14 Jul 2006

Australian opposition worried about PNG refugee problems

1:41 pm on 14 July 2006

An Australian opposition senator says her country's closed door policy on asylum seekers from Indonesia's Papua province could unfairly burden Papua New Guinea, which is already home to hundreds of Papuan refugees.

Senator Kerry Nettle, has this week visited Papuan refugee communities in the northern town of Wewak, and also met PNG government and UN refugee officials in Port Moresby.

She says an influx of asylum seekers into PNG would stretch the country's thin resources and make things difficult for all concerned.

Senator Nettle says the Australian government's proposed new migration laws to ensure asylum seeker boat arrivals were sent offshore sends the signal to Indonesia it is OK to continue harassing Papuans.

She says more harassment raised the risk of more border crossings into PNG where several thousand Papuan refugees have lived since the 1980s.

Ms Nettle says two longstanding Wewak refugee communities lived on small parcels of land gifted by the local community but commercial tuna fishing has taken away their income from fishing and they struggled to survive.

She says the PNG government already struggles to care for the asylum seekers and would not have the capacity to deal with a large influx.