ICC Note: The government of Indonesia has been greatly angered by Australias decision to allow Papuan refugees to remain in Australia for three years. These refugees are accused of being separatists and are therefore wanted by the Indonesian government. But the Indonesian government has been severely abusing the rights of this primarily Christian region for years. If the asylum seekers are returned torture could await them.
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Taipei Times (03/26/06) — Indonesia reacted furiously yesterday to Australia’s decision to grant temporary visas to asylum seekers from Papua Province, recalling its ambassador and warning that the move jeopardized ties between the neighboring countries.
“The government of Indonesia is surprised, disappointed and very much regrets this decision,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that it showed that “elements in Australia” back the eastern Indonesian region’s separatist movement.
Australia said on Thursday that 42 of a group of 43 people from the province had been granted temporary protection visas, entitling them to stay in Australia for three years.
The group, who arrived in northeastern Australia in January, had accused the Indonesian military of conducting genocide in their homeland while putting down the decades-long separatist movement.
Granting the group asylum is sensitive because it is an effective acknowledgment by Canberra that Indonesian security forces are abusing human rights in Papua, where rights activists say 100,000 have been killed in anti-insurgent operations since 1969.
Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said yesterday that he was ordering Indonesia’s ambassador in Australia to return to Jakarta “as soon as the first flight could bring [him] … back home” to discuss the matter.
Wirajuda said there had been no discussion of cutting diplomatic relations entirely.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono personally called Australian Prime Minister John Howard to reassure him that the group, which includes seven children, would not be harmed if they returned to Papua.