Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Boat People Issue Still Keeps Many Well at Sea

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Boat People Issue Still Keeps Many Well at Sea

Article excerpt

IN NOVEMBER of last year, Kiwi shock jock Paul Henry suggested to Australian breakfast TV viewers that the best way to get our message across to boat people would be to shoot people smugglers as they arrived on our shores.

He then asked the Immigration Minister if it was a good idea to have a vision of women and children being whipped as they arrived in Nauru as a deterrent to other boat people.

As the finish line for the 2013 federal election swings into view - we're not far off that now - let me get this straight.

Ten days ago the Prime Minister of one of the richest countries in the world (Australia) stood beside the Prime Minister of one of the poorest countries in the world (Papua New Guinea) and thanked him for helping us out with our problem.

Indeed, according to the Opposition Leader, it is not just a problem it is a national emergency.

To better appreciate the PNG Plan, it is worth listening to voices that haven't been heard much - the people of Papua New Guinea.

Late last week the Sisters of Mercy from Australia and Papua New Guinea released a statement regarding the Manus Island Proposal. The statement started with the line, "It is ironic to go out and clean up someone else's backyard when your own backyard is messy".

The Sisters went on: "As Papua New Guineans we feel embarrassed and ashamed of such a decision when the majority of our own people have minimal to non-existing access to basic infrastructures, health care, education, law and order and employment opportunities."

The statement is well worth reading in its entirety, but here are some key points raised by the Sisters.

The proportion of the population living below the international poverty line of US$1 per day in PNG has continued to increase and in 2010 reached 40% of the population.

Unemployment is very high at 87%. Only 500,000 people hold paid jobs out of a working-age population of some 3.8 million.

The Sisters consider PNG is not safe for refugees as in the past few years there have been anti-Asian sentiments fuelled by rioting and attacks in PNG: Lae 2009, Port Moresby 2011, Rabaul 2012. …

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