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West Papuan asylum seekers reach Australia.

On January 18, 43 West Papuans, including several children, reached Australia's northern Cape York Peninsula by canoe. According to a BBC News website report, the group, which reportedly included some pro-independence activists, carried a banner that accused Indonesia of genocide in Papua. The Indonesian government quickly stated that bilateral ties with Australia could be strained if asylum is offered to boat people claiming rights abuses.

In the BBC News report dated January 20, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yuri Thamrin, said that Australia risked attracting a wave of boat people from Papua if it granted asylum in this case. He also said that accepting their claims of abuses "could strengthen perceptions in Indonesia that there are parties in and around (Australia) who support or express sympathy for separatism."

Further to this ongoing news story, on January 19, 2006, John Dowd, President of International Commission of Jurists, Australia issued the following statement: "The Australian government must respect the rights of the West Papuans who have arrived in Cape York. Australia is required to act in accordance with its protection obligations under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees."

"They should not be sent to offshore processing camps in Nauru or Manus Island as they are quite distinct from other boat arrivals as they have come directly from the place where they were persecuted," said Mr Dowd.

ICJ Australia has long monitored the human rights and legal situation in the Indonesian province of West Papua and has maintained contact with leading Papuan human rights advocates. Since the 1980's 1CJA has investigated the fliht of West Papuans refugees into Papua New Guinea and has repeatedly been informed about the impact of Indonesian military violence on indigenous communities.

Sources: BBC News website, January 20, 2006,; ICJ Australia press release, John Dowd email:
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Title Annotation:News & Views
Publication:Tok Blong Pasifik
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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