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CANBERRA, Australia (December 13, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---More than 300 people fleeing Indonesian West Papua will continue to be denied official refugee status until Papua New Guinea considers otherwise.

That’s according to the United Nation's High Commissioner for Refugees, which has come under pressure to assist the West Papuans.

Women, children and elderly stranded in "no-man’s land" between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are not being allowed over the border because the PNG government considers the matter an internal matter for Indonesia.

"If there is a situation of internal displacement, the UN is mandated not to engage without the invitation of the host country," said Ellen Hanson, a spokesperson for UNHCR in Canberra.

"People become refugees when they cross the border and have a well founded fear of persecution. What happens in a situation such as the one that could possibly develop in Papua New Guinea is that people may seek asylum and seek to be formally recognized as refugees. In this case, it would be up to the PNG authorities to do an assessment of protection and a refugee status determination made to recognize such people as refugees if that's what they are," Hanson told Pacific Beat’s Clement Paligaru.

Hanson said the UN is closely monitoring the situation due to the increased tension in Irian Jaya over the last couple of weeks.

But she added that it’s not "a refugee situation."

The Catholic Church is assisting those who cross the border, she said.

"We’re waiting and seeing and, if it becomes necessary, we will be ready to assist," she added.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.



JAYAPURA, Indonesia (December 14, 2000 - Radio Australia)---Police in the Indonesian province of West Papua (Irian Jaya) have reportedly arrested 50 people during a protest march in the capital, Jayapura.

The demonstrators -- who were carrying a separatist flag -- wanted to mark the 12th anniversary of the proclamation of a free West Papua state.

The AFP news agency reported that the demonstrators were ordered into trucks when they arrived at a city park and then taken into custody at police headquarters.

The demonstrators had planned to go to the Parliament building to issue demands for the province to secede from Indonesia.

Parliament has been under heavy police and military guard since the 29th anniversary of a separate declaration of a free state on December 5.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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