27 Feb 2006

Australia to discuss Papuan asylum seekers with Indonesia

4:44 pm on 27 February 2006

Australia's foreign minister Alexander Downer will meet senior Indonesian officials today to discuss Jakarta's concerns over Australia's handling of 43 Papuan asylum-seekers held on Christmas Island.

The newspaper, The Australian, reports that there is a growing expectation in Canberra that the 43 could be granted asylum by Australia after having their cases examined by the Department of Immigration.

The asylum seekers, most of whom are involved in the Papuan independence movement, arrived in Queensland last month after a six day boat voyage, claiming they were fleeing from persecution by the Indonesian military.

The claim has been rejected by Jakarta but Mr Downer says their applications are being considered individually by the Immigration Department which will make an assessment by mid-April.

Senior Indonesian officials warning recently that conferring refugee status on the Papuans would undermine bilateral relations with Canberra.