Yesterday at his press briefing, Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, claimed that Australia had removed seven West Papuan asylum seekers to PNG last Friday on the basis of a 2003 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with PNG.
But that MoU only allows Australia to remove asylum seekers if they have been in PNG for more than seven days prior to their arrival in Australia.
The West Papuans repeatedly told Australian immigration officials that they had only been in PNG for two nights as they transited that country.
“It seems that the West Papuans have been unlawfully removed from Australia. The Minister has effectively kidnapped and refouled the West Papuan asylum seekers. Scott Morrison has sent these asylum seekers to danger,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“Desperate to avoid adding to the government’s diplomatic difficulties with the Indonesian government before Tony Abbott’s visit, Scott Morrison has trampled on the human rights of the West Papuans and dumped them in PNG. In the process, the Coalition government has become complicit in the repression of the West Papuans by the Indonesian military.”
The MoU also requires that PNG consider the asylum claims made by anyone returned under the MoU, but it remains unclear how the asylum claims are going to be assessed by PNG. There is no indication so far that the PNG government is actually going to assess their claims.
In any case there are serious concerns that this can properly be done, especially when the West Papuans can make a case against the PNG government’s inability to provide protection.
“The West Papuans must be returned to Australia where their need for protection can be properly met,” said Rintoul.
“The treatment of the West Papuans also raises serious doubts about the PNG deal and its willingness to resettle and adequately protect any asylum seekers, including those on Manus Island, found to be refugees in PNG.”
Ian Rintoul Refugee Action Coalition Sydney