More Than 1,100 West Papuans To Be Granted Papua New Guinea Citizenship

Ceremony marks first time those who crossed the border in 1970s and 1980s welcomed as citizens

By Tony Sii

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 11, 2017) – History was in the making as Papua New Guinea for the first time legally recognised 403 West Papuans as citizens in a ceremony yesterday in Kuinga, Western Province.

A further 711 others at the East Awin refugee camp in the province will be granted the same recognition tomorrow.

Through the process of naturalisation, the new members of PNG, aged 18 years and above, signed legal documents and publicly renounced their previous status as citizens of the Republic of Indonesia and declared their oath of loyalty to PNG and its Constitution before receiving their citizenship certificates.

Chairman of the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority Solan Mirisim officiated at the event which was witnessed by officials from the Fly River provincial administration, the Department of Provincial and Local Level Government, PNGICSA and other stakeholders as well as the local residents.

“The citizenship marks a significant event – the first ceremony that recognizes West Papuans that have sought refuge or asylum in PNG in the 1970s and 1980s as Papua New Guinea Citizens.

It provides you with never before identification to formally make your part in this country,” Mr Mirisim told the new PNG citizens.

“The progress of this process also demonstrates PNG’s genuine commitment to the protection of refugees, acknowledging that there are over 21 million refugees worldwide.” Acting Chief Migration Officer Solomon Kantha said the former West Papuans now have the same freedom and rights as other Papua New Guineas to vote in an election, access services, freedom of movement, apply for visa to travel abroad among many other things they can do or say under the constitution.

However he added the citizenship comes with responsibility to the nation.

“As Papua New Guineans this is an opportunity for you to meaningfully contribute to PNG and further the interest of this country,” Mr Kantha said.

Speaking on behalf of the former West Papuans, Steven Dude thanked the government for recognising them as Papua New Guineans.

“Now our nametag has changed from being stateless to be someone that is recognized and we will truly participate in the development of this great nation.”

The citizenship was granted to only those West Papuans who were earlier given Permanent Residency Permit status by the government.

PNG Post-Courier
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