The escalation of the conflict in Maybrat, West Papua has made thousands of refugees not ready to return to their villages. This condition is also feared to trigger new violence, which always places the community as victims.
Not only residents, church priests also chose to evacuate. At least, according to the testimony given by Pastor Imanuel Tanau, Pr in an explanation to the media online, Saturday (2/10).
“We have a parish there. And the parish priest took refuge with the residents. The security situation does not provide guarantees for residents to return home. If the priest stays there, who will he lead? In the end, the priest and the residents fled,” said Father Immanuel.
He is from the Lay Apostolic Commission, Manokwari Diocese, Sorong. This institution is also part of the Coalition of Civil Society Concerns for Maybrat Refugees (KMSPPM).
Other institutions involved include the Secretariat for Justice and Peace of Integrity of Copyright, the Order of Saint Augustine (SKPKC OSA), the Papuan Pastor, the Papuan Human Rights Advocates Association (PAHAM Papua), and Kontras Papua. Also joined were the Papuan Customary Council Region III Doberai, the Kisor Raya Student Youth Association (IPPMKR), the Papuan Indigenous Youth Region III Doberai, the Sorong Raya National Indigenous Peoples Alliance and the Ayosami Student and Student Youth Association.
All of these institutions are currently fully concentrated on helping more than two thousand refugees spread across various points, even to different districts.
Pastor Immanuel also reported that the church noted that a number of houses were damaged, including a church. Further checks will be carried out, to compile a report that is more in line with field conditions. Regarding the decision of refugees who do not want to return home, according to Father Immanuel, security issues are the reason.
“Refugees are not just about returning to their place. But the places where they now live, such as Kumurkek, Kokas, Ayawasi, and even around other villages, do not guarantee security either,” said Pastor Imanuel.
The incident of the arrest of refugees in the Kokas area some time ago, added Pastor Imanuel, made residents even more afraid to go home. There is even news about the desire of some of them who actually want to get out of the Maybrat area.
The Lay Apostolic Commission, continued Pastor Immanuel, strongly condemns crimes in the name of any interest and anyone, both in Maybrat and Papua in general. This institution also calls on the parties, especially the security forces, to present humanist ways to solve humanitarian problems.
“We also ask the local government of Maybrat to open access for anyone who feels they have a sense of humanity to help the displaced brothers and sisters. Do not because self-esteem makes people suffer. Do not because of their own interests, making people unable to be helped by other parties, “added Pastor Imanuel.
It’s been one month since thousands of civilians in Maybrat Regency have been living in refugee camps in unsafe conditions. The conflict between security forces and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) began on September 2, 2021 in Kisor Village, South Aifat District. The incident of the TPNPB attack on the Kisor Preparatory Koramil Post, which killed four TNI members and injured two other TNI members, sparked an armed conflict.
The Civil Society Coalition for Maybrat Cares for Refugees recorded the current number of refugees at 2,768 people. Yohanis Mambrasar, a spokesman for the coalition, said that despite the difficult conditions, the refugees did not want to go home because they questioned security guarantees.
“Today they feel insecure in Kumurkek, because there have been a number of arrests. If people go home, they can be arrested. Those who had fled to Kumurkek, after the arrest some residents had shifted again. They are looking for another place, even though they are far from their village, so they can be safe,” said Yohanis.
Kumurkek is the capital city of Maybrat Regency. The refugees heard of the arrests of a number of people, and thought they could be the next victims. It is this fear that makes them keep moving in search of new refugee places, and further and further away. Yohanis said the Maybrat refugees needed comfort, security and of course food and drink.
“Children who do not go to school, the government must pay attention to. They must be guaranteed or taken care of to go to school, so that they are not neglected and do not become victims, and lose their rights to education,” continued Yohanis.
From the coalition’s monitoring and investigation, the 2,768 refugees were spread across 50 villages in five districts, namely South Aifat, East Aifat, Far East Aifat, Middle East Aifat and South East Aifat. They also moved to nearby districts, such as Aiyawasi, Kumurkek, Aitinyo, and other districts such as South Sorong, Bentuni, and Sorong. A number of refugees are reported to be sick, some are pregnant.
The coalition encouraged the security forces to relax their pursuit efforts which led to the arrest of some of the refugees. This step greatly affects the condition of the refugees, because it makes them afraid. The pursuit of the TNPPB group should not be at the expense of ordinary people who are not involved in the conflict itself. [ns/ah]