19 Jan 2006

Hopes high that Papuan asylum seekers will be granted refuge in Australia

10:16 am on 19 January 2006

Hopes are high among human rights advocates that a group of 43 asylum seekers from the Indonesian province of Papua will be accepted in Australia as political refugees.

Australia is holding the asylum seekers who fled Merauke by boat six days ago and arrived at a beach north of Mapoon yesterday.

The convenor of the Australia West Papua Association, Louise Byrne, says the asylum-seekers fled the province rather than risk being jailed and tortured for their knowledge of government affairs.

And Maire Leadbetter of the New Zealand branch of the Indonesia Human Rights Committee says there's a huge push by Australia's West Papuan Solidarity movement to persuade immigration authorities to give the asylum seekers bridging visas.

She says their case needs to be looked at humanely to allow them to remain in safety in Australia.

"The evidence is coming out that these people are very closely linked to the self-determination and independence movement in West Papua and clearly with the tense atmosphere in West Papua at the moment, they would be at high risk ."

The Australian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle says the Howard Government should grant the asylum seekers bridging visas instead of detaining them.

Ms Nettle says the Papuans should be allowed to live

in the community while their claims are assessed.

She says no-one should be incarcerated in what she calls Australia's gulags because everyone knows they ruin lives.