Illegals just one part of the problem

Editorial, Normal

The National , Wednesday, June 1, 2011

MILNE Bay and East New Britain are two provinces which are taking a proactive step in weeding out so-called “illegals” from their precincts.
It’s a commendable position for provincial governments to have the presence of mind to appreciate that this is just one of the many problems which in no small way affects their people.
The operation to rid the provinces of foreigners who have entered the country illegally is an ongoing challenge which falls under the jurisdiction the PNG Customs office headed by Commissioner Gary Juffa and the labour and migration department with the assistance of the police.
Milne Bay provincial administration last week commenced a two-week operation in conjunction with Customs to identify and remove all foreigners living and working in the province under falsified or invalid work permits and in some cases with no documentation whatsoever.
Juffa said the action was specifically targeting expatriates who had breached migration and labour laws.
We presume that the Customs office will follow suit in other provinces, if they have not already done so, by working in partnership provincial administrations to find effective solutions to address the issue.
But, in saying that attempts are being made to curb this increasingly complex and multi-layered problem, perhaps the focus should be put on a holistic approach rather than the piece meal solutions being trialed in selected provinces.
If need be, legislation must be proposed, and enacted, in order to safeguard all provinces.
This would give provincial governments the means legally and logistically to deal with the influx of foreigners gaining a foothold in their towns, districts and villages for the purpose of conducting business or benefiting in one way or another from activities which should rightfully be the domain of the indigenous population.
The major ports of entry in the country are Port Moresby and Lae and to a lesser extent Vanimo. These are the checkpoints that must be manned vigilantly by the organisation tasked with this duty.
In fact, this would be the best place to start as it is through these entry points that individuals most probably make their way into the country.
The straight-shooting Juffa said reports had been received “time and time again” about the people of foreign extraction illegally running businesses and essentially depriving Papua New Guineans of revenue earning potential.
PNG, as a country, can ill-afford to be seen as an easy mark by people in the region – and the rest of the world for that matter – to set up shop as it were without paying the proper dues.
It would make us an attractive target for the wrong kind of investor and worker.
We have begun down the road of rapid development of our resources and soon the country will see an explosion in the number of workers needed to power this expansion and growth and must in Juffa’s words “protect the interests of PNG and its people”.
Of course, this looks only at foreigners from within, but, what about the situation the provinces and, in particular, urban areas now face with the jump in rural drift?
If we think illegal aliens are taking away business opportunities and other perceived benefits from us, then, we should also consider the damage that we ourselves are precipitating upon our fellow countrymen by allowing the shifting masses of people into towns.
The myriad problems this causes are laid bare for all to see.
Overpopulation is one issue tied in with the need to regulate the movements of people within the nation.
While we agree that the uncontrolled and unmonitored entry of illegals poses its own unique set of problems, we would also hasten to point out that our urban centres are slowly reaching a state of critical mass.
The underlying cause being the number of people pulled or pushed to our major urban areas and, thus, creating situation which puts immense pressure on resources such as land and water and services in health and education, to name a few.
A growing population of the unemployed in towns presents the all-too-familiar scenario of continuous law and order problems.
It is a slow burning fuse that will wreak more havoc than any handful of illegal foreigners ever will.