PAPUANS STUCK IN PNG WANT TO RETURN HOME

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (The Jakarta Post/Irian News, Dec. 23) - As many as 14,000 Papuan border crossers, including suspected separatists, are currently languishing in numerous makeshift camps across neighboring Papua New Guinea (PNG) and most of them want to return home.

Indonesian Ambassador to PNG, J.R.G. Djopari, asked the Papuan administration to accept the border crossers once they return to their homeland.

"They are Papuans who were provoked by irresponsible people and later fled to PNG," the Antara news agency quoted him as arguing.

Djopari said the refugees, traumatized by past abuses, have demanded that their security be guaranteed to enable them to return home.

He said the refugees are living in "alarming" conditions and require assistance from the Indonesian government. "Their state of health is quite alarming. They are staying in tents to survive," he added.

The ambassador said the Indonesian Embassy in the PNG capital of Port Moresby was facilitating the planned repatriation of the Papuan border crossers.

Many of the refugees, mostly coming from the regencies of Merauke, Pegunungan Tengah and Jayapura, have been living for 30 years in PNG, although they are still Indonesian citizens, he said.

Djopari, speaking to private RCTI television, however admitted that around 3,000 of the refugees have given up their Indonesian citizenship to obtain PNG citizenship.

They changed their citizenship because the Indonesian government did not pay attention to their unfortunate fate, he added.

The ambassador further said that most children of the Papuan border crossers could not attend schools in PNG for economic reasons.

He also denied that the PNG government protects Papuan separatist rebels and other criminals who have fled to the neighboring country.

The PNG government does not want its state used as a hideout for foreigners violating the laws of their respective countries, particularly Indonesia, he said.

However, Djopari did not rule out the possibility of Papuan rebels intruding into PNG to escape the Indonesian security authorities.

"It is possible as the border area (between Papua and PNG) is very large. Therefore, it is difficult for the security forces of either country to detect movements across the border," he said.

A shortage of PNG security personnel stationed in the border area, is also to blame for the failure to monitor and stop Papuan rebels from escaping to PNG, the ambassador added.

He said the PNG government also wanted the border area to be secure to enable its citizens and their Indonesian counterparts to engage in mutual trading.

The ambassador said the two countries needed to further improve bilateral ties in all aspects of life.

He said many PNG citizens wanted to study in Indonesia and Papua in particular and that a group of women from the neighboring country would soon visit the Papua capital of Jayapura to learn cooking, sewing, dancing and other local community skills.

December 24, 2002

KABAR-IRIAN ("Irian News") Websites: http://www.irja.org/index2.shtml and http://www.kabar-irian.com 

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