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Health concerns mount for harried group of 100

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, July 6, 2008) – Concern has been raised about the poor living conditions among a group of Papuan refugees squatting in a public park in Papua New Guinea’s capital.

The group of about 100 is currently camped at Boroko’s Apex Park after being evicted from four different public locations over the past nine months.

The refugees are appealing for resettlement in a third country but say the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] is neglecting their bid and have called on the PNG government to assist them.

A local NGO activist who has been camping with the refugees for the past two months, Richard Brunton, says he is concerned for the group’s welfare. He says the group includes children and elderly people who are contending with increasingly dire conditions.

"I’ve not seen one visit by UNHCR, Provincial Affairs, Foreign Affairs, even the Governor of the city, nobody’s been down here to check out their conditions or hear the concerns about their safety and not having a place to stay."

[PIR editor’s note: The following response was later reported by RNZI: The UNHCR’s regional representative, Richard Towle says that like the rest of the roughly 10,000 Papuan refugees in PNG, this group has a durable solution to remain in the country. "They have refugee status, they are safe. there’s absolutely no suggestion of forced return to Indonesia," he said. "We’re satisfied that the basic principles of international protection are being fully met here. Certainly there’s a sympathy that we have for a small group of people that can’t find a place to live. I think there are some solutions that need to be explored. We’re happy to work with government and with this group to try and find them in PNG."]

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