Deal will ‘shock’ Papua New Guineans
By SEAN DORNEY
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.