26 Sep 2008

Papuan refugees return doesn't undermine decision to grant such status - Australia Refugee Council.

3:10 pm on 26 September 2008

The president of the Refugee Council of Australia says the return of two West Papuan refugees to Indonesia doesn't undermine the original granting of refugee status to them.

John Gibson's comments follow the return this week of two from the group of 43 Papuans who arrived in Australia in 2006 seeking asylum.

The granting of refugee status to the group was at the heart of a diplomatic rift between Australia and Indonesia.

Indonesian officials claim that the decision to return proves that the Papuans aren't at risk of persecution in their homeland as was claimed in 2006.

However Mr Gibson says the granting of refugee status was made on well-founded claims of persecution.

"The reality of their claims as accepted by Australian authorities was that because of their links to and involvement in the separatist movement and because of instances of past persecution, they came under the terms of the refugee convention. The fact that two people might return for a variety of reasons doesn't in any way undercut the initial reason for the grant of status."

John Gibson