Delegation to PNG

22 November 2019 | General Interest

Seven members from the Catholic community in Australia formed a Delegation to travel to PNG to see first hand the situation for those seeking asylum/refugee status, so that in returning to Australia we could advocate further for them.

Manus Island detention Centre, now closed after being opened seven years ago, resulted in 120 detainees being transferred to Port Moresby in August and now living in motels or guest houses along with a couple of hundred other asylum seekers also awaiting their fate. Some are on a    re-settlement pathway to the United States and others privately sponsored to go to Canada. Others are waiting to be medevacked to Australia. The reality is, many of these refugees feel quite unsafe in Port Moresby and stay inside their accommodation, frightened to go out for fear of being attacked, as has happened to a number of them already. Those waiting to be resettled have families at home who can’t understand why they are not free. They think their sons/brothers have done something wrong. Therefore, some now rarely speak to their families. What can they say?

Meeting with some of the refugees and their families

There are 47 asylum seekers in detention in Bomana, most having been there for seven years and classified as non-refugees. Ten have been approved for medical evacuation to Australia. Others in detention have either never applied for refugee status or whose applications have been rejected. They are known in PNG as” the negatives”. They are placed under pressure to return to their home countries, where most know they will be imprisoned and possibly executed. Australia, America and PNG don’t want them. It is said that these men are being used as a deterrent to stop others from seeking asylum/refugee status in Australia.

Meeting with Behrouz Boochani

The men held at Bomana are denied visitors, phones, access to lawyers and have minimal rations each day. Most losing weight and subsequently finding themselves in the psychiatric ward at the Private hospital,  often as a result of self-harm and mental illness. They have lost hope as their claims have been rejected or they’ve chosen not to participate in the refugee determination process.

Mass at Boroka Parish



The Catholic Church in PNG is very proactive in meeting the needs of these people but they constantly come up against bureaucracy. Australia says the refugee’s/asylum seekers are not their responsibility and PNG says the same. Where do they find hope?