6 Feb 2006

It's up to Australia to prove that Papuan boat people fled persecution, says Indonesia

1:07 pm on 6 February 2006

Indonesia has reportedly challenged Australia to prove that 43 boat people from Papua province seeking asylum from Canberra are really fleeing persecution.

The Jakarta Post quotes Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Hasan Wirayuda, as saying that if Canberra decided to accord them asylum, Australia should have the conviction that they are being persecuted because of their political or religious belief or their race.

The Papuans, who included pro-independence activists and their families, arrived in northern Australia last month after a six-day voyage in an outrigger canoe.

They said they feared death if returned to Papua.

The group was taken to an immigration detention camp on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean for their claims to be processed.

Mr Wirayuda said Indonesia had already stated that the asylum seekers were not being persecuted in Papua and were not being sought by the authorities.

Police had guaranteed they would not be harmed should they return home.