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Listening Across Borders

A Panel Discussion giving a voice to the voiceless


Port Moresby:

Church representatives, media personnel from across the country, students, refugees and friends attended a very emotional Panel Discussion entitled: ‘Listening Across Borders.’ 


The program held at the Catholic Bishops Conference, Port Moresby, on Wednesday 13th February, 2019, was held to give a voice to the voiceless refugees, residing in Port Moresby. Participants listened attentively to the personal stories of the refugees as they cried for help.


Mr Sam Kaipu, summarized the highlights of the speakers:

“The speakers, shared the reasons why they are in Papua New Guinea.  From their sharing, it was evident that the refugees live in fear for their lives, have lost their rights and freedom.  They have left their countries at great risk to themselves and their loved ones.  They are in search of a better and safer life”.  


“All the five speakers are young men who have been in PNG for five or six years.  Despite being from different countries - a Pakistani, a West Papuan, a West African, a Sudanese and a Central African - their stories had a very important decision: either risk long imprisonment or even death or abandon their beloved country, family and friends in order to find safety and freedom in another country.  It was not simply a better life they were looking for, but their very existence as human beings deserving of respect and enjoyment of their rights and freedoms. As young men they had made traumatic decisions to abandon their families and friends and countries and lands”. 


“The suspense of waiting for their cases to be determined for settlement in another country has aggravated their trauma.  We have had no discussion on skills. The migrants brought their skills to Europe and Ireland just like the refugees have brought us their skills which we can learn and benefit from.”

Mr Paul Harricknen, President of the Catholic Professionals Society, spoke on what has transpired since the first Panel Discussion on the Manus Refugees, held on the 1st November, 2018.  


“He spoke of the open letter to the Prime Minister, that has been widely publicized in the media stating the Church’s concern of the degrading health of the refugees” said Mr. Kila Ai. 

“An audience with the Minister for Immigration, revealed that the PNG government is waiting for the Australian government to make the call.  We believe that this is not a good position because we are talking about our laws, and we are talking about people suffering in our land. Our role is to take some responsibility and our government has to make some decision.  As a Church, we have been in communication with other organizations including the Human Rights Office, UNHCR office in Sydney, and expect support to bring awareness on this situation. Some good news is that the Australian Government passed a law which now allows sick refugees from the off-shore processing centres to be allowed to enter Australia for medical treatment. It is a window of opportunity for the people”, said Mr Paul.


Later, Mr Paul spoke on the legal status of those who did not come to PNG through Australia.

1.     Those under IOM, want decision on their resettlement to beexpedited by PNG Government and UNHCR/IOM.

2.     Those through Australia without their consent have come to PNG and most
of them who are sick want to be taken to Australia both for medical
attention and processing for resettlement.

3.     The West Papua refugee speaker wanted the Church to do more on West
Papua human rights issues as well as the plight of refugees and asylum
seekers who flee their country from atrocities and human rights abuses
committed against their people by the Indonesian authorities.

“There is a lesson in their stories for Papua New Guineans. We have and enjoy rights and freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, such as right to life, right to liberty, right to privacy and freedom from slavery and inhuman treatment. Many of us take them for granted. We must each learn from the five accounts to seriously value our rights and freedoms now, not after we have lost them”, said Mr Sam.


“This Panel Discussion has been organized to give a voice to the voiceless refugees.  It has given the refugees a platform to connect with the refugees and share their life experiences”, said Fr. Ambrose Pereira sdb, Social Communications and Youth Secretary who was the facilitator of the event.


Reflections from the audience:

“The encounter with the five refugees has been enlightening.  Listening to their dreams is rediscovering again the basic human desire for peace, prosperity, justice, freedom an equality.  We are challenged to help them regain their lost identity” - Sr. Evangeline Orpila, Diocese of Vanimo. 

“The government of Papua New Guinea remains quiet.  There seems to be a patronizing attitude of the Australian Government undermining the PNG constitutions and laws with its cheque-book diplomacy”, - Sr Daisy Lisania, Archdiocese of Rabaul.

“It was wonderful to see how the human emotion was brought about by Fr Ambrose Pereira, who facilitated the discussion.  It has opened up avenues to deal with our situation back home”, - Joseph Dunlee, Archdiocese of Rabaul.


“Each story brought out the sad fact that they have been fighting for their lives. This is what struck me deeply”, - Marie Mondu, CBC PNGSI Development Secretary

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