Seven West Papuan asylum seekers who fled Merauke after being persecuted for their involvement in a ceremonial handover of sacred water and ashes from Indigenous elders as part of the Freedom Flotilla, were deported to Port Moresby last night, 26th September, 2013.
The group who arrived in Boigu Island in the Torres Strait on Tuesday night were to transported to Saibai Island before then being taken to Horne Island. The seven were denied requests for legal representation while on Horne Island. They were then told they would be flown to mainland Australia, but once already in flight they were told their destination was Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
Their phones and identification were taken, however the group managed to inform the Freedom Flotilla of their arrival at Hideaway hotel in Port Moresby late last night. The asylum seekers made clear to Department of Immigration and Citizenship officials that they are seeking asylum from political persecution in West Papua, that they require legal representation, and are under threat of persecution in Papua New Guinea
Freedom Flotilla spokesperson Ruben Blake said, “The Australian Government’s actions clearly show that they are trying to prevent the group receiving legal representation
Immigration officials refused to acknowledge the group’s arrival or whereabouts when questioned on Wednesday detention centre refused to say whether the individuals were in their custody despite being provided with their names and dates of birth. The refugees could not be contacted or their status acknowledged without providing their ‘boat ID number’, which could only be provided by the Immigration Department.
The group was then speedily deported before refugee advocates could file an injunction on their deportation to Papua New Guinea.
Refugee legal advocate Ian Rintoul said, “PNG’s unwillingness to provide protection to West Papuan asylum seekers would be solid grounds to prevent the Australian government removing them”.
Despite this the Australian government has now moved them to Port Moresby with full awareness of the threats the group may face there.
Ronny Kareni, who grew up as a refugee in PNG, explained, “Cases of persecution of West Papuans in PNG are well documented, while many families who have lived there since the early 1980s, even people born there, are still not given citizenship,
The activists remain Port Moresby today after being handed over to PNG authorities, and are currently awaiting a very uncertain fate.