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Friday, 20 January 2006

Abuse allegations must be investigated

The Uniting Church has urged the Federal Government to take seriously the claims of the West Papuans who arrived in Cape York yesterday and ensure any allegations of human rights abuses are properly investigated.

Uniting Church President, the Rev. Dr Dean Drayton said while it was impossible to know the background of specific cases, many West Papuans continue to live in fear and face abuse in Indonesia.

“While we do not know the individual circumstances of these people, as long as there continue to be abuse and violence in West Papua, there is the possibility of groups arriving in Australia who have claims as refugees under the Refugee Convention.

“The Uniting Church’s experience in working in West Papua confirms that regular abuse and violence has occurred in recent years. The Uniting Church and its partner churches in the region have witnessed the effects of these abuses first hand.

“As a country we must take seriously any claims made by these people and ensure our response takes into account the on-going fear and abuse faced by many West Papuans in Indonesia”

Rev. Drayton said it was important that these asylum seekers were processed speedily and humanely, in line with our international obligations.

“The Government’s response to the arrival of these West Papuans will not only send a message about our treatment of asylum seekers – it will send a clear message about how, as a nation, we respond to human rights abuses in our own region.

“Ät the same time, it is critically important that the Australian Government continue express our concerns about the plight of indigenous people in West Papua..

“This is even more vital given that our Government is currently moving to negotiate a far-reaching treaty with Indonesia.

“We hope that the Government’s response to the arrival of these people will reflect Australia’s commitment to uphold the basic human rights of all people and our condemnation of human rights abuses as unacceptable.”


Media Contact: Gavin Melvin, Manager, National Media and Communication – 0417 416 674