Commission seeks action on West Papuan asylum seekers

Brisbane's Catholic Justice and Peace Commission is urging the Federal Government to expedite the processing of asylum claims by 43 West Papuans who arrived to Australia by boat in January.

The asylum seekers have been placed on Christmas Island by the Immigration Department and are claiming that they will be persecuted if they are forced to return to Papua.

The Commission's Executive Officer, Peter Arndt said that the Commission is keen to see that the asylum seekers' claims of persecution by the Indonesian military are dealt with fairly and honestly.

"The Commission is gravely concerned by on-going reports of substantial human rights abuses in the province we know as West Papua," Mr Arndt said.

Mr Arndt challenged both the Government and the Labor Opposition to take a stronger stand on claims of human rights abuses in West Papua.

"We find it difficult to understand how both the Government and the Opposition seem to play down the issue of human rights abuse in West Papua," he said.

"One of our Commission members regularly visits the province and confirms the stories of significant mistreatment of the local indigenous population by Indonesian security forces," he said.

Citing a recent University of Sydney report on West Papua, Mr Arndt said: "There is strong evidence that the actions of the Indonesian military are wiping out the indigenous population of Papua.

"In the face of so many reports of abuse, it is not good enough to accept the assurances of the new Indonesian Ambassador to Australia, Teuku Mohammad Hamzah Thayeb, that the 43 asylum seekers would not be persecuted if they were sent home," he said.

The Commission plans to launch a campaign in its archdiocese to lobby the Government and the Opposition on the issue.

Commission Calls For Action on West Papuan Asylum Seekers (Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace 10/3/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Justice and Peace Commission

'Repeat of Timor' fear for West Papua (CathNEws 2/2/06)
Bishop says Jakarta sought access to Papuan asylum seekers (CathNews 25/1/06)

16 Mar 2006