WEST PAPUA BORDER CROSSERS TO MOVE OUT, SAYS BISHOP

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 15, 2001 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---The more than 400 border crossers in Vanimo from Indonesian-ruled West Papua will be moved from temporary quarters in a school to a new location this week.

The move awaits a final decision from the Papua New Guinea National Security Council on the refugee status of these mostly squatter settlers from Jayapura.

They fled growing violence in West Papua as Indonesian security forces arrested pro-independence leaders.

The border crossers are originally from Wamena in the highlands of West Papua.

Catholic Bishop Bonivento said the border crossers will need a lot of help to build new homes for themselves.

They will need tents and other materials for shelter, water tanks and tool kits, including gardening and building materials. "The new place is deprived of everything. We have to start up from scratch," he said.

Bishop Bonivento said the church was very appreciative of the decision by the Sandaun administration, because it would have to start preparing the school beginning today for the new school year.

He said the decision to move the border crossers could be a positive move as it may mean the eventual granting of refugee status for these West Papuans.

The cost of caring for them since December has been enormous for the church and, with the decision to build new camps from scratch, would be even more costly.

But the Catholic Church believes that with the granting of refugee status, most of the costs will be accommodated by donor agencies and the national government.

"If the new status comes up, we might avoid those great costs," said Bishop Bonivento.

He said a United Nations official will be visiting the border crossers soon -- the first such visit since they crossed into Papua New Guinea -- and it was something they were looking forward to.

"I don’t know who in particular is coming but I understand someone higher up in the United Nations is coming and that is good news for us as well as the border crossers," he said.

Bishop Bonivento said both the national and Sandaun provincial governments continued to show goodwill towards the border crossers and the church was very happy with that.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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