THE Manus refugees all come from very troubled countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan and 90% of them are genuine political refugees.
The governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia will try to prove otherwise and take them back their countries of origin. But the world will call it murder.
Under the present circumstances and agreements, , Papua New Guinea will have to resettle about 1,000 of the refugees currently in Manus.
But many of these men (there are only men at Manus) will have to be joined by their spouses and children now detained in other refugee centres in the Pacific or waiting to reunite with them from their countries of origin. Who can deny children the right to grow up with their parents?
So we are looking at about 4 - 5,000 people eligible for resettlement in PNG; many more, of course, if Australia keeps taking refugees to Manus Island.
Fortunately, history proves that the relationship of PNG people with expatriates of all sorts (whether missionaries, colonisers, businessmen, workers, West Papuan refugees) is quite positive, peaceful and reassuring.
Who can complain of PNG hospitality and kindness? There is no need to fear clashes between the locals and refugees in normal conditions of life and work.
The question is, will there be normal conditions of life and work? We know that refugees are everywhere in the world and only some of them are resettled in affluent countries after a lengthy process.
Many of them rot in slums at the edge of big cities or in refugee camps that are more than 20 years old. As far as PNG is concerned, a large number of West Papuan refugees still have to find their way in our society and internally displaced PNG citizens, such as the Manam islanders in Madang Province, are also in permanent limbo.
The idea if resettling thousands of Middle East, Asian and African refugees in PNG is simply chilling. Think of the enormous cultural divide; the limited job opportunities; poor housing; different agricultural ways and traditions.
Think also of the fact that affluent countries such as Australia can always accompany the resettlement process with psychological support, language courses, proper medical care (especially for children), and a different cultural and religious sensitivity.
The formal resettlement of refugees in a developing country such as Papua New Guinea is something new. We have never heard of it taking place, let’s say, in Brazil, or Nigeria, or the Philippines, or Vanuatu.
Anyway, the Australians will not take one single person out of Manus. They will put money in, but they will not take people out. The August 2013 agreement states that it is a PNG responsibility to screen the refugees and, according to the outcome of the investigation, repatriate them or resettle each one of them on PNG soil or in any other hard-to-imagine interested Pacific country.
The money that Australia is giving to PNG for the Manus camp, and has promised for infrastructure development around the country, is hardly going to pay for a logistical nightmare.
The PNG Council of Churches recently stated that any financial gain made out of the plight of political refugees is tantamount to complicity in human trafficking; exactly like the criminal syndicates organising the boats between Indonesia and Christmas Island and making big money out of it.
Sydney Catholic Schools Executive Director, Dr Dan White, announcing a scheme of free education for refugee students a few days ago, called for the immediate release of all children in detention, saying Australia was abrogating its responsibility as an affluent and compassionate society by failing to take them in.
“I believe in 20 years’ time,” Dr White said, “there will be a major government inquiry, just like we had for the Stolen Generations, where the next generation of Australians will condemn us for the way we have treated these children in recent years.
“I just hope education systems can stand up with their hand on their heart and say, "We did our best".
If we accept that political refugees cannot settle in PNG as subsistence farmers (on whose land?) or settlement dwellers (do we need more?), will the public and private sector be in a position to provide them jobs, houses, education and health care?
This should have been verified and discussed in Parliament before anything was signed with Australia. Only a positive and reassuring response to these questions can spare PNG an impending social tragedy.