Open letter to Minister Faafoi – an appeal to help 34 abandoned Papuan students

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Papuan student advocate Laurens Ikinia
Papuan student advocate Laurens Ikinia ... “We are so grateful to all Kiwis across the country for their generous support." Image: Del Abcede/Asia Pacific Report
David Robie also blogs at Café Pacific.


Kia ora Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi

It is unconscionable. A bewildering and grossly unfair crisis for 34 young Papuan students – 25 male and 9 female – the hope for the future of the West Papua region, the Melanesian half of Papua New Guinea island ruled by Indonesia.

They were part of a cohort of 93 Papuan students studying in Aotearoa New Zealand on local provincial autonomy government scholarships, preparing for their careers, and learning or improving their English along the way. They were also making Pacific friendships and contacts.

They were fast becoming a “bridge” to New Zealand. Ambassadors for their people.

And then it all changed. Suddenly through no fault of their own, 41 of them were told out of the blue their scholarships were being cancelled and they had to return home.

- Sponsor Promotion -

Their funds were cut with no warning. Many of them had accommodation bills to pay, university fees to cover and other student survival debts.

They were abandoned by their own government, some of them being close to completing their degrees of diplomas. Appeals to both the provincial governments in Papua and the central government in Jakarta – even to President Joko Widodo — were ignored.

Yes, it is unconscionable.

New Zealand help?
Surely New Zealand can respond to this Pacific plea for help?

Asia Pacific Report first published a story about the plight of these students back on January 27. Since then many stories have been written about the students’ struggle to complete their qualifications, including Māori Television, Newsroom, Tagata Pasifika, RNZ Pacific, and Wairarapa Times-Age, and Tabloid Jubi, Cendrawasi Pos and Suara Papua in Papua.


An interview by Laurens Ikinia with Tagata Pasifika last month.   Video: Sunpix

They must finish their studies here in New Zealand because returning home to a low wage economy, high unemployment, the ravages of the covid-19 pandemic, and an insurgency war for independence will ruin their education prospects.

Papuan students studying in Australia and New Zealand face tough and stressful challenges apart from the language barrier. As Yamin Kogoya, a Brisbane-based West Papuan commentator, says from first-hand experience:

“Papuan students abroad face many difficulties, including culture shock and adjustments, along with anxiety due to the deaths of their family members back in West Papua, which take a toll on their study.

“As well as inconsistencies and delays in Jakarta’s handling of funds, corruption, harassment, and intimidation also contribute to this crisis.”

At present, out of 17 students currently studying at the Universal College of Learning (UCOL) in Palmerston North, only 10 are able to attend classes. Seven students cannot attend because of their visa status and tuition fees which have not been paid.

Five students at AUT
At Auckland University of Technology, out of five students studying there, one is doing a masters degree, four are studying for diplomas and one is not enrolled because the government has not paid tuition fees.

Out of the 41 recalled students, the visas for some of them have already expired while others are expiring this month.

Of the 34 students still in New Zealand and determined to complete their studies, the breakdown is understood to be as follows:

UCOL Palmerston North – 15
Institute of the Pacific United (IPU) New Zealand – 6
AUT University – 4
Ardmore Flying School – 2
Waikato University – 2
Canterbury University – 1
Massey University – 1
Unitec – 1
Victoria University – 1
Awatapu College – 1

Papuan students in Auckland sort donated food
Papuan students Stevi Yikwa (left) and Laurens Ikinia with Lole Turner of the All Saints Anglican Church Foodbank in Auckland sort donated food for their colleagues stranded in New Zealand while completing their studies after their scholarships ended abruptly. Image: IAPSAO

The students have rallied and are working hard to try to rescue their situation as they are optimistic about completing their studies. The Green Party has taken up advocacy on their behalf.

The Papuans are communicating with the NZ International Students Association, NZ Students Union and NZ Pasifika Students.

Community groups such as the Whānau Hub in Mt Roskill, Auckland, have assisted with food and living funds. A givealittle page has been set up for relief and has raised more than $6500 so far.

But far more is needed, and an urgent extension of their student visas is a must.

Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe talks with students
Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe (centre in purple shirt) talks with students in Jayapura. Image: Jubi

‘Grateful for support’
“We’re so grateful to all Kiwis across the country for their generous support for us at our time of desperate need,” says communication coordinator Laurens Ikinia of the International Alliance of Papuan Students Associations Overseas (IAPSAO) and who is a postgraduate student at AUT.

“We’re also grateful to all the tertiary institutions and universities for understanding the plight of the West Papuan students.”

Papuan students are speaking today on the issue at a Pacific “media lunch” in a double billing along with Fiji’s opposition National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad at the Whānau Community Centre in Auckland’s Mt Roskill.

Just last Monday, many worried parents and families of students affected by this sudden change of scholarship policy gathered to meet Papua Governor Lukas Enembe in Jayapura to plead their case.

Hopefully, Indonesian Ambassador Fientje Maritje Suebu, ironically also a Papuan, will read this appeal too. The situation is an embarrassment for Indonesia at a time when the republic is trying to foster a better image with our Pacific neighbours.

Minister Faafoi, surely New Zealand can open its arms and embrace the Papuan students, offering them humanitarian assistance, first through extended visas, and second helping out with their financial plight.

Waaa waaa waaa.

Dr David Robie
Editor
Asia Pacific Report

6 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry, VERY sorry to say @ Dr David – don’t hold your breath. It’s Munster Faafoi we’re talking about here.
    And with an associate, both having complete faith in their officials.

    (It’ll bite both of them in the bum eventually though, which is the best we can hope for. I think they call it karma)

  2. If we can fund thirty million for the Russian invasion of Ukraine then our government needs to step up and help these Papuan students. Faafoi has a difficult task with too many NZ businesses reliant on overseas workers for far too long. And our country has major infrastructure problems. So where do these thousands of people live when many NZers cant find decent and affordable homes. And if National gets back in power they don’t care about the impact on housing they will bring in thousands to appease the businesses while putting the boot into many struggling NZers they have form in this area. I see the SME are ungrateful for our tax monies they received and want national back in so they can get cheap labour fuck the covid is their attitude they don’t care. Its not much good having money when your fucken dead.

  3. If we can fund thirty million for the Russian invasion of Ukraine then our government needs to step up and help these Papuan students. Faafoi has a difficult task with too many NZ businesses reliant on overseas workers for far too long. And our country has major infrastructure problems. So where do these thousands of people live when many NZers cant find decent and affordable homes. And if National gets back in power they don’t care about the impact on housing they will bring in thousands to appease the businesses while putting the boot into many struggling NZers they have form in this area. I see the SME are ungrateful for our tax monies they received and want national back in so they can get cheap labour fuck the covid is their attitude they don’t care. Its not much good having money when your fucken dead.

  4. “The situation is an embarrassment for Indonesia at a time when the republic is trying to foster a better image with our Pacific neighbours.”

    Try to embarrass Indonesia into stumping up the cash the only way to go.

    Sorry but New Zealand is broke, we owe billions already. International students should not be underwritten by NZ tax payer.

    Need to investigate why such low quality programs from unstable developing countries got the go ahead.

  5. Can Indonesia be embarrassed – like flying to the moon surely? Some people still don’t believe that happened! And moon-rekt you are concerned about our conditions and debt, so that puts us on just a slightly higher level than these students and we should come together with other similar nations and see if we can support each other. We need to help these young people and while helping them, help our own also. We are sinking down to a developing country again, putting up a facade to pretend that we are modern and capable.
    We can find money when we want to get machines but not when we want to do something together with the wonderful people that at present aren’t appreciated by this so called Labour Party that has been taken over by
    pseudo Scientologists, not even openly declared ones, class and gender conscious cultists, unloving of humanity, doing busy work and planning glamorous designs for everything, meanwhile life staggers on in either poverty of brain, poverty of finance and living conditions or both.

    These young people are important if we want to have any integrity. But the middle class may have to step forward and give a little. I have been donating to Greenpeace monthly but they have not stuck to their knitting, and have got involved in attacking Russia for attacking Ukraine. Any conservative can attack Russia, it has been mainstream for decades. I think my donation would do more for the young Papuan New Guineans so I’ll see where they can be helped. Perhaps needed is to start a Give a Little for their immediate costs and I don’t know how one goes from there.

    Faafoi is a busy man you know. He is carrying on with Labour’s sacred duty of thinning down NZ the hard way, from those heady days when we were as well off as Switzerland. Many people are stuck to that image but we should look at the Falkland Islands for our living standards, here at the bottom of the world. Maybe Faafoi can do something but it would mean giving up his lovely place in the Labour rocket ship, and the accompanying salary. But he has more pronouncements to make about changes that Labour is cunningly slipping in by getting a brown face to announce them, and soon it will be illegal to criticise anything that brown faces do. It is dirty dealing by some sly, scheming pakeha and ambitious others.

  6. Ummigration ……….. Nyet
    Justice ……………….. Nyet
    Public Servive Broadcasting ……….. Nyet

    Talk to my officials in those spaces, going forward
    ribbit ribbit ribbit
    I’m busy dealing with the sound of the cane toad and Boss Hogg’s ‘lil gurlie and her enterage at the Munstry for Everything. PLUS I’m a noble savage, unlike the ignobles you cunts are trying to advocate for.

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