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Members of U.S. Congress Expresses Concern About Papuan Refugees

Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights

Press Release

26 January 2006

Contact: Ed McWilliams (703) 237-3913 and Emily S. Goldman (202) 463-7575 ext. 235

For Immediate Release

(Washington, D.C., 26 January 2006) – The West Papua Advocacy Team at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Human Rights Center welcomes the initiative of Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Congressman Eni Faleomavaega and eight other Members of the U.S. House of Representatives who have appealed to Australian Prime Minister John Howard on behalf of 43 Papuans who are seeking human rights asylum and refugee status in Australia. These Papuans, including seven children, undertook a five-day journey across the open ocean in an outrigger canoe. They fled a rapidly deteriorating human rights environment in West Papua where the Indonesian military has committed human rights abuse on a broad scale for decades with impunity.

The Congressional letter follows below.


Prime Minister John Howard
c/o Embassy of Australia to the United States
1601 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036-2273

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

We write to you in regards to the asylum appeals of the 43 Papuan men, women and children who arrived at Port York on January 17. These refugees reached the Australian mainland after an extraordinarily dangerous 220 mile voyage in a small, open boat. We commend the Australian government for its timely and successful efforts to assist these men, women, and children after their harrowing journey; however, we strongly feel that it is equally important that they now be accorded the full rights and privileges which accrue to their refugee status.

Their decision to undertake the arduous ocean voyage during the monsoon season could not have been taken lightly, and reveals the increasingly desperate plight of Papuans facing unacceptable human rights abuse in Papua, Indonesia. The U.S. State Department's most recent Human Rights Report notes that in Papua, "security force members murdered, tortured, raped, beat and arbitrarily detained civilians..." and that the Government of Indonesia "did not report any progress in prosecuting those responsible for acts of torture" committed in Papua.

Facing continuing human rights abuse by Indonesian security forces, these Papuans have risked everything in a flight to freedom. We hope that the Government of Australia will reject public demands by the Indonesian Government to return these refugees to the control of the very same security forces from which they fled.

We respectfully appeal to the Government of Australia to carefully examine these refugees' claims for asylum status and grant asylum to those that meet the international and Australian standards.


Patrick Kennedy (D - Rhode Island)
Eni Faleomavaega (D - American Samoa)
Tammy Baldwin (D- Wisconsin)
Sam Farr (D - California)
Chaka Fattah (D - Pennsylvania)
Raul Grijalva (D - Arizona)
Jim McGovern (D - Massachusetts)
Dennis Kucinich (D - Ohio)
Donald Payne (D - New Jersey)
Christopher Smith (R - New Jersey)

# # # # # ENDS # # # # #

see also NGO Letter to Australia on Papua Asylum Seekers




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