Australia’s Transfer Of West Papuans ‘Illegal’: Advocates

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Australia’s Transfer Of West Papuans ‘Illegal’: Advocates Removal to PNG breaches 2003 memorandum: refugee coalition

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Oct. 1, 2013) – The Refugee Action Coalition says the Australian government has acted unlawfully in transferring seven West Papuans, who had fled Indonesia and sought asylum in Queensland, to Papua New Guinea.

Its spokesperson, Ian Rintoul, says the government claimed it acted in line with a 2003 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which allows Australia to return asylum seekers to PNG if they have come through PNG.

But Mr. Rintoul says the MOU requires those people to have been in PNG for seven days or more, and the West Papuans were there for just two.

He says the MOU also requires those who are returned to have their refugee processing done in PNG - but there are questions as to whether PNG has the intent or ability to do this.

"We have seen them act unlawfully. They’ve certainly acted unethically. While that Memorandum of Understanding is there, there’s no reason that the government needs to rely on that, it knows the situation of West Papuans and it should be willing to actually process them here. They know the people who are coming here are deserving of protection and yet they’ve sent them back to Papua New Guinea."

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, one of the West Papuans, who have been put up at hotel in Port Moresby, says they don't know what is happening and have been denied access to legal counsel. Yacob Mandabayan said after authorities grilled them in the Torres Strait, they were put on a plane, thinking they were destined for mainland Australia. Instead, they were taken to PNG.]

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