Papuan Refugees Return to from Australia
JAKARTA ~ Two Papuans out a group of 43 asylum seekers who fled Indonesia in 2006, sparking a diplomatic row with neighbor Australia, have returned to the remote region, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
Hana Gobay and Yubel Kareni returned to the eastern province more than two years after they fled by boat to northern Australia with a group led by Papuan separatist activist Herman Wanggai, said the statement from the ministry in Jakarta.
The pair flew home from the Australian city of Melbourne to be reunited with their families after becoming “disappointed with Herman Wanggai’s promises and false explanations,” it said.
The return of the refugees would hopefully “open the hearts and eyes of those who still try to push Indonesia into a corner” over conditions in Papua, it said.
Australia’s 2006 decision to grant asylum to 42 of the 43 Papuans briefly plunged relations between the two countries into turmoil, with Indonesia temporarily recalling its ambassador to Canberra.
The decision was widely condemned as politically motivated in Indonesia, with nationalists accusing Australia of supporting Papuan independence.
“… when we got the information that Indonesian citizens needed help reuniting with their families we had an obligation to assist them,” ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said.
Indonesia took control of Papua, a former Dutch colony in the western half of New Guinea island, in 1969 after a vote among a select group of Papuans widely seen as a sham.