NZ could save West Papuans from Aussie detention camp

Some of the 43 West Papuan boat people imprisoned in an Australian detention camp after a perilous sea journey to escape persecution in their homeland should be offered the chance of new homes in New Zealand, the Green Party says.

The boat people arrived at Cape York Peninsula on January 17.

“New Zealand can show the Howard government how to be compassionate, as we did back in 2001 when we took some Afghan asylum seekers from the Tampa,” the party’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

“It is shocking that the West Papuan refugees, having survived 450 kilometres of open water in a flimsy craft, are now bundled off to a Christmas Island detention camp — well out of range of those Australians who wish to help them.

“It would be no great burden for New Zealand to take some of the West Papuans. We do not have a problem with boat people here, and the number of airborne asylum seekers has dropped off, partly because of tighter visa controls.

“Under refugee law these Papuans deserve special consideration, having come directly from their claimed country of persecution, Indonesia, not via a third country, as is the case with most asylum seekers in this part of the world.

“The Papuans certain have a good prima facie case. I know from my own visit to West Papua last April that there is substantial and ongoing harassment of the local people, particularly those who assert their right to political self-determination.

“Just last Friday Indonesian security forces shot dead one Papuan protester, and wounded two others, in the Paniai district.

“We should help out the Aussies and process some of the Papuans here. I am sure there would be plenty takers. Life behind the barbed wire in Christmas Island is not pleasant,” says Mr Locke.