A NUMBER of Bouganvillians who use the common border between Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea (PNG) under the traditional border arrangement are stranded on the Solomon Island’s side.
This came after they crossed the border just before the declaration of the state of public emergency by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
After the declaration was made they could not return to Bougainville.
Under the powers issued by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, it means a complete ban on small craft vessels to prevent the possible importation of COVID-19 into the country.
Speaking to the Solomon Star in Gizo, Bernadine Tomako, a Solomon Islander by birth and who now lives in Buin, Bouganville said that the ban has left her stranded.
Ms. Benedine has lived most of her adult life in Buin but often travel between the two countries to visit relatives and attend to family obligations on the SI side of the border.
She said that her entry into Solomon Island was permitted after satisfying the legal immigration requirements under the traditional border crossing arrangement.
Bernadine said that her recent trip was to visit her sons who are in the country to build a family home.
However, given the closure of the border, she was denied access back into Bouganville to see her family and grandchildren because of the state of emergency order.
Bernadine said that since the power to give them leave now rests with the national government, she requests Solomon Islands government to grant others like her the permission to leave for one last time until normalcy returns after the pandemic.
“I am told that I am not alone in this issue and that there are a number of Bougainvillians stranded on this side of the border,” she added.
She further requested if the national government could make exceptions for those of them who need to return to their homes in Bougainville.
Bernadine stressed that she is aware that if they are given permission to cross over to Bouganville, returning to the Solomons’ side of the border will not happen anytime soon until such time the state of emergency is lifted.
She pleads with the government to allow them to return so that they can take proper care of their own welfares in their own villages and homes.
Bernadine expressed that SI government should consider allowing them to return because the Solomon Islands are still free from the global pandemic.
“We pose no threat to our family if we return to our people,” she said adding that if expatriates are allowed back to their countries why not them.
Immigration authorities said that such requests are beyond their powers as procedures and processes to deal with them are yet to be gazetted as required under the state of emergency.
However, there is a possibility the government could allow leniency to get these Bouganville brothers and sisters across the border to the families.
Reports received said that the state of emergency left a good number of traditional border crossers to remain stranded and squatter on nearby islands whilst others are surviving at the mercy of families, friends, and relatives while awaiting the opportunity to cross to the PNG side of the border.
By TERENCE ZIRU