For these refugees, it is the sixth Christmas spent far from home, in truly precarious social and health conditions.
In April 2016, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea declared the detention center for asylum seekers that the Australian government had established on the island of Manus as illegal and unconstitutional, following an agreement with the government of Papua New Guinea. Now, still, circa 400 refugees are waiting to be resettled. A truly dramatic situation, which seems very far from being resolved and which is leading to various social and moral problems and a series of human rights violations.
To take stock of the condition of Manus is Fr Ambrose Pereira, SDB, Secretary of the Communication and Youth Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
"On 15 December 2017 I met the first two refugees who had been taken away from the Isle of Manus and sent to the Bomana penitentiary," explained Fr Ambros Pereira. "Last year was characterized by constant interaction with refugee homes. Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, Syria and many other countries. Fortunately, some have been resettled, but most of them are still in Papua New Guinea," he added.
The round table, entitled "Manus Refuges" and dedicated precisely to the refugees of Manus, gathered the government, the Church, students, refugees and Papuan citizens in an open discussion in November 2018. Monsignor Bernard Unaballi, bishop of Bougainville, strongly committed himself and suggested the Christmas period as the deadline for finding a definitive solution. But despite this, no agreement was reached and the refugees had to spend their sixth Christmas in these terrible conditions.
"I have waited with hope, but the promised meetings with the Prime Minister and the Australian High Commissioner have never materialized," explained Fr Ambrose Pereira again. "The offices are now closed and everyone has returned home for the holidays, while beyond 400 refugees struggle to gain access to essential health and services."
Finally, Fr Ambrose adds: "We take strength from the words of the Scriptures: The people who walk in darkness shall see a great light."