4 Mar 2003

PNG Government confirms plans to force bordercrossers back to Indonesia

5:45 pm on 4 March 2003

The Papua New Guinea government has confirmed that it will give 300 Papuan bordercrossers until March 13 to leave the country voluntarily or be forced back to Indonesia.

Christopher Merrill from the International Relations Office within PNG's Foreign Affairs Department, says the government will decide the extent of the police role in the repatriation exercise.

He says 28 Papuan bordercrossers have been given refugee status and the others will be given every opportunity to voluntarily go back to Indonesia.

The bordercrossers have been cared for by the Catholic Church in Vanimo after fleeing Indonesia in 2000 because of increasing violence in Papua province.

Mr Merrill says the government's view is that those who were denied refugee status do not have a right to be in PNG.

He stresses that the forced repatriation of the bordercrossers is a last resort.

"Tthat will have to be decided by the government but at the moment, we've requested our officials in Vanimo to register the names of those people to go back to Papua province. We hope that they will go back on a voluntary basis. We'll have to encourage them to go back there because we feel that they do not have a right to be in Papua New Guinea."

PNG Foreign Affairs official Christopher Merrill.