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UNHCR and PNG sign agreement for services to refugees in Western Province

Press releases

UNHCR and PNG sign agreement for services to refugees in Western Province

17 January 2013

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Papua New Guinea Government today signed agreements providing for ongoing services and support to West Papuan refugees living at Iowara-East Awin, in Border Settlements, and in Urban Areas of Western Province.

There are some 8,000 refugees living in Western Province, most of whom had fled neighbouring Indonesia in the mid-1980s.

UNHCR’s partnership with the refugees over the last 28 years has provided a basis for their protection and reintegration, and UNHCR has - alongside the Papua New Guinea Government - helped to provide essential support such as improving roads, access to jobs, education and healthcare.

Prompted by the need to respond to an unprecedented number of global displacement crises - notably in Africa and the Middle East - UNHCR has had to transition out of Iowara-East Awin and downsize its operation in Papua New Guinea as of the start of 2013.

Ahead of the formal signing in Port Moresby on 17 January, UNHCR officials visited Iowara-East Awin and Kiunga from 11-14 January, the culmination of an intensive year of providing targeted services and capacity building ahead of its transition.

UNHCR is confident that the agreement signed with the PNG Government will ensure that the concerted efforts toward sustainability and decent livelihoods can be maintained at East Awin.

While it will no longer have a role in delivering services or programmes, UNHCR will continue in an advocacy and monitoring role on behalf of refugees in Western Province, as well as the small number of refugees and asylum-seekers in other locations in Papua New Guinea.

The full list of signatories to the agreements are: the Department of Provincial and Local Government Affairs (DPLGA) for the National Government, the Fly River Provincial Government, the Catholic Diocese of Daru-Kiunga, refugee representatives, and UNHCR.