Open letter to PM

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands have written an open letter to Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, regarding refugees and asylum seekers in the country.

On November 1st last year, a panel discussion was hosted by the Catholic Bishops Conference over the health status of asylum seekers and refugees in Manus, and the alarming rate of self-harm and attempted suicide committed in the last five years due to depression.

“We had resolved at that conference and had wished that the government of the day had resolved the issue of the remaining people in Manus and in PNG, by 25 December. We wished that it would be a good Christmas gift. Apparently, that hasn’t happened. The issues and conditions of these people are getting worse by the day,” said CBC lawyer/ President of Catholic Professional Society PNG, Paul Harricknen.

CBC General Secretary, Fr Giorgio Lucini recently made a visit to Manus and the Pacific International Hospital.

Since September last year, there has been an increase in reported mental health issues among them.

“We can probably safely say that 80 to 100 of them are severely affected with mental health,” said Fr Giorgio.

The Church is in dialogue with the government through an open letter, as well as the ministers for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, of their concerns.

“There is a need to contain this tragedy, and the only way to contain this tragedy is to take these people somewhere else,” Fr Giorgio added.

Ninety percent of the people with mental health issues are now taking sleeping pills and anti-depressive tablets.

“What I stressed in our letter is that our Prime Minister, sooner or later, needs to get a deadline to the Australian government. We believe that our prime minister needs to give the prime minister of Australia and the government of Australia a clear deadline on when all refugees and asylum seekers had to be removed from Papua New Guinea, not to new detention centre because that would be a contradiction, wrong solution, not to new detention but to normal society.”

(President of Catholic Professional Society PNG, Paul Harricknen)

Sally Pokiton