UNHCR notes PNG progress on West Papuan refugees

4:55 pm on 15 February 2016
Cross border flow between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Cross border flow between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says good progress is being made by Papua New Guinea on registering all West Papuan refugees in the country.

With UNHCR assistance, PNG's government last year embarked on a project to locate all of the West Papuans, as well as regularise the legal status of them.

It was estimated there are around ten thousand West Papuans in PNG seeking refuge, many of whom had been in the country since a mass exodus from Indonesia in 1984.

Around 2000 of the Papuans residing in Western Province were granted permissive residency some time ago.

The remaining 7000 - 8000 in other parts of the country have long lived in a kind of limbo as stateless people.

UNHCR associate legal officer Mike Clayton said previous attempts to register the West Papuan population were not comprehensive but that the current process offered a resolution.

"And that will give us a much better idea of exactly who is there, how long they've been there and hopefully provide a pathway for some of the people who have been refugees for decades to finally obtain proper, lasting legal status, the protections, the rights and obligations that go along with citizenship of a host country and finally cease to be refugees."