20 Jan 2006

Australia criticised for treatment of Papuan asylum seekers

1:49 pm on 20 January 2006

The Australian Coalition of West Papua Support Groups has criticised the Howard government for its treatment of a group of asylum seekers who escaped the Indonesian province of Papua.

The 43-strong group flew overnight to a detention centre on the Australian territory of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, south of Java.

The Sydney-based Coalition said the asylum seekers should have been released into metropolitan communities in continental Australia.

The campaigner Joe Collins said that was where their applications could have been processed quickly and where they would have immediate access to interpreters and medical assistance.

Mr Collins said the Papuans should be treated in the way the East Timorese had been treated before they achieved their independence, by granting them bridging visas with full rights.

An Australian soldier who fought in the Papuan town of Merauke in the Second World War, John Collins, said the Papuans deserved to be treated with dignity and respect.

The coalition says there's increased tension in Papua with more Indonesian troops being sent there, as troops are apparently been withdrawn from Aceh.