Love dilemma for refugees in Manus

Manus Open Member Ronny Knight has called on his people to think carefully about the negative aspects of marrying refugees who are currently in the province.

He issued the call after Loop PNG enquired about local women marrying refugees.

“When they are taken away or move away, what will happen to the wives and children? PNG immigration has to be aware that they and their Australian counterparts are exposed to anyone taking a lawsuit on them over their mishandling of the whole thing,” Knight said.

“My major concern is the Regional Processing Centre (RPC) staff marrying asylum seekers. It clearly is a mess that immigration has to fix immediately.

“I call on both governments and UNHCR, who is responsible for these people, to immediately find a place and remove them from Manus before local people begin retaliating,” the local member added.

Knight said Lorengau is now overrun by refugees and their impact is negative to his people’s customs and ideals.

“Australia doesn't want them. They cannot survive in PNG. UNHCR must step in and assert control immediately.”

Human rights lawyer Ben Lomai represents 731 asylum seekers, who have signed a new Supreme Court application that will be filed this Friday. This application is asking the court for their release to Australia.

He said everyone is entitled to marry under the current law, including customary laws.

“I don't think it is wrong for the asylum seekers to marry local girls or vice versa. There must be consent and recognition to legally solemnise marriage. And it must be done before a marriage celebrant, such as a priest/pastor or civil registry.”

When Loop PNG enquired about what will happen to the women and children of the refugees if they are moved to another country, Lomai said they (couples) must show the immigration that their marriage were solemnised properly under customary laws in PNG.

“It's recognised here but I don't think other countries will recognise the relationship without a proper legal marriage certificate.

“The new laws passed recently have allowed registration of customary marriages to be issued with marriage certificate. So, they should available themselves to that process,” he added.

(Picture source: Radio NZ)

Sally Pokiton