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Australia sends envoy to repair Indonesia ties CANBERRA (AUSTRALIA) - Australia's top diplomat will visit Jakarta this week to try and ease tensions with Indonesia caused by Australia's decision to grant refugee visas to 42 Papuans who fled Indonesia in an outrigger canoe. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said his country's relationship with Australia should be reviewed following the decision, but Prime Minister John Howard on Tuesday said Australia had no reason to apologise for its policies.

The small Australian Democrats party said Indonesia had no right to expect more concessions after Australia last week announced moves to send any new asylum seekers to offshore immigration camps while their refugee claims are processed. "I think our government has already kow-towed on the issue. We've ignored long-running human rights abuses in our region, and specifically in West Papua, for long enough," Democrats Senator Natasha Stott Despoja told Australian radio.

Papuan independence activists have campaigned for more than 30 years to split from Indonesia, while a low-level rebellion has also simmered. Human rights groups accuse Indonesia of widespread abuses there, and the 42 Papuans who sought asylum said they feared becoming victims of genocide. Jakarta denies such charges.

Australia's decision to grant refugee status to the 42 Papuans last month angered Jakarta, which said the decision gave credence to the Papuan claims off ill-treatment and gave support to Papua's independence movement. Indonesia withdrew its ambassador to Australia in protest against the decision. There have also been protests outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta, and calls for an Indonesian boycott of Australian goods.

Howard said head of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Michael L'Estrange, would visit Jakarta this week to explain the decision and the new rules for asylum seekers. He denied Australia had changed its asylum-seeker policies to placate Indonesia, and said he expected he would eventually meet Yudhoyono, but only after L'Estrange's visit and a possible meeting of Australian and Indonesian foreign ministers.

"This will take time to work through," Howard told local radio, adding he understood Indonesia's sensitivity over Papua. Under Australia's new asylum-seeker policy, announced last Thursday, anyone who arrives illegally by boat will be sent to immigration detention centres in the tiny Pacific nation of Nauru or on Manus island in Papua New Guinea. The new rules mean those found to be refugees will be accepted by a "third country" and will not be guaranteed entry to Australia.

Former Australian diplomat Tony Kevin said the new refugee policy would not work and sent the wrong message. "The message is that the Australian government can be threatened, indeed blackmailed, into abandoning essential values and interests," Kevin wrote in The Australian newspaper.


Link to related event Related event:
Papua conflict

Related blog entries (category 'Politics') Related blog entries (category 'Politics'):
06 April 2006 · Papuans prepared to 'risk lives' for asylum
05 April 2006 · Yudhoyono: 'Review cooperation with Canberra'
02 April 2006 · Fears cartoon could damage Australia - Indonesia relationship
28 March 2006 · Indonesia says 3 Papuan students possibly flee for PNG
27 March 2006 · Indonesia not to cut ties with Australia: Spokesman


Posted in Politics @ 18 April 2006 07:04 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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