PAPUA New Guinean citizens have threatened Immigration officers trying to deport illegal immigrants from the country, deputy secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade Elias Woyengu told a parliamentary inquiry yesterday.
He said there were marriages of convenience, whereby a foreigner married a PNG woman, and when the foreigner was threatened with deportation, he would be protected by his tambus (in-laws) who threatened Immigration officers.
He also gave another example of foreign businessmen being protected by prominent Papua New Guineans.
He said one foreigner was holding five passports, including a PNG passport, but could not be questioned because he was being protected by a “very senior” Papua New Guinean.
“There is nothing much we can do as he is being protected by that person,” he told the Parliamentary Bipartisan Committee investigating the anti-Asian riots in May.
Mr Woyengu said while some foreigners entered the country illegally by land or by sea, some also did so “through the normal process”.
He said there was no manpower to check people who had overstayed their visa conditions.
Mr Woyengu also said people facing deportation could not be locked in police cells as PNG did not have detention centre to keep aliens.
The inquiry team, led by Jamie Maxtone-Graham and comprising MPs Anthony Nene, Philip Kikala and Ronald Asik, is investigating the root causes of the rioting in May that targeted Asian-owned and operated businesses throughout the country.
Mr Woyengu said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was now separate from Immigration Services but reported to the same minister.
He said the separation was done because there were serious manpower problems and the budget was not trickling down to Immigration.
Mr Woyengu said many Asian and African countries were considered “high risk” and visa applications had to go through a thorough and vigorous screening process, and final approval must be given from Port Moresby.
He said these applications were referred to the National Intelligence Organisation for screening and once it gave the green light, Port Moresby then advised overseas missions to issue the visa.
Mr Woyengu said funding was a big issue facing the department and confirmed that there were definitely illegal immigrants in the country but the department was handicapped and could not go after them.