Tension rising between locals and refugees in Manus

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced on April 27 that Australian-funded Manus Island detention center, which houses refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants will be closed.

The future of the detainees still remains uncertain.

They have the option to settle in PNG or return home.

The latest figures show just one in four transferees are opting to fly back to their countries of origin.

For now the Ministry of Immigration in Papua New Guinea says all asylum seekers detained on Manus Island are now free to come and go from the processing centre.

For the past three weeks detainees have been free to wander town, go fishing, to the beach and to the market.

Tension between the locals and the detainees is growing.

“They are Muslims, we are Christians, the world is at war over religion, and I do not think we can live peacefully,” said Koporou clan chief and prominent local businessman Mochon Peter.

He said the asylum seekers had no respect for what they are given.

“Send them back,” the Lombrum landowners committee chairman said.

“No option. Send them back to their own country.”

“We don’t want them. They are cheating us.”

Peter said the asylum seekers were “ungrateful illegals” who are “treated like kings”.

Peter, who owns Juromo wholesale and retail stores on Manus, said the “massive boatloads of cash” spent by Australia had been an economic windfall for his isolated island community.

“It has been a blessing for Manus,” he said.

“It has brought luck and development for Manus.”

Many locals are part of the 2000-odd support staff at the site and there are now new sealed roads, a brand new market, a hospital project, an airport upgrade and plans for a new police station.

“Now everyone is in the dark about the future.”

“Many people will lose their jobs and feel much shame.”

“The detainees are going around with locals girls, it’s creating a lot of jealousy, they are drinking and smoking drugs. ”

“If they walk the streets at night PNG people will chop them up with a bush knife. It’s not safe.”

He said many locals felt resentful towards the “illegals” compared to the dire poverty of his own people.

“Australia should look after its own backyard first,” said Mr Peter.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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