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UNHCR backs away from W Papua refugee support

FIRMIN NANOL | Radio Australia

THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES (UNHCR) has announced it will scale back its operations in Papua New Guinea, citing the growing expense of looking after refugees from the Indonesian province of Papua.

The UNHCR has been providing protection and support to refugees from the Indonesian province of Papua for the last 28 years, including access to jobs, education and integration into PNG communities.

The UNHCR has signed an agreement formalising its transition of powers and responsibilities to the PNG government.

UNHCR representative Walpurga Englbrecht says the organisation is scaling back its operations due to financial constraints and other evolving refugee and humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and Africa.

Ms Englbrecht says the UNHCR is happy the PNG government will continue to look after the refugees.

''It is a very positive step, the signing of the memorandum of agreement," Ms Englbrecht said.

"It just shows the willingness of the Papua New Guinea government to further locally integrate the West Papuan refugees."

An estimated 8000 refugees live in PNG's Western province, most of whom had fled neighbouring Indonesia in the mid-1980s.

The PNG government says it will support in processing their permissive residency certificates and repatriate them if they wish to return.


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