29 Jun 2006

PNG rejects Australian bid in Papua asylum controversy

8:48 pm on 29 June 2006

Papua New Guinea has turned down Australian requests that it take in Indonesian Papuan asylum seekers while their refugee applications are processed by Canberra.

The foreign minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, says an informal approach has been made to him by Australian High Commissioner Michael Potts to temporarily accommodate within the PNG community any Papuan asylum seekers who had made it to Australia directly from Papua.

But Sir Rabbie told the news agency AAP that the PNG government had problems with the proposal given its relationship with neighbouring Indonesia.

He said the issue of Papuan asylum seekers is as sensitive for PNG as it is for Australia.

Mr Potts declined to comment except to say Australia was in regular discussion with PNG on a range of immigration matters.

Earlier this month, PNG's Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare said he would not allow PNG to become a testing ground to overcome other people's problem.

PNG hosts thousands of Papuan refugees who have crossed the land border over the years.

Relations between Australia and Indonesia were strained over recent months following the granting of temporary protection visas to 42 Papuan asylum seekers who made it to Queensland in January.