18 Apr 2006

Australia to send top diplomat to Jakarta amid Papua visa row

1:46 pm on 18 April 2006

A top Australian diplomat is to go to Indonesia to explain changes to refugee policy amid Jakarta's anger that visas were given to 42 Papuan asylum seekers.

The secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Michael L'Estrange, will meet Indonesia's foreign minister, Hassan Wirajuda, on Friday.

The Indonesian foreign ministry says Mr L'Estrange will also have talks with the spokesman for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Dino Pati Jalal.

His reported visit comes after Jakarta asked for a summit between President Yudhoyono and the Australian prime minister, John Howard.

Australia is yet to confirm the visit.

Indonesia insists Canberra had no reason to grant temporary visas to 42 of 43 Papuans.

In response, Australia said it would toughen laws for asylum seekers, insisting they be taken to offshore detention centres in Nauru for processing before being sent to third countries.

The new policy has been criticised by human rights groups and churches.