PRESS RELEASE: Papua New Guinea Must Guarantee Safety of Iranian Refugee Loghman Sawari

For immediate release

Papua New Guinea Must Guarantee Safety of Iranian Refugee Loghman Sawari

Bangkok, 8 February 2017

On 3 February, Fijian authorities deported a twenty-one year old refugee from Suva, Fiji to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. This forced deportation flies in the face several core tenants of customary international law including the principle of not sending a person to a place where their safety is threatened and the right to claim asylum. The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) voices concern over Fiji’s commitment upholding their obligations as a state party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and to customary international law.

Loghman Sawari travelled from Papua New Guinea to Fiji in mid-January 2017 seeking a refuge and intending to lodge an application for asylum. Whilst en route to Fiji’s Department of Immigration to lodge a claim, the car carrying Mr Sawari and his lawyer was intercepted and both were promptly deported. The fact that Mr Sawari was unable to lodge his asylum claim highlights Fiji’s clear disregard for human rights.

APRRN’s Deputy Secretary General Julia Mayerhofer explained that, “the Fiji Government should have allowed Mr Sawari to lodge an application for asylum without impediment. By deporting him, Fiji has lost credibility as a nation that respects human rights and dignity.”

In 2013, aged only 17 years old, Mr Sawari arrived in Papua New Guinea (PNG) where he was detained in an Immigration Detention Centre whilst his refugee claim was assessed. Upon recognition as a refugee he was released to live amongst the local community on Manus Island, subsequently residing in Papua New Guinea’s second largest city, Lae. Yet, Mr Sawari claims that he has not enjoyed safety and freedom in Papua New Guinea and has in fact been subject to discrimination, violence and homelessness.

Parsu Sharma-Luital, Chair of APRRN’s Working Group for Australia, New Zealand & the Pacific and himself a former refugee from Bhutan, described this situation as but another example of the need for PNG’s camps to close and refugees on the island to be brought to safety in Australia. “Enough is enough. As if three years in detention was not enough for this young man. Mr Sawari and all other refugees on Manus Island and Nauru must come to Australia now. Refugees need safety and security and this is simply not possible in these nations”. As of today Mr Sawari remains in the custody of PNG’s Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority.

APRRN calls upon the government of Papua New Guinea to drop all charges against Mr Sawari and instead investigate the reasons he felt compelled to leave the country in the first place. A full review of the support and assistance provided to refugees should also be undertaken to ensure that those in the community can live safe, fulfilling and productive lives. In fleeing to Fiji, Mr Sawari was once more driven by desperation for finding safety and protection.

Notes to the editor:

Whether Mr Sawari travelled on false documents or not is irrelevant under international law. Under the 1951 Refugee Convention, asylum seekers are entitled to lodge a claim for protection and have that claim assessed fairly and expeditiously. Despite claims by PNG authorities that he will not lose his refugee status, criminal prosecution for travelling on a false passport has not been ruled out.

About APRRN:

The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) is an open and growing network of over 300 civil society groups and individuals from 28 countries in the Asia Pacific region committed to advancing the rights of refugees, through joint advocacy, capacity-strengthening, resource sharing and outreach.

Media Contact:

Julia Mayerhofer, Deputy Secretary General, 
Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)

Tel: +66 2 252 66 54 | Email: Julia@aprrn.info | Fax: +66 2 689 62 05

Parsu Sharma-Luital, Chair of APRRN’s Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Working Group

Tel: +61 412 265 317 | Email: parsul2016@gmail.com

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