30 Jan 2006

Papuan asylum seekers on Christmas Island allowed first access to outside assistance

3:03 pm on 30 January 2006

Australian Immigration officials have allowed a group of Papuan asylum seekers detained on Christmas Island their first contact with legal and social representatives since arriving.

The 43 asylum seekers reached the far north of Queensland earlier this month after a six-day voyage in a canoe from the Indonesian province of Papua.

A spokesman for the Australia West Papua Association, Nick Chesterfield, says the first outside access to the Papuans was achieved during the weekend.

He says it took a lot of negotiation with Immigration officials just to get limited telephone access to the asylum seekers..

"The lawyers for the refugees are actually up on Christmas Island at the moment and they're still interviewing them claim by claim. There has been access allowed on telephone phone very briefly by us. So we are actually communicating and some things will be coming out in the next few days from the communications with them directly of the reasons they fled."

Nick Chesterfield