Indonesia should stop interfering in Australian refugee assessments

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130

Indonesia should stop interfering in Australian refugee assessments

Media Release
Sunday February 5 2006 4:00pm WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"Indonesian foreign affairs minister Hasan Wirayuda should concentrate on getting Indonesia's own house in order instead of trying to influence refugee assessments in Australia through the media by trying to pressure Australia and challenge any validity of asylum claims on the part of the 43 Papuans who fled West Papua to our shores," Rights group Project SafeCom said this afternoon.

"The fact that since a damning investigation into corruption, human rights abuses and "up to 180 unexplained deaths around the Grasberg Freeport Mine" by the New York Times in December 2005, the Indonesian president has established a Corruption Eradication Commission, is enough evidence that all is not well within sections of the Indonesian Army and police force, as well as on the part of several provincial governors," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"The UN Refugee Convention is not a politically driven instrument, and as Mr Wirayuda well knows, he cannot and should not interfere with the independence of this assessment.

"Even if the Papuans are found to have valid refugee claims, Australia does not necessarily position itself one way or another about the West Papuan Independence movement. It seems that the Indonesian government cannot distinguish between these two issues. Human rights abuses do not necessarily say anything about politics, but they are more often about particular methods of trying to silence dissent rather than be tolerant about diverging views. For now, and for some time to come, Indonesia seems to lack sufficient credibility in this area.

"Perhaps Hasan Wirayuda should instead invest his energy in support for the full and unfettered access and open reporting of the Corruption Eradication Commissioners, also into the Freeport mine and the deaths that are unexplained until the present day, rather than insisting that Australia has any explaining to do to Indonesia about asylum claims of West Papuans."

For more information:

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

Indonesia pressures Australia over Papuan asylum seekers

Sunday, February 5, 2006. 5:14pm (AEDT)

Indonesia has challenged the Federal Government to prove that 43 people from troubled Papua province seeking asylum in Australia are really fleeing persecution.

The Papuans, who included pro-independence activists and their families, arrived in northern Australia last month after a five-day voyage in an outrigger canoe.

They said they feared death if returned to Papua, where a sporadic and low-level separatist insurgency has been going on for decades.

"It lays on the Australian Government to prove that they are really being persecuted," said Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda.

"The ball is in the Australians' court."

The group was taken to an immigration detention camp on Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.

Wirajuda said Indonesia had already stated that the asylum seekers were not being persecuted in Papua and were not being sought by the authorities.

Police had guaranteed they would not be harmed should they return home.

If the Federal Government decided to accord them asylum, he said, "Australia should have the conviction, beyond reasonable doubt, that they are people who are being persecuted because of their political or religious belief or their race".

"We do not want our relations with Australia, which have already developed well, to be disturbed by this problem".

Papuans and human rights groups have accused Indonesian authorities of widespread abuses in the remote province, a former Dutch colony that Indonesia took over in the 1960s.

Indonesia won sovereignty over Papua, then called West Irian, in 1969 after the UN allowed an integration referendum with a public show of hands by a few hundred hand-picked tribal leaders. Critics labelled the vote a sham.


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