Bishop says Jakarta sought access to Papuan asylum seekers

Melbourne auxiliary Bishop Hilton Deakin has warned that Indonesian authorities are "trying to get to" the 43 West Papuan asylum seekers on Christmas Island.

The Age reports that Bishop Deakin told about 130 people demonstrating outside Immigration Department headquarters in Melbourne yesterday: "We know that already the Indonesian authorities, in Canberra and beyond, are trying to get to them."

The Indonesian embassy in Canberra has strongly denied it has made any approach, with its second secretary, Dino Kusnadi, saying on Sunday: "I can guarantee that there has been no contact whatsoever, it hadn't been requested, it was never even sought."

But the Immigration Department has confirmed to The Age that "a junior delegation" from the embassy went to Weipa last Thursday seeking access to the asylum seekers.

The 43 were found the day before at Mapoon, on the Cape York Peninsula, after making a perilous six-day voyage to Australia to seek asylum.

A spokesman for the Immigration Department said the Indonesians arrived in Weipa on Thursday but by then the Papuans had already been put on a plane for Christmas Island.

"The majority of these 43 people are leaders for free expression and self-determination and possible independence because of the oppression from which they suffer," Bishop Deakin said. "Massacres, rapes and all the rest of it have gone on in that country for almost 30 years."

He called on the Australian Government to cancel its training program with the Indonesian military.

Jakarta sought access to Papuan asylum seekers (The Age 25/1/06)

25 Jan 2006