What to do about Refugees in my neighbourhood?

Reflections on the Refugee scenario here in PNG, June 18, 2016

We (Bob and I) have become involved with a few refugees emanating from the exit of refugees from Manus Island Refugee centre. They are men who have come to Lae, being posted here for work with businesses who are offering help to these people.

We became involved because of David Fedele, a journalist from Melbourne who first saw Bob’s name in the Melbourne Age and The Guardian. Somehow those newspapers found out the story of Bob caring for one refugee, Logman, who had turned up on the streets of Lae.

Bob came home one day from the office, which is right next door to our house on the compound in Lae, to find the backyard full of ‘street boys’ or ‘raskols’ as they are called here in PNG. They are boys who have run away, been lost or have nowhere to live because no one wants them. These boys actually live in the bushes behind the SDA church near our house. Those raskols had found Logman on the street near the police station. He did not look like them because he was from Iran so had a lighter skin and certainly had a different accent and manner. They told him he would die if he stayed on the street because strangers are not welcome on the streets of Lae. Besides, Lae has the reputation of being the most dangerous town in Papua New Guinea.

So, together with Jacob, our long-term street boy friend, they brought him to our yard where they waited for Bob, the only trusted friend they knew who might help them and hopefully, Logman. Bob listened to the story and although reluctant, he allowed Logman to live in the flat under our house. He hoped to share good news with him and offered him a job with the mission. He considered the possibility in the future of helping Logman go to a Christian school, get an education and a chance for a new life. But – Logman, was restless and didn’t stay long. He soon left and eventually found his way back to Manus Island where he is back in the centre for refugees where life is easier for him.

David Fedele read about this in two newspapers and immediately found his way to PNG with a visa to stay for 2 months, lived in the flat under our house and endeavoured to get to know Logman and other refugees around town. At the same time David met the street boys and invited them every day to our house where he and Sandrine, an ADRA employee’s wife from Ivory Coast, Africa, taught the boys English and simple mathematics. David gave them a meal each day and it was a good arrangement which was to last only a while. David eventually left and the classes came to an end.

But … we now employ the main street boy, Nickson, provide him with food and hopefully a future at a good school. He is faithful and we believe he has hope.

The other refugees we met, struggle still. They live in Lae in accommodation now provided by the Australian government. They have jobs but struggle to integrate into society. Especially so for our Sudanese friend, Mojeeb. Mojeeb is a tall handsome young man with a long sad history to relate, leaving Sudan and so wants to have an education and a good life. He cannot go outside his accommodation because the PNG people don’t relate or want to know about Africans. He has been attacked, robbed, shot at and threatened with a knife. He is afraid to venture outside. He has nowhere to cook food and has to rely on the restaurant at the Inn where he stays and for which the government pays. He would much rather they pay for an education for him.

And so right now – we are struggling to know just how to help this beautiful young man, so worthy of a future and a right to a decent life. He doesn’t know where to turn.

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