Plea for Australia to reverse deportation of West Papuans
There is grow anger and concern about the actions of the Australian government in deporting seven Papuan asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea.
Refugee advocates in Australia want the United Nations to take action over what they say is the Abbott government's failure to abide by the Refugees Convention.
This comes amid campaigns to have seven West Papuan asylum seekers assessed for refugee status in Australia, after the government flew them from Queensland to Papua New Guinea last week.
There is also a call for New Zealand to offer the group asylum.
Don Wiseman reports:
The Australian government claims its actions in deporting the West Papuans are allowed under a Memorandum Of Understanding with PNG, but refugee groups say the agreement does not apply in this case. Izzy Brown from the Freedom Flotilla to West Papua says they want the group brought back to Australia and for assessment of their claims for asylum to begin immediately. She says the UN needs to step in and remind the Australian government of its obligations.
IZZY BROWN: It's really unfortunate that Australia thinks it can send asylum seekers offshore without due process or just blatantly illegally deported like in this care here and we really want to try and draw the world's attention and especially the UN's attention to Australia's behaviour in this matter.
Immigration officials in Canberra say the government has no comment on the legality of the move but a professor of law at the Australian Catholic University, Father Frank Brennan, says the Papuans should have been accorded due process, as Australia has done in the past.
FRANK BRENNAN: Back in 2006 we had a group of I think about 43 Papuans who arrived, and each time the Australian government has treated them in the same way as other asylum seekers who have turned up by boat, usually coming from Indonesia. The critical things about the Papuans, of course, that there can be no doubt that they are in direct flight from persecution in Indonesia, whereas most other asylum seekers who head to Australia from Indonesia are transiting through Indonesia. There's no suggestion that they're being persecuted in Indonesia, rather the question is whether they get an adequate degree of protection in Indonesia. So in terms of the Refugee Convention, there can be no doubt that the classic case of refugees, from the Australian point of view, are Papuans who are being persecuted by the Indonesian government. And they are ones who, if they enter Australia, whether it be legally or illegally, then Australia being a signatory to the refugee convention, has an obligation to deal with them there and then. And I think the peremptory removal of them to PNG is unacceptable.
The New Zealand Greens' Party is calling on this country's government to give sanctuary to the asylum seekers. Green's MP, Catherine Delahunty, says she has written to New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully asking him to step in. She says firstly Mr McCully should ask the Australian prime minister Tony Abbott to accept these people as the political refugees from a neighbouring country that they clearly are.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY: Secondly, if he will not respond to that, that New Zealand should be prepared to offer asylum to these people because they are in a very unsafe situation. They were being hunted by the Indonesians in their own country and they really do need to be recognised as political refugees immediately rather than sent off to Papua New Guinea, which is not even very safe for them.
Catherine Delahunty says she was spurred into action after a plea from West Papuans in Australia who are very concerned for the welfare of this group of asylum seekers.
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