PAPUA NEW GUINEA CHURCH HOPING WEST PAPUANS GIVEN REFUGEE STATUS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 18, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Roman Catholic Church officials in Papua New Guinea have announced that a high level meeting between representatives of the Australian government and the High Commission for Refugees in Canberra will pave the way for hundreds of West Papuans to be given refugee status.

More than 400 West Papuans had been living in cramped conditions at a Roman Catholic-run primary school in the border town of Vanimo, West Sepik province, but earlier this week they were moved to larger accommodations.

They said they crossed the border to escape secessionist political problems in the Indonesian province of West Papua (Irian Jaya).

The bishop of PNG’s West Sepik Province, Cesare Boniventu, said the West Papuans’ future remains uncertain.

"If the status of the refugees cannot be granted very soon, in one month or two month’s time, we will have to relocate them again."

The present settlement, he said, is better that the previous one but "is still not the ideal."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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