Six of the 64 refugees and asylum seekers housed in Papua New Guinea by Australia have been relocated from their current accommodation because of unpaid bills. The National reports that according to Pakistani refugee Hussain Mohammed, this had also affected their groceries, medical and security services for more than 12 months.
The programme, funded by Australia, has been plagued by controversy since its inception.
Following recent claims by a PNG immigration employee citing corruption, fraud and nepotism, Deputy Prime Minister John Rosso, who is also immigration minister, had publicly announced the conduct of an audit and investigations into the programme.
Rosso’s announcement was more than a month ago, however, the status of the promised investigations remained unclear.
Last week, hotelier Citi Boutique ordered the six asylum seekers and their dependents to relocate.
The asylum seekers claimed they had not been paid their allowances for groceries and medicals. They said this had been going on for months.
Hussain Mohammed, of Pakistan, said: “The PNG and Australia governments have stopped everything for us: no jobs, no food, no allowance given to look after our families. Right now, there is no food in my house; what am I going to do for my family?
“Our allowances were stopped in November; I don’t know why.
“I have been in this country for almost 10 years and, although we have gone on hunger strikes or protested, no one is listening to us.
“I went to the Australian High Commission to tell them I do not have food for my family, but no one paid any attention,” Mohammed said.
“It’s been nine months now. No one is paying our accommodation rentals. Some of us are being moved out because of no payment. I don’t know whether we will stay much longer in this place. The governments continue to ignore us. “We even approached the immigration office, but they advised us to go to Chatswood; we cannot find the office.” According to reports, Chatswood was the main service provider, operated and run by a former deputy prime minister and member of Parliament.
“Australia brought us here to PNG and we are struggling with no food and no other way to support ourselves.
“My wife is not working, and we cannot go home because there is no food in the village. And now she is pregnant, how do we pay for her medical bills?”
The management of Citi Boutique gave the refugees a week’s notice on Dec 12. And, under a new arrangement, they would occupy single rooms at the Lagatoi Apartments.
In response to the notice, also obtained by The National, Citi Apartments operations manager Ezra Yareki said: “I can confirm that this notice is for their relocation to our other property, the Lagatoi Apartments, as the current accommodation area that clients have been residing in has been booked out.
“This is why we are moving them to another property.
“As a business, we need to make money. We are not evicting them from our accommodation site.
“Arrangements between us and the immigration office (PNGICA) is that their accommodation is based on the refugee agreement. We, as accommodation providers, will still provide, but under our own terms until outstanding issues are sorted out.
“We are still providing the service to them. When we relocated them last week, we gave them all individual rooms at Lagatoi. Only one remained and the other five decided to go to another lodge through their own arrangements.
“They are still under us as per our agreement. When approached, the immigration office referred The National to Chatswood.
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