Six West Papuan refugees who sought asylum in Australia before being deported to Papua New Guinea, have now been relocated to the Iowara refugee camp in East Awin.
At 11am 18th of October 2013 The Freedom Flotilla to West Papua, along with the West Papuan Melbourne Community, the Refugee Action Collective and Indigenous elders will gather to protest the unlawful deportation of the group at Department of Immigration and Border Protection on the corner of Lonsdale and Spring Streets.
Refugees living in Kiunga are bewildered by PNG Immigration’s decision to send a new group of asylum seekers to the camp, which was largely abandoned by refugees after UNHCR ceased providing assistance to the inhabitants in 1998.
Those that continue to live in the camps, surviving without any assistance on land affected by the Ok Tedi mine disaster, speak of the camps as a ghost town.
Anthropologist Diana Glazebrook recorded a West Papuan refugee’s experience living in the camps; “We are corpses, like dried bones without flesh or blood… We feel awkward and exist in a constant sense of hostility in our relation with the landholders, and vigilant, guarded; fearing repatriation by the government.”
Arabunna elder Uncle Kevin Buzzacott said “We have a responsibility to look after our brothers and sisters from across the water. They are welcome here in our country. The Australian Government must be responsible to grant them a safe place to escape from the genocide going on in West Papua.”
Chris Breen of the Refugee Action Collective said “We protest on the anniversary of the SIEV X tragedy, which killed 353 people. A majority of those who drowned were women and children, because the Howard government had denied them family reunion. The Abbott government is again denying family reunion to refugees, with the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas. The government remains determined to punish refugees rather than learn from such tragedies. The illegal deportation of West Papuan asylum seekers, and indefinite detention of ASIO negative refugees, one of whom attempted suicide this week after four years of indefinite detention, is part of this pattern of callous punishment”
Freedom Flotilla spokesperson Ruben Blake said “The inability of the PNG governnment to deal with existing refugees, let alone allow this new group of asylum seekers access to legal representation or properly assess their asylum claim shows that offshore processing in PNG will be an absolute disaster. We call for the immediate return to Australia of the West Papuan asylum seekers, and for their asylum claims to be properly assessed by Australia”.
Video of West Papuans at World Refugee Day 2013