31 Jan 2006

Papuan asylum seekers fearful for family left behind, says Australian Senator

8:13 am on 31 January 2006

A number of Papuan asylum seekers detained offshore by Australia are said to be fearful for their families left behind in Indonesia.

The 43 Papuans have been allowed their first outside contact since being taken to Christmas Island after arriving in far northern Queensland following a six-day boat voyage from the Indonesian province of Papua.

A team of four lawyers have joined Immigration officials on the Indian Ocean island to interview the Papuans over the next fortnight and put in asylum claims for each one.

The Australian Greens senator Kerry Nettle, who also had access to the Papuans on the island at the weekend, says they were very pleased to finally have had contact with people.

But she says brief phone calls home have raised fears for the safety of family left behind.

"Many of them have contacted family back in West Papua over the last two days and have reported about family members being terrorised by members of the Indonesian Security so they're very concerned about that and have asked me many questions about that."