10 Oct 2013

D-day for West Papuan asylum seekers in PNG

10:24 am on 10 October 2013

Papua New Guinea Immigration's Director-General Mataio Rabura says a group seven West Papuan asylum seekers in the country have until today to either claim protection or volunteer to return home.

Mr Rabura says upon expiry of this period they will be transferred to the East Awin Relocation Centre near Kiunga, Western Province, where they will undergo comprehensive interviews to determine their status.

He also says the UN refugee agency has invited along to the interviews.

Mr Rabura says should they refuse to be processed the option of returning them to Indonesia is likely to be enforced.

He adds their return from Australia to PNG was under a 2003 Memorandum of Understanding.

The seven arrived in the Torres Strait last month claiming to be fleeing persecution by the Indonesian security forces and were transferred by Australia to Port Moresby.

Mr Rabura says the seven have been treated well despite them not directly stating whether they are seeking asylum or not.

The group of seven say they can not afford a lawyer.

But Mr Rabura says they have been given two weeks of unrestricted movement and have had ample time to secure legal assistance.

The group say they fear they will be killed if they return to Indonesia, but they also do not want to stay in PNG