PNG refugee family forcibly evicted amid contract rorts

A 34-year-old Afghan refugee, his heavily pregnant wife and two young children were forcibly evicted from their accommodation in Port Moresby yesterday (25 September 2023).

The eviction followed more than a week of threats by service provider MRT Holdings to use police to forcibly evict all five refugees from their accommodation and force them into housing owned by the main contractor’s father. Four of the five refugees had left by yesterday morning leaving only the Afghan refugee’s family to be evicted.

The young family spent last night in a hotel. Their future housing is currently unknown.

The eviction has highlighted the on-going governance issues regarding contracts for refugee services in PNG. MRT Holdings seems to be a sub-contractor of Chatswood, the company which was granted the contract for refugees services following the Morrison government’s secret deal in December 2021 to pay PNG for welfare and support services for refugees forcible sent to PNG by Australia.

Around 24 refugees being housed in Citi Boutique have also been threatened with eviction by the end of October because Chatswood has not paid the hotel for the refugees’ accommodation for several months. Citi Boutique owners have already been forcing refugees to pay for their own electricity at the hotel for several months although Chatswood is meant to cover the cost of utilities for the refugees.

Chatswood has also moved offices to an unknown location so refugees are unable to directly contact the main service provider. 

Labor has appointed Dennis Richardson, a former secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Defence to investigate the integrity of offshore refugee contracts following revelations of Home Affairs approving contracts with companies linked to bribery investigations.

The allegations of corruption and nepotism regarding refugee service providers in PNG are legion. In 2019, there were revelations regarding the multi-million dollar security contracts paid to Paladin, which at one time had a company address on Kangaroo Island.

The refugee family’s belongings being removed from their accommodation during the eviction

Richardson’s inquiry must be extended to include current contracts in PNG. The Labor government has been denying its responsibility for the refugees still being held in PNG by hiding behind Morrison’s secret deal.

There are around 70 refugees still in PNG. They are not safe, and have no secure future; around 16 of them are too ill even to engage with refugee authorities.

“Labor can’t keep denying responsibility for the refugees they sent to PNG in 2013. Labor should reveal the terms of the secret deal that Morrison struck in 2021. Ultimately the only guarantee of the refugees’ safety and security is to bring them to Australia,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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