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ACTU Supports Rights Of West Papuan Asylum Seekers

ACTU Supports Rights Of West Papuan Asylum Seekers

Australian Council of Trade Unions 19 January 2006

The ACTU supports calls today for the Australian Government to respect the rights of the 43 newly arrived West Papuan asylum seekers to a fair process in assessing their claims to asylum.

Sharan Burrow, President of the ACTU said "these people are entitled to a proper refugee determination process according to the 1951 Refugee Convention. The ACTU supports calls for the asylum seekers currently held in Cape York to be released from detention into the community under bridging visas while their formal claim assessments are made. This is important for the Immigration Deparment to treat the Papuans fairly and with dignity" said Ms Burrow.



As news of forty-three West Papuan Students and their families landing at Janey Creek on the north-west of North Queensland Australia, PCRC is calling on Australian authorities to empathise with the situation of the West Papuan asylum seekers - 36 adults and 7 children.

As the Australian government is yet to make a clear decision on their fates, PCRC i! s calling on the Australia government to look in favour on their request for asylum seekers status and grant these activists and their families bridging visas while their papers are processed.

“PCRC wishes to emphasise that their case is no different to the many East Timorese who were granted asylum status in the 1970s,” said PCRC’s Decolonisation Campaigner Rex Rumakiek. Back then, Australia had been accepting Indonesia’s sovereignty over East Timor and at the same time granted East Timorese bridging visas to have a normal life in Australia. “The current agreement by Australia and Indonesia should never be used as an excuse to wave humanitarian responsibility towards people with a genuine claim such as this group,” Mr. Rumakiek said.

“They arrived on the mainland direct from troubled West Papua and should be given the normal process and protection as stipulated in the 1951 Refugee Convention. They were not apprehended on high seas or on outer islands to qualify for the Pacific solution.

“Even the Pacific solution policy has been proven to be a temporary and costly exercise. Most of those sent to Nauru and Manus in Papua New Guinea have been accepted in Australia and New Zealand as genuine refugees.

These students are independent activists who have openly voiced opposition against Indonesian occupation and countless human rights abuses in their country.

“They are like a thorn in the authority’s flesh and the Indonesian Military is constantly looking for mere evidence to capture or even eliminate them. The well-publicized Abepura case of 2000 is a small sample of how the Indonesian Security Forces used student pro-independence activists as scapegoats to justify their maltreatment. A Swiss Journalist who was detained in the same jail reported how students were tortured. In the Abepura incident two students were tortured to death.

PCRC strongly believes that under no condition are these Students and their families to be sent back to Indonesia.

For further information please contact Rex Rumakiek, Assistant Director, Decolonisation or Peter Emberson, Assistant Director, Information.

Dear friends please support this Urgent Appeal
For original message see:

------------------------------ - ACHEH PAPUA MALUKU HUMAN RIGHTS ONLINE

43 West Papuans Seeking Asylum in Australia

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please copy the letter below the Background
information or write in your own words and send to:

Senator AMANDA VANSTONE, Minister for Immigration,
Australian Government.

Please cut and paste and send this appeal to your mailing lists


43 West Papuan asylum-seekers, feared lost in the Torres Strait, landed on a remote beach in far north Queensland, Australia, on 18 January 2006

The asylum-seekers, including some of West Papua's most outspoken
independence activists, 6 days ago, fled the troubled Indonesian
province undertaking the 425-kilometre sea journey in a 25m traditional dugout canoe that was fitted with an outboard motor and was flying the outlawed West Papuan flag.

"Save West Papua people soul from genocide intimidation and terorist
from military government of Indonesian," a crudely worded banner on the boat read. "Also we West Papuan need freedom peace love and justice in our home land."

It is only the third boat of asylum seekers to reach the Australian
mainland in four years. Asylum seekers have to reach the mainland to be eligible to claim refugee status after the Federal Government excised Australia's northern islands from the immigration zone.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone confirmed that 30 men, six women
and seven children had arrived and that "Everyone in the group we have located is co-operating with officials."

The landing raises questions about Australia's border security and is
set to test relations with Indonesia. An Indonesian embassy spokesman in Canberra said the activists were not persecuted and his Government did not believe they had grounds for asylum.

A member of the Australian West Papua Association, Nick Chesterfield,
said the Federal Government could not in decency send the asylum seekers back to West Papua. They were independence activists who would probably meet the fate of so many of their predecessors, he said. "The Indonesian military would not hesitate to kill them," Mr Chesterfield praised the work of the search and rescue teams, saying they had done a "fantastic job" to find the boat amid fears for the safety of the passengers.

Australian Greens senator Kerry Nettle immediately called on the
Government to "do the right thing" and grant the asylum seekers bridging visas instead of putting them in detention.

Papuan nationalists have been working for independence for decades after a vote in 1969 - widely regarded as rigged- supported political
integration with Indonesia. Only 1025 of Papua's estimated 1 million
indigenous Melanesian residents cast a ballot.

Tension has risen in West Papua in recent weeks and months with the
deployment of 10,000 Indonesian troops from Acheh and the arrest of 12 Papuan nationalists last week provoked protests around the country. Four of them have been released but the others are in custody in Jakarta, charged with involvement in an ambush near the giant Freeport mine that left one Indonesian and two Americans dead.

Papuans blame the Indonesian military for the ambush.

Australia is negotiating a security treaty with Indonesia which calls on Australia to pledge not to interfere in its "territorial integrity". Granting asylum would be an admission by the Australian Federal Government that the Papuans would be persecuted if they returned home.


Senator Amanda Vanstone,

Minister for Immigration
Federal Government of Australia

Dear Minister,

I urge you and your department to treat the 43 West Papuan
asylum-seekers who arrived in Australia on 18 January 2006 with respect and fairness and give humanitarian consideration for their application for asylum from the ongoing persecutions and human rights violations by the Government of Indonesia in West Papua.

I appeal to you to:

1. not place the West Papuan asylum seekers in detention.
2. release the asylum seekers from West Papua into the community while their claims are being assessed
3. issue the asylum seekers from West Papua with bridging visas WITH
4. process the West Papuan asylum seekers in Australia.

Yours sincerely

Copies sent to:

H.E. ANTONIO GUTERRES, UN High Commissioner for Refugees,

Sen. KERRY NETTLE, Australian Greens

Mr KIM BEAZLEY, Leader of the Opposition (Australia)



A press release from
Peter Andren MP – Independent Member for Calare

19 January 2006

Asylum seekers tip of West Papua volcano – Andren

The arrival in northern Australia of 43 asylum seekers from West Papua should be recognised by all Australians as a cry for help, according to Independent Member for Calare Peter Andren. “While we eventually played a belated role in securing the freedom of East Timor from Indonesian repression, we have consistently turned our backs on the plight of the West Papuans,” Mr Andren said. “We supported a sham UN-sponsored referendum in 1969 that handed West Papua to! the Indonesians after it was abandoned by the Dutch. “If we really care so much for the East Timorese, who were similarly abandoned to the Indonesians by their Portuguese masters, then we should take every step possible to win independence for the West Papuans. “The message from the asylum seekers at Weipa, who include independence activists and political leaders, is to “save the West Papuan people’s soul from genocide, intimidation and terorist (sic) from the military government of Indonesia”. “This is no exaggeration: since the so-called Act of Free Choice referendum of just a 1000 hand picked voters, several hundred thousand West Papuans have died in the struggle for independence – at least equal to the 200,000 East Timorese losses in their fight for freedom. “Australia has not only turned a blind eye to West Papua, as it did for 25 years in East Timor, but is renewing its military ties with the Indonesian military, including the notorious Kopassus special forces unit held responsible for the assassination of West Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay in November 2001. “These arrivals on our northern shores bring a cry for our help, and the government must now confront its shameful policy of see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil in regard to West Papua,” Mr Andren added.

Foundation for Keeping Moluccan Civil & Political Rights

FKMCPR "Wings to Freedom"

Information about 43 Papuan refugees arrive in Australia.

Please support the Urgent Appeal below!

URGENT APPEAL: Ref: UA WP 01/06 | 43 West Papuan Refugees Seeking Asylum in Australia

1. SBS World News Australia (6:30 bulletin, 19/01/2006)

2. Charismatic leader being groomed for greatness

3. West Papuans held offshore


5. Asylum seekers 'in good health'

6. Australia says Papuan asylum seekers to be treated the same as others

7. Indonesia yet to announce stance over purported asylum seekers

8. Vanstone comments on court injunction

9. Papuan activists case handled 'on merit'

10. Asylum for West Papuans could trigger wave of boat people

11. Boat people to test Jakarta ties

12. 'Access denied' to Papuans

13. Rights group skeptical about Vanstone impartiality

14. Papuans sail into diplomatic hot water

15. No special treatment for Papuans: Vanstone

16. AUSTRALIA: Papuan Asylum Seekers Found

17. Fear asylum seekers may be sent off-shore

18. Save our souls, plead West Papuans

19. Papuans should be treated as refugees, law group says

20. Officials reach Papuan asylum seekers

21. Papuan asylum seekers spend night in Weipa

22. Around 40 W Papuan asylum seekers missing

23. Indonesia says will listen to Papuan refugees in Australia

24. Papuan boat people accuse Indonesia of 'genocide'

25. More than 40 Papuans reported missing at sea during bid to reach Australia

26. Australia holding 43 people who fled Indonesian province of Papua by boat

7. On the ground with the West Papuan asylum seekers

By Corey Bousen, Editor of Torres News (Pictures by Damian Baker)

The Howard government's efforts to dehumanise the issue of "boat people" were seen to their full effect yesterday when 43 West Papuan asylum seekers fleeing from Indonesian oppression were quickly rounded up by Australian authorities hell-bent on preventing the media from covering their arrival on remote Cape York after five days at sea.

After the West Papuans were spotted by authorities, a 32 km "no
fly-zone" was immediately established surrounding the region where the refugees landed. Fortunately, as our helicopter pilot had checked
special aviation notices along with the weather earlier in the day, we were able to twice fly over the refugees and their boat while taking photos and then land because we didn't know about the newly enacted restrictions. Our pilot says he would never have flown us down to the asylum seekers' landing site had he known about the restrictions.

While I attracted the attention of two police heading towards our
helicopter, Torres News photojournalist Damian Baker made a covert dash up the beach, but was prevented from approaching the refugees by a third police officer. The Queensland police officers, who were also from our home base of Thursday Island, about 200km north of the landing site, wouldn't say much, but were quick to pass the buck to Australian Customs as the "lead agency” preventing us from speaking to the refugees.

We asked the police what they would do if we approached the refugees, who were about 50 metres away. After some consideration, we were told we would be arrested. When pressed on what charge, after some further
consideration we were informed that it would be for “failing to following the directions of a police officer.”

After secreting his camera's primary memory card in our helicopter,
Baker said he was going to make a dash towards the refugees. I asked him not to do that because I didn't want to face subsequent legal bills that could prove onerous for a weekly newspaper of our modest size.

We can report, however, that the Papuan refugees all appeared to be in good health after their five-day ordeal: they were all able to get up and move away from the view of our camera after being instructed to do so by the Quarantine and Customs officials keeping a close eye on them.

We're told that the asylum seekers' landing site about 30km north of
Weipa was exactly where they were planning to come ashore. This was a
great job of seamanship and navigation, given the antiquated state of
their outrigger and the tricky weather conditions they faced.

As an aside, during our trip down to the landing site we also spotted an illegal Indonesian fishing boat 56 kilometres south of Thursday Island, the crew of which was obviously just heading back out to sea after camping out on the mainland. So while the authorities were able to quickly locate and detain 43 asylum seekers, they didn't appear to be too concerned about the illegal fisherman who, I must say, were
obviously enjoying their time in Australia given their big smiles and
enthusiastic waves at our helicopter. We used our chopper's radio to
immediately report our sighting of the Indonesian fishing boat to our
friends at Customs.

Thanks to the Cairns Post for paying for our interesting helicopter ride and a double, one-fingered salute to the Commonwealth Government and its bureaucratic minions who were unable to prevent us from getting the pics of the asylum seekers and putting human faces to the plight of these refugees fleeing Indonesian repression.

CRIKEY: Corey Bousen and Damien Baker's report for Torres News is online here.

8. As usual, self-determination is the answer

Crikey philosopher Charles Richardson writes:

Headlines in this morning's papers announce the safe arrival on the
Queensland coast of a boatload of refugees from Indonesian-occupied West Papua.

Grave fears had been held yesterday for their safety, and while no-one would doubt the genuineness of Amanda Vanstone's humanitarian concern for them, they represent a political headache for her. Some in the government might reflect in their darker moments that things would have been simpler if they had all drowned.

The Australian has the perfect juxtaposition of stories, with the West Papuans complementing the lead story of East Timor's Truth and
Reconciliation report. The report apparently blames Indonesia for the
deaths of up to 180,000 East Timorese during its period of occupation
from 1975 to 1999.

Quoting the report, The Australian says "widespread and systematic
executions, arbitrary detention, torture, rape and sexual slavery" were "officially accepted by Indonesia ... The violations were committed in execution of a systematic plan approved, conducted and controlled by Indonesian military commanders at the highest level."

It is a shameful blot on Australia's record that for so long, and under both major parties, we aided and abetted that occupation. Our more recent assistance to independent East Timor has gone some way towards making amends, but the case of West Papua just shows that we have failed to learn anything from the experience.

West Papua is in fundamentally the same position that East Timor was.
Ethnically distinct from Indonesia, with a separate colonial history,
its independence was bartered away by a fraudulent UN process in the
1960s. Since then, Indonesian military repression and colonisation have manifestly failed to quash its people's desire for self-rule.

No-one suggests that we should go to war with our northern neighbour to free the West Papuans. But for their sake as well as ours we should stop conniving at Javanese imperialism. Australian governments must insist, firmly but diplomatically, that there is ultimately no alternative to self-determination for West Papua. Peace in the region and democracy in Indonesia both depend on it.

We could make a start by promptly granting asylum to those refugees on Cape York.

Free West Papua ! Free Aceh !

Papua Merdeka !!! Aceh Merdeka !!!

© Scoop Media

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