27 Sep 2013

Safety concerns for Papuans deported by Australia

4:52 pm on 27 September 2013

There are fears for the safety of a group of West Papuans held by Australia's Immigration Department after fleeing from Indonesia.

The group of seven - including a 10 year old boy - fled Merauke earlier this week and after reaching Boigu Island were sent by Immigration to Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby.

They reportedly fled persecution by security forces since their involvement in the West Papua Freedom Flotilla campaign this month.

A West Papuan activist Ronny Kareni says the group has been denied access to a lawyer.

He says it's unclear whether they will be flown to Manus Island for processing with other asylum seekers, or left in Port Moresby where they could be in danger of repatriation.

"That's the biggest fear of them being taken there. And given the current climate with the political situation, and these guys have already been exposed through the campaign with the freedom flotilla and then seeking protection and then the Australian government just takes them and secretly dumps them there. It's really shocking."

An academic says that the arrival of the West Papuans has added acutely to an uneasy dynamic in Canberra's relationship with Indonesia.

Jim Elmslie of Sydney University's West Papua Project says the situation is sensitive.

Because of the various policies they're trying to bring in with the boat people and this idea of turning back refugee boats which Indonesia's clearly not very keen on and is perhaps an unworkable policy, and to throw the West Papuan refugees into the mix will only add to the tensions and the dilemmas and the pressure on all sides really.

Jim Elmslie