Media release

Respect the refugees!

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of PNG/SI

Last week Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told the ABC he believed most of the 1,035 asylum seekers at the Manus Regional Processing Centre were not genuine refugees and would be sent home “within weeks”. He said talks were underway with Iran and Iraq to return the men home.

A 13-day hunger strike by the detainees in Manus was suspended on Monday, 26 January after security personnel stormed the compounds where the detainees were on hunger strike.
The hunger strike was against the plan by the PNG government to resettle the genuine refugees to a new camp in Manus Island under the guise of releasing them into the community.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (CBC) is requesting the PNG Government and the Australian Government:

To give the asylum seekers a full and efficient refugee status determination process in the Manus Centre;
To provide safe and humane conditions for the asylum seekers;
Not to force the asylum seekers to return to their country if they are not safe;
To have a detailed policy on the resettlement of refugees in PNG.

This follows previous CBC statement of 15th Jan 2015.

Rev. Fr. Victor Roche, SVD
CBC General Secretary
1 February 2015

Media release

Where is the money for health?

Health services in Papua New Guinea are suffering because the Government is not releasing funds promptly enough.

Chairman of Catholic Church Health Services (CCHS), Archbishop Stephen Reichert expressed his disappointment that the release of salary and operational funds to the Churches is frequently delayed.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to health care in the latest budget.”

“However, we urge the Government to release funds on time to Churches who run health facilities in partnership with the Government Department of Health.”

“Over the past 18 months there have been frequent delays in the release of salary and operational grants for Church-run facilities.   As a result, many Church health workers are not paid for up to two or three months at a time. Surely this injustice and violation of the rights of Church health care providers is avoidable.”

“The constant delay in funding is unacceptable to the Church and disrespectful to the Church health workers who provide lifesaving services,” he said.

Archbishop Reichert explained that the Churches provide close to 50 per cent of all health care in Papua New Guinea; in remote and rural areas, where the majority of the people in the country live, that figure increases to around 80%.”

“I often hear that the Government seeks to work in closer partnership with Churches. Catholic Church Health Services (CCHS) welcomes this,” he said.

“By providing health services, the Churches actually save the Government money, but more importantly, they provide health services to people in areas the Government cannot reach.”

“On the Government’s part a clear expression of partnership is to pay the Churches on time, every time and according to budget so that the Churches can pay their workers on time.”

“The frequent late release of salary and operational grants is puzzling. Doesn’t Government care about Church health care providers and their families? Doesn’t Government care about the health of the people these health workers serve?   We are given no explanation,” he said.

“Church Health workers are highly committed people who often work in difficult and sometimes dangerous situations.”

“The very late payment of salaries, in particular, has adverse impacts on morale and performance.”

“If the Government is truly handing down a budget for families and the whole community, it must meet its basic commitment of paying Church health workers in a timely and just manner.”

Archbishop Reichert noted that the Government’s commitment of ensuring equal pay of Church and government workers has not yet fully happened. (24th November 2014)

 For more information contact Archbishop Stephen Reichert on 72485071