactions to the deal.


Kevin Rudd PNG

Australia’s decision to permanently resettle refugees in Papua New Guinea has been met with shock by many locals, quickly followed by anger and a sense of betrayal.

Under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s plan the developing Pacific island state will resettle an unlimited number of Australia’s asylum seekers who arrive by boat, if they are found to be refugees. In return, PNG will receive extra aid from Australia for hospitals and universities.

A day after Rudd’s announcement, made on Friday, many in PNG were still unaware of the pact. Silence reigned in the mainstream press, which had clearly not been briefed on the development, while social media comments pointed to a lack of consultation in the country.

“[PNG Prime Minister Peter] O’Neill and Rudd have betrayed the people of PNG doing cunning deals behind closed doors. How can the PNG Prime Minister not discuss or debate this in Parliament before putting pen to paper?,’ was one comment on the social media site PNG Attitude on Sunday.

Margaret Loko, an experienced Port Moresby-based election campaigner and former first secretary under Dame Carol Kidu, told Crikey: “No way. We have immense problems of unemployment and law and order. Women and children here suffer from very high levels of gender-based and s-xual violence. The government has to deal with these issues in our country. It cannot take on the job of solving Australia’s problems. We don’t want to end up with more problems than what we are coping with now.”

PNG is rated 156 out of 187 countries for human development by the United Nations Development Programme, while an estimated 15% of the population have formal sector employment and access to adequate public services. Information was not available over the weekend about how the costs of the deal would be met and which country would foot the bills. But questions are being asked about whether this arrangement serves PNG’s interests in any way, and whether full government consultation has occurred.

Another PNG blogger, Paul Yabob, said this:

“This bilateral agreement between Peter O’Neill and Kevin Rudd to help Rudd with his re-election unfortunately is an act of heartless selfishness by two politicians. It has nothing to do with humanity or proper rules by which civilised nations and peoples of the world live and relate to each other and resolve difficult issues.”

Loko is not the only one concerned about the role of Australian aid in such deals. Since 2001 Australian Official Development Assistance (ODA) to PNG has totalled more than $4.6 billion with a budget estimate high of $507.2 million in 2013-14. Dr Ray Anere of the National Research Institute in Port Moresby commented to Crikey: “Financial aid and Australian assistance in some service delivery areas are no doubt key factors in the deal. There is no doubt about that in light of the PNG government’s push for greater service delivery in the district and rural areas … The challenges are numerous, including PNG’s ability to observe the basic human rights of the asylum seekers by providing proper medical, accommodation and other basic services. The issue of whether PNG has a legal framework and a policy on asylum seekers in place to deal with asylum seekers, especially policy and administrative mechanisms and processes, will be a key challenge in my view.”

The true motivations of Australian politicians in scenarios such as this remain questionable to many Papua New Guineans.

Concerns about the fate of those who will be resettled under this deal is not an indictment of PNG, where the average citizen will go out of his or her way to help another human being in need, whether friend or stranger. But the reality of the nation’s serious domestic challenges should be an integral consideration in Australia’s responsibility to ensure the welfare of the vulnerable and the displaced who have come to its shores.

PNG has acceded to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocols, but with reservations regarding the rights of refugees to basic services, such as employment, housing and education. It is difficult to see how, in a country where more than 80% depend on the informal economy, these newcomers will find access to adequate employment or means of financial support.

Female asylum seekers will find themselves in a society grappling with very high levels of gender and s-xual violence, with inadequate law enforcement. Last year the World Bank reported that violence victimisation rates in PNG were among the highest in the world and violent crimes were on the increase.  This is the reality of life for many Papua New Guineans. And with inequality and hardship being a key factor in the prevalence of crime, asylum seekers will find themselves in an atmosphere of heightened competition and aggravated local grievances about access to basic means of survival.



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46 thoughts on “‘No way’: PNG reaction to the boat people plan

  1. Edward James

    plan pact ? I understand it is in fact a very expensive and wobbly “agreement”. Which it appears has way to many holes in it. Just like those full page ads Rudd is running nationally paid for by tax payers not Labor.
    Come by boat and Australia will never be home. Already we know that to be worthless spin. Because it is not happening. Rudd, Gillard, Labor generally can’t tell the truth even when trying to show Australian voters, Labor nationally is nothing like Labor NSW! Edward James

  2. Venise Alstergren

    I have no quibble about taking as many refugees-as the need arises- as possible FROM South East Asia which is in our part of the world; Asia/Pacific to be precise.

    On the other hand I deplore the fact the Oz government has allowed so many Middle Eastern people to settle here, Iran, Jordan, North Africa and Syria, Lebanon being but five examples. No matter how fine the individuals may be they bring Islam with them. They want to add to Australian law by allowing Sharia law for domestic issues, plus allowing Mullahs of limited education, (but vastly hate-filled) to create situations inimical to Oz;to disseminate anti-Australian Fatwas.

    No matter what the bleeding hearts trot out, the above mentioned people are not good immigrants if they still adhere to fundamentalist Koranic beliefs.

  3. Jon Cassar

    Allow me to take a’schadenfreude’ selfie. I think it’s hilarious, and very fitting for a bunch of frauds being sent to some country they’ve probably never heard of. Having lived in PNG I can assure them that life will be tougher than anything they may have experienced in the middle-class ‘burbs of Teheran. PNG men are very violent, especially towards women. Being foreign AND Muslim are no guarantees of safety. I’m betting they won’t refuse an offer of a return ticket home very quickly.

  4. Sharkie

    Thanks Jon and Venise. We all know now who the rac!st ar*eholes section of the populations will be voting for. Take note Rudd, you can never please this type of person. Abbott and Morrison will always aim lower.

  5. Sharkie

    Wow Jon Cassar. So you’re actually happy and you think it’s “hilarious” that women will be placed in a situation where they will be subjected to “PNG men (who) are very violent, especially towards women.”
    There are plenty of words out there to describe you. Most of them are four letters long.

  6. FatherJon

    Where’s my ‘racism’? Insult ‘du jour’ or a new meaning for the word?

  7. Milanion20

    It will be easy to avoid “PNG men”. Simple. Don’t get on a boat.

  8. Sharkie

    “It will be easy to avoid “PNG men”. Simple. Don’t get on a boat.”
    So that means asylum seekers stay in Indonesia and Malaysia, where they have no rights, can be imprisoned at anytime, and can be deported back to lovely places like Afghanistan and Iran.
    Not exactly a moral position Milanion.
    Why can’t the anti-asylum seeker mob just admit they simply don’t give a sh*t about people fleeing oppressive regimes?

  9. Suzanne Blake

    Rudds so called ‘election fixes’ will be found out before Election day, but he will save them seats.

  10. davoid

    There is one thing to bear in mind. Of the people that try to make it to Australia, via a number of other countries they’ve decided they’d prefer not to ask for asylum, 2-4% die by drowning if trying to land by boat. Men, women, children. I assume it’s mostly drowning; I don’t know which species of man-eating sharks patrol those waters.

    They will not want to settle in PNG. The boats will stop coming. The people will stop drowning. There’s credible historical evidence for expecting this.

    If you think that 2-4% is a drowning tax worth paying, or if you have another realistic solution, then keep criticizing. Otherwise, despite recognizing the obvious electioneering boost Rudd will enjoy from an electorate exquisitley tuned to dog whistling by Howard, do please try to see both sides.

    No solution is possible otherwise.

  11. wally crusoe

    “The people will stop drowning.”

    and start being assaulted and raped, or possibly murdered.

  12. wally crusoe

    “It will be easy to avoid “PNG men”. Simple. Don’t get on a boat.”

    essentially you’re saying any woman who gets raped on png deserves it.

  13. Milanion20

    Day after day I have to put up with the political hatred of refugees until I have arrived at a conclusion that we should have stopped the boats – back in January 1788!

    But if this most recent policy prevents Morrison from becoming Immigration Minister then I guess I will put up with it.

  14. Chris Jones

    That the conditions in PNG are worse than Persia matters not a bit. The point is, PNG won’t need to accommodate them because the asylum seekers won’t get on boats.

    My advice to non-UN-registered asylum seekers who want to come to Australia – save your money and get on a plane!

  15. AR

    Krudd & Co say this is ‘budget neutral’ in their bloodless bureaucratese, therefore why not use the (unspecified) sums earmarked for PNG to fund UNHCR processing in Indonesia & elsewhere?

  16. zac48

    As a coalition supporter, I want to congratulate KRudd for having the b@lls to do what needs to be done. Within weeks “the boats” will stop, and then real refugees from camps around the world can come to Australia.

  17. Patriot

    Nobody want these illegal trash. Can’t even bribe a bunch of cannibals to be happy about taking them off our hands. Says it all.

  18. Edward James

    My Correction I was wrong to use the word “agreement” in comment 1…$600 million plus, This two page “arrangement” and the accompanying advertising is political campaigning while in office. It is simply another political sin against the peoples. To quote our DFAT publication, an Arrangement is used where “the parties do not intend to create, of their own force, legal rights or obligations, or a legal relationship, between themselves. Such instruments, whether in the name of the government or agencies, are termed “arrangements of less than treaty status”.
    I am confused by the terminology. But I do understand the Kevin Heiner Rudd as a retread can’t be trusted to act in anyones best interest but his own. Edward James

  19. FatherJon

    ‘So that means asylum seekers stay in Indonesia and Malaysia, where they have no rights….’

    No Sharkie, it means that they stay at home, struggling to change things they don’t like in their own political systems, like we all do. Australia has lost 40 young men fighting for their ‘rights’ at home in Afghanistan, just as one example, while young Afghans are jumping on boats!
    Iran’s not even at war with anyone, nor Sri Lanka anymore.
    We’re being conned big time by the lefty wrist-wringers who want to open the doors to every man and his dog.

  20. simpletext

    This is the Richo plan – go to PNG with a bag of money and make a deal.

  21. pritu

    Black racists are not different from those of any other colour. Remember Fiji…

  22. Sharkie

    Whatever Father Jon,
    I’m tipping you’ve never been to any of the source countries where minorities have been persecuted for generations. The fact that you lump all afghans into one group simply shows your ignorance of that country. It simply isn’t feasible for hazara people to stand up to the taliban or other tribal groups in Afghanistan. The flow of people from Iran is due to government crackdowns on dissent not a war. But in your tiny little mind, real refugees must be fleeing bombing with nothing but the shirts on their backs.
    I find it astounding that people who are basic clueless about conditions in these countries manage to create a fictitious political reality in central Asia to justify their anti-refugee position.

  23. Milanion20

    How many people who have posted on this topic are not descendants of people from other countries?

    What about you FatherJon?

  24. FatherJon

    ‘What about you FatherJon?’

    What’s that got to do with illegal immigration? I came to this country after health and character checks, and with my ID/Passport intact! Get the difference?

  25. FatherJon

    ‘I’m tipping you’ve never been to any of the source countries where minorities have been persecuted for generations’

    Lost your bet, Sharkie. I’ve travelled and lived all over the world, 1st world, 2nd and 3rd. I’ve also seen the way many of these people hate each other and carry their internecine/ tribal/ religious hatreds wherever they go. Our Sydney suburbs resounding to gunfire every night are testament to that.

  26. Venise Alstergren

    SHARKIE: I am no racist. I am, however, fundamentally opposed to the madder forms of religion.

    The next time you want to call me racist Google my name. Then if you still want to do it, I’ll complain to the editor.

  27. Venise Alstergren

    SHARKIE: When was the last time you were in Syria? Jordan? Egypt? Oman? UAE? Iran?

  28. Milanion20

    FatherJon, thanks for your response.
    You seem to be suggesting that the gunfire in your suburbs is caused only by recent refugees.

  29. Milanion20

    Venise, I probably find myself with a similar attitude to yours.

    I also suspect that the term “refugee” is being used in current debate as a pseudonym for certain religious groups – usually the extreme wings of otherwise mainstream beliefs. I would rather that we named those groups that are the cause of the intolerance but the moderator would soon intervene.

    We debate and decry the surrogate instead of the real cause of community concerns. This leads us nowhere good.

  30. shepherdmarilyn

    Been in Ireland lately then Venise to see the maddest of religions still at work.

  31. Venise Alstergren

    MARILYN SHEPHERD: Once, just once, I’d like you to remove the snake from your brain. I’ve been commenting at Crikey for over five years, yet you constantly sail in against me on the flimsiest of pretexts.

    Tell me you are the only person regularly commenting in these pages who doesn’t know that I’m an Atheist? Are you the only one who doesn’t know my opinions re the catholic church? You state your occupation as ‘retired’. This should give you ample time to Google my name together with the word ‘catholic’…..Done that?

    Good, now tell me again am I not as thoroughly anti-catholic as I am anti-Islam? I’m sorry Marilyn, but it would seem as if your brain is atrophying at a commensurate rate to your body.

  32. Venise Alstergren

    Venise Alstergren
    Posted Tuesday, 23 July 2013 at 6:13 pm | Permalink
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    PS: i have deliberately avoided going anywhere near Ireland. I wouldn’t want to be run over by run-away rosaries.

    Leave a Reply

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  33. Liamj

    FatherJon wants to blame ethnicity for Sydneys drug war: if all you’ve got is a hammer/colour-coded-concience..
    Thats why NSW is the most bent state – the locals are too dim to do anything about it.

  34. Liamj

    @ Patriot – cannibals .. really? Your US education is showing.

  35. Liamj

    @ davoid: “The boats will stop coming.” And if they don’t, you’ll admit you’re wrong? Or just flick back to the cricket like the rest of austrayas morons?

  36. FatherJon

    ‘FatherJon wants to blame ethnicity for Sydneys drug war’

    Just check the names and the suburbs. They don’t seem to travel too far from their self-imposed ghettoes.

  37. davoid

    yep, if the boats keep coming I’ll admit I’m wrong. I’m not interested in winning or losing arguments, or righteous indignation one-upmanship. Nor am I intersted in insulting or being insulted.

    I’m interested in what works.

  38. davoid

    For the record, I live in the UK and for some reason am often asked if I’m from NZ, rather than Australia. I wish I could answer yes.

  39. Mike Smith

    If PNG don’t want the refugees, can one assume they don’t want the aid either? I’m thinking this is a clumsy attempt by Rudd to wedge Abbott that has exploded in his face.

  40. FatherJon

    PNG and aid. At first blush it didn’t seem like a bad idea, shipping the illegals out to Manus. But once I read that the extra aid was going to be a direct handout to the PNG Govt. without any conditions, I became more sceptical.
    Anyone who has lived in PNG, as did I, knows what happens to Australian aid – one for you, one for me, one for my wantok….ad infinitum.

  41. Edward James

    It is another clumsy attempt by team Labor to wedge their opposition. Our taxes are being used to campaign with full page ads in local papers. I understand those ads are now being published in the language of those people who are buying the services of people smugglers. Labor is perceived to be busy spending taxpayers money campaigning for their Federal re-election. Spin, lies and rip offs, are team Labor’s political tools used to abuse power. Edward James

  42. FatherJon

    Em nau, mastah! Em i tok pek-pek blong puk-puk.

    It’s a disaster waiting to happen. Not just a bit of raping either, those guys know how to use a machete.
    Still, and all, looking on the bright side, the illegals so far seem fairly disenchanted with their prospects, with some of them electing to go home.
    As for the ads placed in Australian newspapers, they’re not a total waste of money, considering that there are already many people-smuggler snakeheads living amongst us.

  43. Edward James

    Those ads placed in our Australian newspapers are a blatant abuse of our taxes in an attempt to promote the dying Labor Party! Edward James

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