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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, October 5) - With the youngest in the group traveling in her mother’s shoulder bag, 185 men, women and children from Indonesia’s Papua Province have successfully been relocated.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) late last Thursday completed the first phase of the voluntary relocation exercise, which included a two-month old baby, strung in her mother’s bilum (shoulder bag), 52 women, 56 men and 77 children.

A plane chartered by the UNHCR transferred the group from the border town of Vanimo to remote mining town of Kiunga in Western Province. The group was among a batch of 460 people who arrived in Vanimo in December 2000.

It was part of a wider wave of pro-independence refugees from Indonesia’s adjacent Papua Province, formerly known as Irian Jaya, who settled on the Papua New Guinea side of the border in the late 1960s.

Many have since returned to Indonesia.

The UN refugee agency has said the complex move to relocate the West Papuan refugees from Vanimo to East Awin could become a model for voluntary relocations around the world.

The refugees are from Wamena and Jayapura.

UNHCR PNG representative Johann Siffointe said: "The move is an important first step in the integration of the refugees into Papua New Guinea."

He also said the refugees will be able to grow vegetables and raise chickens and pigs on the land allocated to them in East Awin, where there were also established schools and health clinics.

Siffointe said in East Awin, the UNHCR had provided food, tarpaulins, nails, saws, spades, bush knives, lamps, jerry cans, soap and mosquito nets in anticipation of the refugees.

He praised the PNG Government for its commitment to achieving a negotiated outcome with the Vanimo group who initially was reluctant to move to the remote East Awin camp.

October 6, 2004

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