23 Jan 2006

Fears for Indonesian backlash against families of Papuan refugees

7:44 pm on 23 January 2006

There are fears for the safety of families of the 43 Papuans seeking asylum in Australia who were left behind in the Indonesian province.

Shootings by the Indonesian military left one student dead and three injured in the Paniai area which is home to some of the asylum seekers who arrived in Australia last week and have now been shifted to Christmas Island for processing.

Denny Yomaki of the Human Rights group, Elsham, says while there is no link between the shootings and the asylum seekers, he fears there may be reprisals against families left behind.

A member of the International Commission of Jurors and refugee lawyer, Liz Biok, says the Australian government needs to realise the close surveillance the Indonesian military has in Papua.

"'I've been in villages where you go into look at the local mayor's office, and they count the number of chickens and the number of cows that are in the village. They will know when people are missing. Australia nees to be aware that the Indonesian authorities will know whose gone. And so they will face a real risk if they're sent back. Their families will also be under risk at the moment."

Liz Biok of the ICJ.