Refugee Action Collective: Deadline looms for West Papuan asylum seekers in Port Moresby

The seven West Papuans secretly returned to Port Moresby from Australia a week ago have been given until tomorrow, Thursday 10 October to make an asylum application to PNG immigration authorities.

PNG authorities have told the asylum seekers that unless the application is made by Thursday, they risk being treated as illegal migrants. But the West Papuans believe that Australia has an obligation to process their claims and ensure their safety.

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“PNG’s ultimatum to the asylum seekers highlights the Coalition’s failure to uphold the rights of the West Papuans. Scott Morrison has admitted that the government did not follow the 2003 MoU and returned them to PNG despite the fact they had not been in PNG for more than seven days as required by the MoU,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The Australian government has put the safety of the West Papuans at risk. PNG does not provide secure protection for West Papuans. Even West Papuans born in PNG are not considered to be citizens,” Rintoul added.

“The MoU requires PNG to assess the refugee claims of asylum seekers returned to PNG by Australia, but there are doubts about the process and it seems that the PNG authorities are stalling in upholding those rights established by the MoU. The West Papuans should be brought to Australia so their safety can be guaranteed and their refugee claims can be properly assessed.”

PNG has informed the UNHCR that it will lift its reservations to the Refugee Convention but only in regard to the asylum seekers sent from Australia to Manus Island.

“It is clear that Australia is using the MoU with PNG to avoid its obligations under the Refugee Convention, and PNG will not uphold the Convention in regard to the West Papuans. Scott Morrison is trampling on the rights of refugees and making up the rules as he goes along,” said Rintoul.

“Tony Abbott says the West Papuans are ‘grandstanding’, but the human rights abuses perpetrated by Indonesia in West Papua are well-recognised by the international community. Asylum seekers are the victims of the Coalition’s foreign policy concern to keep Indonesia onside.”

Morrison’s admission about ignoring the terms of the MoU can be found here:

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