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March 26, 2013

Young boy dies when asylum seeking vessel goes down

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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A young boy has been pronounced deceased after the boat he was seeking refuge on was hit by large waves and overturned in high seas, north of Christmas Island, an offshore territory of Australia. Christmas Island houses the Immigration Detention Centre, which offers temporary facilities to Asylum seekers. Customs officers rescued 93 asylum seekers, predominantly of Afghan decent or neighbouring countries, from the water.

The officers pulled two bodies from the sea. One being the body of the young boy, said to be aged four or five, and the other belonging to a woman in her thirties. When the boat overturned the people on board were rescued by the nearby Customs boat, Ocean Protector. The two Customs officers have not retained any injuries after their attempt to help the people thrown overboard.

When approached,

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard said: “Too many people have lost their lives getting on these very dangerous boats,” she continues “and what a dreadful tragedy this is.”

Of the bodies recovered, two were deceased, another young boy and a pregnant woman have been left in critical condition after the accident. The remainder of the refugees seeking asylum were fortunate enough to sustain minor injuries.

The passengers recovered are now at risk of being processed in Nauru or on Papua New Guinea‘s Manus Island under the Australian Federal Government’s offshore processing regime.



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Asylum seekers die when vessel goes down north of Australia

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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A young boy was pronounced dead Monday after the refugee boat he was on was hit by large waves and overturned in high seas north of Christmas Island, an Australian offshore territory. Customs officers rescued 93 asylum seekers; those pulled from the sea are predominantly of Afghan decent, or from neighbouring countries. Christmas Island houses the Immigration Detention Centre, which provides temporary accommodation facilities for asylum seekers.

The officers pulled two bodies from the sea, one being young boy, said to be aged four or five, the other of a woman in her thirties. When the boat overturned, the people on board were rescued by the nearby customs boat Ocean Protector.

When asked, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said: “Too many people have lost their lives getting on these very dangerous boats,” describing this incident as “a dreadful tragedy”.

In addition to the two dead, another young boy and a pregnant woman were left in a critical condition after the accident. The remainder of the refugees seeking asylum only sustain minor injuries.

Those rescued are now facing the likelihood they will be processed in Nauru, or on Papua New Guinea‘s Manus Island, under the Australian Federal Government’s offshore processing programme.



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February 5, 2013

UN adds to criticism of Australian offshore centers

UN adds to criticism of Australian offshore centers

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) echoed criticism from other human rights groups yesterday as its new report called on Australia to cease the practice of holding asylum seekers in an uncertain status in its offshore facilities.

The UNHCR spent three days in January at an Australian facility located on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. Following Australian mandatory policy, the more than two hundred detainees held there were detained upon requesting asylum. More than 30 children are being held at this Australian facility. The UNHCR report raised the crowded conditions at the camp as a cause for concern, as well as the impact isolation could have on the children. Australia has another facility for asylum seekers on the island of Nauru. The UNHCR report made clear Australia does not have a process for clearing the asylum seekers, which means their detention in the camps is indefinite and a violation of international human rights.

Caught in the middle of the debate is the new immigration minister Brendan O’Connor. O’Connor was named immigration minister this weekend. The following night, a boat load of 60 refugees who were approached near Christmas Island sought asylum. Monday, the UNHCR issued its report. Union leaders, amongst them Brendan’s brother Michael O’Connor who is national secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, are calling for and end to current migration deals.

A report from Monash University found immigrants have taken 200,000 jobs created during the last two years, depressing employment of young, lower skilled Australians. Polls show a 70 percent majority of Australians stand opposed to the growth in population that will result from immigration.

Amnesty International points out that those migrants held in offshore processing facilities are not typical immigrants but rather asylum seekers. It says the latter category accounts for only three percent of Australia’s influx from immigration. Moreover, Amnesty International says the practice of offshore facilities for asylum seekers runs afoul of Australia’s own international agreements, such as the UN Refugee Convention, and laws, Australian Migration Act 1958.

In August, Prime Minister Julia Gillard indicated in talks with Nauru and Papua New Guinea that Australia was interested in quickly processing the asylum seekers.



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January 27, 2011

Indonesians charged with people-smuggling following Christmas Island wreck

Indonesians charged with people-smuggling following Christmas Island wreck

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Three Indonesians have been charged with people-smuggling by Australian authorities after a shipwreck off Christmas Island last month. Over 50 people were killed when the vessel, carrying mainly Iraqi, Iranian & Kurdish asylum seekers, smashed against rocks on December 15 after its engine failed.

The trio, ages 22, 32 and 60, appeared in a Perth court charged with, “facilitating the bringing to Australia of a group of five or more persons,” according to police. The case, which is now adjourned for three weeks, could result in a 20 year prison sentence. The three Indonesians will reappear in court on 15 Febuary via video link. Their attourney, David McKenzie, stated that the men are “unhappy” and that the wreck was “a total tragedy and they’re very upset.”

A day earlier, an Australian Customs internal report cleared both the Customs authorities and the Navy of any blame, stating that all personnel acted appropriately and exercised good judgment. Eight recommendations have been made to prevent a similar incident, including the establishment of a land-based radar system to monitor northern maritime approaches to the island. The recommendations will be implemented by June 30, 2011.



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  • “Many unaccounted for in Christmas Island boat incident” — Wikinews, December 15, 2010

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December 15, 2010

Many unaccounted for in Christmas Island boat incident

Many unaccounted for in Christmas Island boat incident

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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A boat travelling in rough seas capsized off the coast of Christmas Island early this morning. Inside the boat were approximately 70 asylum seekers from Iran and Iraq, many now of which are feared dead. Reports from Government sources indicate that 41 of the 75 asylum seekers were rescued. So far only 27 bodies have been recovered from the water, but authorities believe the death toll could rise to 50. The remainder of people were not accounted for. The incident is believed to have occurred at about 6:00am.

Residents of Christmas Island first attended the scene to assist in the rescue attempt. The residents rushed to the boat after hearing screams very early in the morning. They then went out and attempted to assist. Customs are believed to be attending the scene currently. Life jackets have been provided, but not every person on the boat has received one. Rough seas hampered rescue attempts. The boat, according to witnesses was upturned and surrounded by large quantities of debris after being smashed against rocks. It is located in the vicinity of Flying Fish Cove.

Gordon Thomson, president of the Christmas Island Shire stated that the incident was a “very bad situation”. The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) expressed concern and sadness over the incident.

“We believe that far too many people are tragically losing their lives as they take desperate measures to escape conflict, persecution and poverty,” said the UNHCR in a statement on its website.

Christmas Island hosts an immigration center which is currently housing over 3,000 individuals seeking asylum.



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August 21, 2006

Australia to detain Burmese boatpeople on Nauru

Australia to detain Burmese boatpeople on Nauru

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Location of remote island of Nauru, where Australia is sending 8 Burmese refugees

Eight Burmese boat people, who arrived off Western Australia’s Ashmore Reef last week, say they wish to claim refugee status. The group of 8 men, aged between 24 and 40, are being held in detention on Christmas Island by the Australian Federal Government. They will be sent to Nauru after identity interviews and medical checks are completed.

According to The Age newspaper, the men are from a refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border, and may be from the Karen tribe, who are battling Burma’s brutal military Government. Karen rebels have been at war with the central Government for 57 years.

An Immigration department spokesman confirmed that the eight men claimed to be from Burma. Two of the men have contacted immigration lawyers, seeking assistance with asylum claims. David Manne, from Melbourne-based Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, said the other six were likely to do the same. “There’s a very strong likelihood that they are genuine refugees,” he said.

The men were first spotted by the Australian Customs Service at Ashmore Reef, 610km north of Broome, WA on August 13. They were sent by Navy vessel to Christmas Island – 2,400 km northwest of Perth, WA. The men have been held since Friday as part of the Howard Government’s Pacific Solution to keep asylum seekers out of the country.

In 2005, the Department of Immigration began construction of an Immigration Reception and Processing Centre on Christmas Island, due for completion late in 2006. The facility is estimated to cost $210 million, and will contain 800 beds.

No Legal Recourse for Burmese

The news of the boat people’s arrival became public last week as Prime Minister John Howard scrapped controversial new migration laws. The proposed laws would have excised the Australian mainland for immigration purposes.

Burma

Ashmore Reef, already excised from Australia’s migration zone, means the men have no legal entitlement to be brought to Australia for processing. They have no access to the Australian court system to argue their claims or contest the rulings of the Immigration Department.

Mr Manne said he was concerned that the circumstances of the men’s confinement could hamper their attempts to communicate with lawyers. He said the Burmese men should be afforded the same rights as the West Papuans or Vietnamese asylum-seekers who recently made it to Australian shores. “It’s absolutely crucial these people be given a fair go, so that they can actually speak with us properly about the issues,” he said. Mr Manne says he has made several requests of the Department of Immigration in Canberra.

“They’re asylum seekers… they believe that they’d be persecuted if sent to Burma, and we have agreed to act on their behalf.” He was unable to say whether the group was dropped off by people smugglers, as Immigration Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone claims.

“What we do know is they’re seeking refugee status, that is, protection from brutal human rights abuse,” he said. The Burmese regime has recently waged an aggressive attack on Karen insurgents – forcing thousands of villagers to hide in the jungle or seek refuge in Thailand. There are 140,000 refugees in seven camps along the Thai-Burma border.

Australian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle says the government must allow the Burmese group to be brought to Australia to process the asylum-seeker’s claims. “The government needs to ensure that all asylum seekers are offered legal support,” she said. “The best way to ensure the Burmese asylum seekers have full access to their lawyer is to bring them to Australia while their asylum claims are assessed.”

Nauru

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Nauru

Meanwhile the near-bankrupt Nauru Government has urged Australia to “speed up asylum seeker processing” in their country. Nauru says Australia is taking far too long to process asylum seekers. Currently two refugees remain on Nauru – both Iraqi men. The men have been held in detention on the remote tiny island for five years.

According to The Age, the Nauru Government has approved a plan to impose financial penalties on Australia if asylum seekers are forced to languish on the near-bankrupt island. The report says if they have not been processed and either returned or resettled within three months, their visas will have to be renewed each month, with the cost increasing by $500 for each renewal.

Nauru’s Foreign Minister David Adeang raised serious concerns about the mental state of the detainees. He says Muhammad Faisal’s condition worsened sharply after he was re-interviewed by ASIO. Mr Adeang has asked for the Government to evacuate the Mr Faisal immediately, he says he is also concerned about the mental health of the other Iraqi man left on Nauru. The Australian Government claims advice from ASIO that the man may be a “security threat.”

Nauru is the world’s smallest island nation, covering just 21 km². Since 2001 it has accepted aid from the Australian government. In exchange for this aid, Nauru houses an ‘offshore’ detention centre for Australia.

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February 3, 2006

Indonesia warns Australia over West Papuan asylum seekers

Indonesia warns Australia over West Papuan asylum seekers

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Friday, February 3, 2006

West Papuan Independence Flag

Indonesia’s ambassador to Australia has warned that relations between the two neighbors could be “strained” if the Howard Government grants political asylum to a group of refugees from the troubled Indonesian province of West Papua.

The 43 West Papuans, pro-independence activists and their families, arrived on Cape York, Australia on January 18 after a five-day voyage in an outrigger canoe. They were later taken to an immigration detention facility on Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.

A spokesman for the group says they fear they will be killed if returned to Indonesian-controlled Papua, where a pro-independence movement has been operating since the 1960s.

Jakarta’s ambassador warned of strained relations if they are granted asylum. Indonesia’s ambassador, Teuku Mohammad Hamzah Thayeb, said the group had nothing to fear from Indonesian authorities. Asked if granting asylum to the group would strain Australia/Indonesia relations, Thayeb said: “I would hope it will not, but it certainly would have an effect. That’s why we have to manage this together and find a solution.” President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has also guaranteed the group’s safety should they return.

Queensland National Senator Barnaby Joyce, who met with the 43 refugees on Christmas Island, said they appear to have a genuine asylum claim and had been persecuted because of their Christian beliefs. “There are documented cases of members within their families being shot,” he said. “There’s certainly on the record experiences of them being jailed and tortured so I think they would be under risk if they went back,” he said.

The group, which includes seven children, arrived carrying a banner accusing Indonesia of terrorism and genocide in the province. Indonesian troops have been repeatedly accused of rights abuses in Papua province, which was taken over by Jakarta in 1963. Over 100,000 Papuans, one-sixth of the population, have died in military operations.

Major landmasses of Indonesia

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said, “if they ask for protection we will consider the claim appropriately and if it is appropriate to offer it, we will offer it.”

The leader of the asylum seekers, Herman Wainggai, says the Indonesian military treat indigenous Papuans “like animals”. Mr Thayeb disagreed: “We have changed fundamentally within ourselves,” he said.

Indonesia offered Papua special autonomy in 2001 in an effort to quell unrest from the Melanesian population in the resource-rich area. Mr Wainggai described the Papuan autonomy as a “sham”, and said there have been many reports of the Indonesian military “murdering and raping people, and destroying villages since autonomy came into force.”

Papua controversially became an Indonesia province after a vote in 1969 overseen by the United Nations called the “Act of Free Choice”. The Act of Free Choice was drafted by the UN and gave every adult the right to vote on the issue of independence. However, only 1022 people hand-picked by the Indonesian authorities were allowed to vote. Reinforcing the dubious nature of the poll, the voters gave 100 per cent approval to become part of Indonesia.

Indonesia’s ambassador said there was no reason for the West Papuans to seek asylum as they were not criminals.

The Australian Greens said the Indonesian ambassador’s assurances that West Papuan asylum seekers would be safe if they returned home should not be believed.

“The new Indonesian Ambassador’s assurances about the safety of West Papuan refugees if they are returned to Indonesia are not credible,” Senator Nettle said. “The escalating repression of the independence movement and generalised suppression of the people of West Papua is well documented.”

“The Australian government should not give in to Indonesian pressure,” Senator Nettle said.

Senator Joyce said the group of native West Papuans were Christian, which meant they are ethnically, religiously and politically isolated after an influx of Indonesians to the province.


Related news

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: 43 West Papuans seek asylum
  • “West Papuan refugees may face death if deported” — Wikinews, January 31, 2006
  • “West Papuans refugees forced to fly 4000ks despite tuberculosis fears” — Wikinews, January 27, 2006
  • “West Papua refugees sent to Australia’s Christmas Island Detention Centre” — Wikinews, January 19, 2006
  • “40 Asylum seekers missing off Torres Strait” — Wikinews, January 18, 2006
  • Missing asylum seekers found off Cape York” — Wikinews, January 18, 2006

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January 31, 2006

West Papuan refugees may face death if deported

West Papuan refugees may face death if deported

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: 43 West Papuans seek asylum

Refugee rights advocates and Australian Parliamentarians on Christmas Island have expressed alarm at the Indonesian Government’s direct request to Prime Minister John Howard for the return of 43 Papuan asylum seekers, who arrived on Cape York by boat on January 18th. Rob Wesley-Smith from Australians for a Free West Papua said the asylum seekers escaped because their lives were threatened, and would certainly face death if forced to return.

The Australian Government’s Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has assured Mr Howard that the group will not be prosecuted if they are returned.

The West Papuan asylum seekers are currently being detained in an Australian Immigration Detention Centre on the remote Christmas Island, 2,600 kilometres off Perth, Western Australia. The group claims genocide at the hands of the Indonesian Government.

The Federal government flew the 36 adults and seven children to Christmas Island, where the families were put into immigration department housing and the single men in the detention centre.

Rob Wesley-Smith says the asylum seekers should be dealt with according to Australian law.

“The people have escaped… because their lives are at risk,” he said. “Their fathers have been killed, one of them was in jail for a number of years himself, and this is the reality of the situation in West Papua – so no way should they go back – they’d be killed.”

Supporters of the “West Papuan 43” say that the West Papuans “are entitled to the support of community groups and their fellow country people. They should also have easy access to translators, medical care and independent legal assistance.”

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee has called on the Government to plea for the immediate release of the asylum seekers into the Australian community, and for their claims to be processed fairly and as expeditiously as possible.

Immigration Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone said it was not always possible to keep women and children out of detention.

The New Zealand Green Party has called for some of the asylum seekers to be processed in New Zealand.

Case for asylum

Mr Wesley-Smith says they have legitimate claims for refugee status. “There’s evidence that some have been mistreated and tortured and they’re a cohesive group and strongly politically motivated, and that there is no way that they would be seen as a group to be sent back – that that’s just a preliminary assessment,” he said.

The 43 asylum seekers told of graphic, disturbing accounts of beatings and torture by Indonesian military, during interviews with Immigration officers over the past week.

According to The Melbourne Age newspaper, an Immigration source said the refugees had a “very strong case” for refugee status. “Some of what has come out of the interviews has been absolutely heart-wrenching,” the source said. The group described accounts of vicious bashings while in prison and attacks on villages and livestock in retaliation for the Papuans agitating for independence.

Despite human rights organisations and academic reports, detailing thousands of deaths and even “genocide”, Indonesia says “abuses no longer occur in West Papua.”

Under the control of the Indonesian military an estimated 100,000 West Papuans have lost their lives over the last four decades. Two days after the West Papuan refugees arrived in Australia, Indonesian troops opened fire in the Paniai district, killing a 13-year-old and wounding two others.

West Papuan leaders and academics say that the indigenous people may be wiped out because of new threats such as an HIV/Aids epidemic and the unchecked environmental devastation caused the exploitation of forestry and mineral resources.

Australian government responses

The Australian government have yet to make a decision on the asylum seekers, the general affairs counsellor of the Australian Embassy said in Jakarta.

“There is no decision yet, not at all,” Elizabeth O’Neill said. She said verification and interviews by Australian authorities were “standard procedure” and valid for anybody arriving in the country without official documents. The process, she said, was in line with United Nations Conventions and Australian laws.

She said the two governments have had good relations since the Bali bombing in October 2002 and the tsunami in December 2004. Reports in Jakarta media say John Howard has given assurance to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that the handling of the West Papuan group, who’s territory is under Indonesian authority, would not disturb the relation between the two countries.

“Prime Minister Howard has even reiterated his support that Papua is part of the Indonesian sovereignty, and promised to have close communication both at the high level, ministerial and official levels to handle the case without disturbing our relation,” said a spokesman.

A Department of Immigration spokesman said lawyers were currently interviewing the West Papuans on Christmas Island about their asylum claims.

Background: Australia’s Pacific Solution

The Papuans’ boat was only the third boat of asylum seekers to arrive on the mainland since 2001. Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are sent to remote detention centres for processing, in what the Howard Government calls the Pacific Solution.

Australia’s borders are protected by mandatory detention legislation. The Australian government detains all persons entering the country by boat without a valid visa, including children. Since the late 1990’s unathorised arrivals have been transferred to one of the Australian immigration detention facilities on the Australian mainland, or to Manus Island, Nauru or Christmas Island as part of the Pacific Solution. Mandatory detention remains a very controversial aspect of Australian immigration policy.

A High Court decision in 2005 means that detention can also be indefinite – the Court ruled that the government had the right to keep a Palestinian asylum seeker in detention, even without any prospect of release.

Greens senator Kerry Nettle visited Christmas Island at the weekend and talked with some of the Papuans. She called on the Government to move the group to the Australian mainland, where there is an established West Papuan community.

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January 27, 2006

West Papuans refugees forced to fly 4000ks despite tuberculosis fears

West Papuans refugees forced to fly 4000ks despite tuberculosis fears

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Flag of West Papua

West Papuan asylum seekers, who arrived in Australia last week, were forced to make a 4000 kilometre journey to Christmas Island despite suspicions they had tuberculosis. The West Papuans were flown to Christmas Island on an RAAF Hercules last week.

Two of the group, a man and his child, have now been flown the 2,600 kilometres to Perth, Western Australia from the remote Indian Ocean island. Air force personnel had initially refused to fly them, concerned that the flight crew’s health would be at risk.

“It’s a complete farce, absurd” said one health official. “It has not only posed an unnecessary health risk, it has been hideously expensive.”

The West Papuans were among a group of 43 refugees found last week on the far north-west coast of Cape York in Queensland. They had made a five-day journey from the Indonesian province in an outrigger canoe. They arrived with banners accusing Indonesia’s military in the province ruled by Jakarta of genocide and intimidation. Their 25m traditional boat was fitted with an outboard motor and was flying the outlawed West Papuan flag.

Amid media scrutiny and the disapproval of the Indonesian government, the boat people underwent health checks before being sent to Christmas Island. X-rays and other medical examinations strongly indicated that at least one man had tuberculosis, yet the group were flown to Australia’s Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre.

Upon landing at the Island, health officials recommended the patients be transferred to Perth. However, the crew of the RAAF Hercules refused to take them, saying they were not “adequately equipped”.

A Department of Immigration spokesman (DIMIA) said an alternative flight was arranged. “At this stage there has been no positive diagnosis for tuberculosis,” the spokesman said.

The removal of the asylum seekers to Christmas Island has been met with fierce criticism from many refugee rights groups and opposition parties, who say it was impractical, potentially traumatising and hugely expensive. The Immigration Department says it has interviewed most of the asylum seekers but won’t say if they have made formal asylum claims.

Criticism

File:West-Papua-Rally Darwin2.jpg

Photo from a Rally in Darwin, showing support for the West Papuan refugees, 24 January 2006
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Rallies in Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, Canberra and Brisbane were held this week, in support of the West Papuan asylum seekers. Refugee rights advocates protested the forced transfer to the remote Christmas Island facility.

Melbourne auxiliary bishop Hilton Deakin told about 130 people demonstrating outside DIMIA headquarters in Melbourne that, “we know that already the Indonesian authorities, in Canberra and beyond, are trying to get to them.”

Yet the he Indonesian embassy in Canberra denied making any approach, saying: “I can guarantee that there has been no contact whatsoever, it hadn’t been requested, it was never even sought.”

But the Immigration Department has confirmed that “a junior delegation” from the embassy went to Weipa last Thursday seeking access to the asylum seekers. A spokesman for the Immigration Department said the Indonesians arrived in Weipa on Thursday but by then the Papuans had already been put on a plane for Christmas Island. The West Papuans were told they had a right to Indonesian consular assistance if they choose. “Not one has chosen to do so,” the spokesman said.

“The majority of these 43 people are leaders for free expression and self-determination and possible independence because of the oppression from which they suffer,” Bishop Deakin said. “Massacres, rapes and all the rest of it have gone on in that country for almost 30 years.”

He called on the Australian Government to cancel its training program with the Indonesian military.

Democrats leader Lyn Allison said the Australian Government had “got it wrong on this issue”. The 43 asylum seekers had been “whisked off” before they could tell their story, she said.

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle has called on the government to grant access to Papuan asylum seekers. The senator says they should not be in detention and they certainly should be allowed to communicate with the outside world.

Senator Nettle will go to Christmas Island this weekend to meet the imprisoned West Papuans. She said the immigration department is obligated under the Migration Act to allow her to meet them.

New Zealand Support

Map showing West Papua

Meanwhile New Zealand Greens have offered to take the asylum seekers. “New Zealand can show the Howard government how to be compassionate, as we did back in 2001 when we took some Afghan asylum seekers from the Tampa,” the New Zealand Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

“It is shocking that the West Papuan refugees, having survived 450 kilometres of open water in a flimsy craft, are now bundled off to a Christmas Island detention camp – well out of range of those Australians who wish to help them,” he said.

“Under refugee law these Papuans deserve special consideration, having come directly from their claimed country of persecution, Indonesia, not via a third country, as is the case with most asylum seekers in this part of the world.

“The Papuans certain have a good prima facie case. I know from my own visit to West Papua last April that there is substantial and ongoing harassment of the local people, particularly those who assert their right to political self-determination,” said Mr Locke.

On Friday last week Indonesian security forces shot dead one Papuan protester, and wounded two others, in the Paniai district, where the 43 asylum seekers originate.

Related news

  • “West Papua refugees sent to Australia’s Christmas Island Detention Centre” — Wikinews, January 19, 2006
  • “40 Asylum seekers missing off Torres Strait” — Wikinews, January 18, 2006
  • Missing asylum seekers found off Cape York” — Wikinews, January 18, 2006

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Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: 43 West Papuans seek asylum
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January 19, 2006

West Papua refugees sent to Australia\’s Christmas Island Detention Centre

West Papua refugees sent to Australia’s Christmas Island Detention Centre

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: 43 West Papuans seek asylum

A group of 43 West Papuan asylum seekers found on Cape York were herded on to an RAAF Hercules and flown to Australia’s Christmas Island Detention Centre on Thursday. The Immigration Department says the single men in the group will be detained in the remote facility, and the six women and seven children will be accommodated in staff housing.

The group left the Papuan port town of Merauke on Friday in an outrigger canoe and landed on Tuesday at Janey Creek, north of the Mapoon Aboriginal community on western Cape York, without being detected.

Police, immigration and customs officials prevented the group communicating with media in Weipa, where the group were detained in Queensland’s far north. The group was kept under close guard throughout the day, with the media required to remain at least 25m away.

Officials accompanied the asylum seekers on toilet breaks and trips to the Weipa hospital, covering the heads of the new arrivals with blankets or jackets.

Immigrationl officials will interview the group, assessing their claims for asylum, while at the remote island detention facility on Christmas Island, 2,600km north-west of Perth.

The Department says the Papuans are being transferred as part of the long-standing government policy to process unauthorised arrivals offshore, not because mainland detention centres lack capacity. Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said the group would be treated the same as any other boat arrivals.

John Wing from the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies says Indonesian military activity has been increasing in Papua which may encourage more people to seek asylum in Australia.

“This may be a trend that we see developing over the coming year or two as the military operations are stepped up in Papua against the local people. As in other parts of the world, the fighting and the human rights situation becomes too grim in one’s homeland, he said, “these people are forced to flee to the place of nearest sanctuary and in this part of the world, for the Papuans, it’s Australia.”

Mr Wing says he believes a prominent student activist is part of the group of asylum seekers. He says the man has already spent time in jail for attending independence meetings and could be persecuted if he is sent back to Papua.

“Many villages have been burned to the ground; houses, clinics, schools, churches have all been destroyed by arson, by the Indonesian armed forces, and some of these refugees are from that area,” he said.

The Indonesian embassy says there is no persecution in Papua.

The 36 adults and seven children are the third boatload of asylum-seekers to land on the Australian mainland in the past four years.

Sources

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