The West Papuan refugee community and supporters of refugee rights will protest at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on the Corner of Lonsdale and Spring streets tomorrow from 8am till 5pm. The group will notify the department of their illegal actions in deporting seven West Papuan asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea, where they have well grounded fears of continued persecution.
The group of asylum seekers fled Merauke after being hunted by Indonesian security forces for their participation in a ceremonial handover of sacred water and ashes from Indigenous Australian elders as part of the Freedom Flotilla to West Papua. They then fled to Australia where they claimed asylum. The group was refused legal representation before being informed while already onboard an aircraft that they would be deported to Port Moresby, where they are now detained by PNG immigration.
The group fears for their safety in PNG, based on discrimination and persecution suffered by West Papuan refugees at the hands of PNG authorities.
PNG is a signatory to the Refugee Convention, however with significant reservations, including the rights of refugees to hold paid employment, have access to health care or education or travel freely. West Papuan refugees, many of whom have been living in PNG since the early 1980’s, have not been granted citizenship rights. Many live in squalid conditions without access to land or employment.
PNG military and police have carried out attacks on West Papuan refugee communities in PNG. In 2011 during Special Operation Sunset Merona refugee houses and gardens were burnt by the military. Witness to the aftermath of the tragedy, independent documentary filmmaker David Fedele reported, “They came at night, and burnt down all of their houses and possessions, and destroyed their gardens.”
In August 2013 Western District Police Chief Silver Sika told NBC news that anyone raising the West Papuan Morning Star flag would be arrested, in a clear threat to curtail the democratic rights of West Papuans living in PNG.
Freedom Flotilla spokesperson Ruben Blake observed “the deportation of these latest West Papuan asylum seekers is a cruel, cynical, inhumane and illegal action. The Australian Government is doing everything it can to avoid addressing human rights abuses in West Papua while Tony Abbott is in Indonesia seeking collaboration with his government’s own abuses of refugees.”
“Their speedy deportation was to avoid the courts having to process an asylum claim, which would have once again recognized persecution of West Papuans in Indonesia, as was the case when the 43 West Papuan asylum seekers arrived here in 2006. That would have been more than a ‘passing irritant’ to Tony Abbott, whose government is complicit in human rights abuses against West Papuans.”
The Australian Government’s offshore processing arrangements in PNG are already under constitutional challenge in the High Court.
Freedom Flotilla organiser Ronny Kareni said, “The long history of widespread human rights abuses against West Papuans is well documented. The crackdown against welcoming ceremonies for the arrival of the sacred water and ashes, with four people charged with treason, and many more now in hiding, make it clear that there is still no space for cultural or political expression in West Papua.”
Media Contacts: Ruben Blake +61414091706; Izzy Brown +61410535896