14 May 2004

Catholic Church says PNG border-crossers stuck

10:45 am on 14 May 2004

A spokesman at the Vanimo Catholic Diocese in Papua New Guinea says a land dispute means 300 border crossers in the town won't be moved for at least another three months.

Earlier the government announced it was allowing the border crossers to relocate to a camp in Western Province, after which they would be allowed to apply for permissive residency anywhere except for the border regions.

But Samson Masanbe says the plan is being held up by a land dispute at East Awin, where the new camp is to situated.

Mr Masanbe say in the meantime the church will continue to look after the border-crossers as they have been for the past three years.

"We're using all we have, the resources and manpower, whatever money we have in hand, to see that these people are treated well, they eat, they've got food to eat, you know and, make sure that those who're sick get medicine, with those people, and we're using all we have, all we have at hand, to look after these people."

Mr Masanbe says he has seen a noticeable increase in border crossers since the government's decision, despite provincial administrators saying it set a dangerous precedent.