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Welcome to Sunday Chronicle blogspot. Sunday Chronicle is a leading weekly newspaper in Papua New Guinea. It is a community oriented paper and highlights positive issues and developments of the week. We hope this medium of communication can keep you abreast of the happenings and events in the country and abroad.

Local News

This week's local news - July 18 - 21, 2013.

Monday, July 22, 2013


PM signs deal to expand Manus, resettle asylum seekers in PNG

Australia’s irregular maritime arrivals
  • 2010: 134 boats carrying 6535 passengers
  • 2011: 69 boats, carrying 4565 passengers
  • 2012: 278 boats carrying 17,202 passengers
  • 2013 (figures up to 16 July): 218 boats carrying 15,182 passengers
Figures from Australia's Department of Immigration; passenger numbers exclude crew

Key points:
  • Asylum seekers who arrive by boat will never be settled in Australia
  • They will be sent to Manus Island or elsewhere in PNG for assessment
  • Genuine refugees will be resettled in PNG
  • The agreement will be in place for at least the next 12 months
  • There will be no cap on the number of refugees to be settled in PNG
Mr Rudd and Mr O’Neill announcing that the message was “loud and clear”
PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has signed a deal with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd effectively turning Papua New Guinea into a dumping ground for Australia-bound asylum-seekers going there by boat.
Mr O’Neill flew to Brisbane on Friday after earlier advising his Cabinet of the new deal which Rudd had apparently hatched to appease his Labor right wing ahead of a general election he is expected to announce shortly.
Mr Rudd, flanked by Mr O’Neill announced the new asylum policy – called Regional Settlement Arrangement – which will see the Manus detention centre substantially expanded to cater for 3000 asylum seekers, effective immediately.
Under the agreement, new arrivals will be sent to PNG – which is a signatory to the United Nations Refugees Convention – for assessment and settled there if found to be a refugee.
No cap had been placed on the number of people Australia could send to PNG, Mr Rudd said.
“The new arrangements will allow Australia to help more people who are genuinely in need and help prevent people smugglers from abusing our system,” he said.
Mr O’Neill said PNG was cooperating with Australia to solve a regional problem.
In return, Australia is to channel aid to PNG, including to a major regional hospital and the university sector, The Australian reported. No costs were disclosed in connection with the deal.
Australia has seen a sharp rise in the number of asylum-seekers arriving by boat in recent months.
Following the Rudd-O’Neill announcement, rioting reportedly broke out at the second Australian-run asylum centre in Nauru. It was unclear if there was a link.
“Police have been called in to help with a major disturbance at the asylum seeker detention centre on Nauru,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
The cause of the disturbance, involving 150 detainees, had not been established, ABC added.
Mr Rudd had said the “hard-line decision” was taken to ensure border security. It was also aimed at dissuading people from making the dangerous journey to Australia by boat.
“Our country has had enough of people-smugglers exploiting asylum-seekers and seeing them drown on the high seas,” he said.
“From now on, any asylum-seeker who arrives in Australia by boat will have no chance of being settled in Australia as a refugee,” Mr Rudd said.
The rules would apply to all those arriving in Australia by boat from today, Immigration Minister Tony Burke said.
Boat arrivals have soared in the past 18 months, with most asylum seekers coming from Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. They make their way to Indonesia and from there head to Christmas Island, the closest part of Australian territory to Java.
They travel in boats that are often over-crowded and poorly-maintained. Several have sunk in recent months, killing passengers.
Last year, the Australian government reintroduced a controversial policy under which people arriving by boat in Australia are sent to camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing.
But the policy has so far failed to deter boat people, who are arriving in increasing numbers. It has also been strongly criticised – most recently by the UNHCR – for the conditions which asylum-seekers face at the camps.
Late on Thursday, Indonesia said it had agreed to stop giving Iranians visas on arrival as part of the measures to ease the problem.
Asylum has become a key election issue in Australia and polls must be called before the end of November.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott – whose party looked on course to trounce Labor at the polls before the leadership change three weeks ago – has said he will turn boats back to Indonesia when safe to do so.
Responding to this agreement he said: “While this certainly is a very promising development in offshore processing, it is about processing boat people, it’s not about stopping the boats and that in the end is what we have to have.”
Human rights advocate David Manne, meanwhile, said Australia had signed up to international conventions to protect “people who come to its shores, not exposing them to further risks elsewhere”.
“The fact remains that Australia hosts only 0.3 per cent of refugees worldwide and yet what we see here is a policy designed not only to deter asylum seekers from coming and seeking refuge in Australia, but one that also proposes to shift our responsibilities on to others,” ABC quoted him as saying.
Rights group Amnesty International’s regional refugee co-ordinator Graeme McGregor said the move would be marked “as the day Australia decided to turn its back on the world's most vulnerable people, closed the door and threw away the key”. – Agencies

People's say on the refugee deal

Mixed reactions on the deal

HERE are some mixed reactions from Papua New Guineans and others on the issue as captured on the “Sharp Talk” page and other various independent posts on Facebook.

Christopher Papiali – Madang:
Refugees are international issue right around the world. People who seek refuge in another country escape punishment, political turmoil while others seek better opportunities to live good lives. It is seen that several hundreds or even thousands of refugees enter Australia.
Kevin Rudd and his government cleverly knew that refugees are a real threat to Australian peace and its national interest so has decided to dump its domestic problem onto PNG. We have to know that transnational crime will increase coupled with disease and communication difficulties.
PNG does not have national intelligence office, no effective border security mechanisms, and we just have seen our “internal refugee issue with the Manam people in Madang. The Manam people have been greatly opposed by the mainland Bogia and Bunabun people because they fear their land and resources will be completely taken away by the Manam islanders.
Within the Mangem and Manduari care centres and the others in Bogia the number of settlers has increased tremendously for the last 10 years and the spillover effects are enormous. How can the national government solve international refugee issue when it cannot solve the internal one? We have made a big mistake by wholeheartedly accepting the list of requests from Kevin Rudd.
Great economies that have very effective national security systems like UK don't allow refugees because they put the interest of their citizens first. The decision to accept refugee settlement in PNG is an indication of neocolonialism.
When our neigbour New Zealand through the words of its foreign minister Murray McCully says, “PNG should not be considered as a Pacific country but it had in common with South Asian tiger economies”. We have to rise to the occasion now to reject outright the increase settlement of refugees in PNG.

Anthony Smare – Port Moresby
PNG has an expat population of around 20,000-25,000 people. Most of them are vetted, assessed before they are allowed in the country. With this refugee agreement, O’Neill has now committed PNG to accept upwards of 15,000 refugees per annum. I question whether any assessment of the social, economic, political and security impacts of this influx is? For example, every major resource project needs to have a social impact study done before the government permits it; development forums are conducted to take in the views of all impacted communities, and the attorney general goes through the arrangements with a fine tooth comb to make sure that such arrangements are legally and constitutionally compliant. Has such an assessment of the economic, social, political and security risks of this refugee arrangement been undertaken before its permitted? Have the communities of Manus and the areas that the refugees will be resettled in been consulted?  If the resettled Manam islanders continue to experience difficulties with their cousins on the Madang coast, do we expect resettled muslim Iraqis, Pakistanis, Kurds, etc, to settle in seamlessly?

Susuve Laumaea – Port Moresby:
Our beloved “Land of the Unexpected” no matter how and what we are referred to as or described as by outsiders has overnight become the land of the Muslim asylum seekers? Why, for what and for whose benefits? Here we are trying to make free education and health care work, rebuild our vital economic infrastructures, revamp and reinforce the rule of law and growing the economy on the back of development of SMEs, the manufacturing and downstream processing sector supported by the renewable resources sector ... why do we want to bring on a complicated humanitarian problem upon ourselves when we still have to get our house and backyard in order?

Ernie Gangloff – Port Moresby:
At the end of the day when all is said and done, PNG has been asked to assist Australia. If PNG is able to help those fleeing danger or persecution to seek access to safe haven, to proper asylum procedures, and ultimately to help them with find solutions to their plights then we should do as we are part of the UN. With this new asylum policy, it is important that these long-established norms and international protection principles are upheld. One would hope that our legal team has considered these issues. Just do it the right way. It has the potential to be a win-win for both nations. Finally, does PNG have a refugee policy; does the Migration Act (now being reviewed) address this issue?

Susan Merrell – Australia:
PNG has said that it wants to slough off its colonial past and deal with other countries as an equal sovereign nation. Well Peter O’Neill has blown that for you. The message is “Don’t try to come to Australia because the best you can expect is to become residents of PNG – and no one would want that, would they?” The idea is to stop the boats by giving the refugees a very unpalatable alternative. How bloody insulting! And the PM of PNG endorses this! All of you who were so pleased to welcome back Kevin Rudd will now see that they should have been careful what they wished for. This is plain politicking. KR wants to win the next election and to hell with PNG. Aren’t you all insulted – because I am on your behalf!

Stephen Michael Leach – Australia:

Australian parliamentarians are losing the plot and diluting the authenticity of their argument against the asylum “solution” proposed by their prime minister by vilifying Papua New Guinea. PNG is not the issue here ... the Australian inability to figure out what to do with refugees is the problem. The inhumanity of the detention centres would be no less if they were located on Manus or in Alice Springs.

PM O'Neill supports Rudd to resettle refugees in PNG

Refugees can be settled in PNG: O’Neill

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill said after the signing in Brisbane that he strongly believes genuine refugees can be resettled in Papua New Guinea.
“Specific communities like Papua New Guinea and the other island states continue to have challenges of maintaining their borders, and as a result of that we continue to have illegal immigrants into those countries,” he said.
“Today’s regional resettlement program is one that we believe that it’s going to resolve many of those issues that we have brought forward to the Australian government.
“I believe that the processing centre and the resettlement arrangements that we are forging will enable us to have an orderly processing of citizens, of people who are seeking genuine citizenship of other countries in the region.
“That is why we agreed to a resettlement program where we believe strongly that genuine refugees can be ... resettled in our country and within the region in the years to come.”
The package includes a significant expansion of the Manus Island detention centre to house 3,000 people up from the original capacity of 600.
Currently, about 145 people are housed on the island.
A recent United Nations report was highly critical of conditions for asylum seekers on Manus Island, but the PNG government says construction will start on a new permanent centre shortly and it will be an improvement.

Pato denies reports on second detention facility in PNG

Foreign minister denies talks for new asylum centre are underway

FOREIGN Minister Rimbink Pato has denied newspaper reports that Papua New Guinea is in negotiations over a second Australian facility to process asylum seekers.
One media outlet reported on Thursday that talks were under way for a second facility near Port Moresby’s airport.
Mr Pato said the report is inaccurate and PNG’s priority is to construct a permanent facility on Manus Island.
“At this point no particular site has been discussed or chosen,” Mr Pato said.
“We’re looking to speed up the process of construction of the Manus regional processing centre.”
Mr Pato said a permanent processing facility on Manus Island would have to be completed before talk of a second facility can begin.
“We don’t want to run away from our international obligations,” he said. “Our focus at this point in time is the regional asylum processing centre on Manus Island.”
He said a joint effort to process asylum seekers on Manus Island by Australian advisers and Papua New Guineans on the facility were under way.
“Our Cabinet has approved a legal structure within which the processing will occur to determine the question of whether or not one is entitled to refugee status, so that the issue of resettlement in a third country can take place,” he said.
He said there was also an appeals process in place as part of the processing. “The legislative process requires if anyone is dissatisfied as to the determination of any of the issues or the considerations that must be looked at then the process review requires that I will obviously reconsider the matter,” he said.
Mr Pato said there were currently up to 200 asylum seekers at the processing facilities and he was open to taking on more in the future.
“Once the permanent facility is developed then we can look at the expansion of the number of asylum seekers who’ll be there for processing under our legal system,” he said.
“We are always there ready and willing and able to assist our good friend – the government and the people of Australia.”

Aussie-PNG deal on refugee is a shocker

Deal will ‘shock’ Papua New Guineans

ABC Pacific correspondent

I BELIEVE most people in Papua New Guinea will be as shocked as anyone here in Australia by this deal between Peter O’Neill and Kevin Rudd.
There have been suggestions that the Manus processing facility is to be expanded to take 3000 people.
In the first six months of this year there was something like 15,000 asylum seekers trying to get to Australia.
Prime Minister Rudd has said there will be “no limit” to the number who will now be diverted to Papua New Guinea and also that he expects the "people smugglers" to test his resolve on this deal.
If so, then a processing centre for 3000 in Manus might be overwhelmed. Manus is the smallest province in PNG.
My wife is from Manus and she and my daughter went back to her home for a holiday last year. She says the province is not set up to handle a huge influx of people.
The announcement that those found to be genuine refugees will be settled in Papua New Guinea raises the question of where?
Ninety-seven per cent of the land in PNG is traditionally owned and land issues are a complex problem.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said Papua New Guinea had plenty of land and a small population.
Well, the population is more than 7 million and there are forecasts that the way the population is growing, PNG could have the same population as Australia by 2050.
Another issue could be the resentment that resettling the genuine refugees in Papua New Guinea might cause.
There is the issue of culture shock – likely from both sides. Many of these people found to be genuine refugees will have little in common with Papua New Guineans.
Mr Rudd said Australia and PNG would provide “comprehensive settlement services” to ensure that those found to be genuine refugees would be able to live safely, with security and “in time prosperity”.
There are going to be a lot of communities in PNG asking, “Well, what about us?”
PNG does not have a welfare system and the main cities have thousands of people living in squatter settlements.
There is also the issue of culture shock – likely from both sides. Many of these people found to be genuine refugees will have little in common with Papua New Guineans.  PNG is overwhelmingly Christian.
One of the attractions for PNG of this deal is the promise that Australia will increase its aid for health and education.

But there are going to be many Papua New Guineans asking why is PNG being dragged even deeper into an Australian election campaign.