Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:17 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1997 - Papua New Guinea

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 January 1997
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1997 - Papua New Guinea, 1 January 1997, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) hosted 10,000 Indonesian refugees from Irian Jaya, an Indonesian province that shares the island of New Guinea with PNG. Irian refugees first fled to PNG in 1984 to escape fighting between the Indonesian army and forces of the Organisasi Papua Merdeka, a small Irian insurgent group seeking independence for Irian Jaya. Some 3,600 of the refugees were living in a UNHCR-assisted, government-run camp in East Awin, a rural settlement near Kuinga town in Western province. Another 6,000 other Irian Jaya refugees were living without assistance in six villages in the border area, and 400 were living in urban centers. According to UNHCR, during 1996, 25 refugees voluntarily repatriated to Irian Jaya with UNHCR and PNG government assistance. An unknown number may have returned home by their own means.

Since 1988, several thousand refugees from the PNG island of Bougainville, located 800 kilometers from the PNG mainland, have fled to the neighboring Solomon Islands. They left to escape fighting between the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), a group that seeks independence for the island of Bougainville, and PNG government forces. The conflict in Bougainville has reportedly left hundreds, perhaps thousands dead. Some of the refugees who fled to the Solomon Islands have since settled there, and others have returned spontaneously to Bougainville or the PNG mainland. Only some 1,000 refugees remained in the Solomon Islands at the end of 1996.

According to the Pacific News Bulletin, as many as 40 percent of Bougainville's residents have been displaced by the fighting. Some 70,000 were reportedly living in government-controlled "care centers" where they were said to suffer "terrible hardships." Other sources disputed those figures, however, saying the number of displaced persons was much lower.

Talks and a cease-fire between the PNG-sponsored Bougainville Transitional Government and the BRA's political wing broke down in early 1996, and in June the PNG military launched a new offensive against the BRA. Local groups reported that PNG forces, which they accused of regularly committing human rights abuses against the local population, massacred local people in seven villages between late November and mid-December. According to the November 17 Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), the Red Cross suspended its operations in Bougainville, saying that statements made by the PNG military had endangered the lives of Red Cross personnel.

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