Papua New Guinea (PNG) acceded to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol in 1986, after having initially declined to accept those instruments, which had been extended by the administering power, Australia. This article analyses the background to PNG's accession, and the reasons for its reservations to various provisions. PNG has, for some years, received refugees from West Irian, where the authority of the Indonesian Government continues to be challenged by the OPM (the Free Papua Movement). Before 1984, refugee arrivals were sporadic and involved relatively small groups of people; between February and June 1984, however, over ten thousand West Papuans fled into PNG. Both security and socio-economic considerations led successive PNG Governments to decline to accede to the refugee instruments, or to classify West Papuans as refugees. It is doubtful, however, whether these concerns justify the reservations to articles 17(1), 21, 22(1), 31, 32 and 34 of the Convention, most of which are due to a misconstrction of the relevant terms. The reservations are largely unnecessary, and partially defeat the value of accession.
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