The Australian government’s controversial deal with Papua New Guinea will see asylum seekers sent to a country struggling to cope with spiralling rates of violence, particularly against women.
The Australian government currently urges travellers to PNG to “exercise extreme caution” due to high levels of serious crime and dangers of violent clashes, ethnic disputes, carjacking, and endemic levels of cholera, high levels of HIV, and malaria.
Papua New Guinea has recently been labelled one of the worst places for gender-based violence in the world. One hospital in the country’s second biggest city, Lae, recently reported that half of all sexual violence victims they saw were children.
Unicef described Papua New Guinea’s children as among the most vulnerable in the world, due to extremely high rates of violence, customary child marriage, exploitation, police brutality and detention in adult jails for young offenders.
|PNG Capital Port Moresby, Governement offices.|
The country currently allows five forms of execution: hanging, lethal injection, medical death by deprivation of oxygen, firing squad and electrocution. Homosexuality is illegal and adultery is a criminal offence.
PNG law officials recently repealed the Sorcery Act of 1971 which, among other things, made killing a person accused of sorcery potentially defensible. Recent news attention has focused on a spate of killings related to accusations of witchcraft.
Papua New Guinea is – like Australia – a signatory to the UN refugee convention. However when it signed in 1986 it made seven reservations.
The UNHCR noted that amid the high levels of crime and violence in PNG, “persons of concern, unlike most expatriates in PNG, cannot afford additional security. Non-Melanesian asylum seekers and refugees in PNG are particularly vulnerable to xenophobia and racism amongst the local population.”
The country is extremely rural. Around 80% of the 7 million people in PNG live in rural areas, and many are without basic services, infrastructure and education. The medical system is extremely weak.
PNG is currently experiencing a mining boom, but the unequal distribution of wealth has fuelled jealous violence, according to NGOs on the ground.
The prime minister, Peter O’Neill, who has vowed to clean up corruption and political instability in the country, earlier this year faced an attempted coup by a military loyal to former prime minister Michael Somare.
In a recent outbreak of violence, a group of defence force soldiers attacked a medical school.
Part of the arrangement with the Australian government is an increase in aid to PNG, addressing health and hospitals, universities, and law and order.