Refugees thank villagers

The National,Friday June 24th, 2016

West Papuan refugees have thanked the people of Manus especially the Rossun villagers for accepting them as the first asylum seekers in the 1960s.
John Kimbri, a third-generation West Papuan refugee said the people had allowed them to make gardens, get sago and fish to sustain themselves.
He said his grandparents left their Arso village in Keerom regency in what was formerly Irian Jaya, along the PNG-Indonesian border.
“We were allowed to sell food in the markets to earn a living and also to pay for our education,” he said.
Kimbri said during the World Refugee Celebration Day in Lorengau on Wednesday that he and his elder brother Amos were the original West Papuans left in the Salasia (West Papua) settlement. The rest are of mixed West Papua and Manus parentage.
“We are now about 50 people left. Our grandparents fled from persecution by the then Indonesian government to cross the border into West Sepik province,” Kimbri said.
“They were then brought here (Salasia) in 1962 and 1969 by the Australian colonial government. Originally there were many of us. But some passed away, some got educated and moved to other parts of PNG to work, he said.
Kimbri said some went back to West Papua, like his parents.
John and Amos were born in Lorengau before Papua New Guniea got its independence in 1975 and are married to local women and have children.
“We went to school here and voted in the national election as our names are in the common roll. So we consider ourselves to be PNG citizens.”
He said comparing the treatment by the Australian government of the  predominantly Middle East refugees, the original West Papuan asylum seekers were not fed well.
“Our grandparents were fed rice and tinned fish,” Kimbri said.
He said he current asylum seekers were fed three meals daily and lived in good houses.
“It does not matter to us now because at least we are free and happily living in PNG,” Kimbri said.