Refugee dies as boat sinks

Adelaide Advertiser

EIGHTEEN Papuan asylum seekers - some of them children - were missing and one person was found dead last night after their wooden boat sank.

The craft went down 1km from Jayapura, capital of the troubled Indonesian province, after colliding with a speedboat.

Only two people reached shore.

The boat - which was heading for PNG - carried the outlawed Papuan separatist flag.

It also had a banner saying the 21 fugitives were students. "We are students from West Papua who are being pursued by TNI/Polri so that we have to seek asylum in the country of other people."

TNI is the acronym for the Indonesian armed forces while Polri refers to the national police.

Meanwhile, the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Michael L'Estrange was at the start of a one-day mission in Indonesia to explain the Howard Government's new hard-line asylum policy and dampen anger over temporary visas that were granted to 42 Papuan separatists.

Australia's decision to grant the 42 Papuans temporary refugee status last month plunged relations with Indonesia to their lowest point since Australia's military intervention in East Timor in 1999.

Mr L'Estrange, will meet with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's spokesman, Dino Pati Jalal, today before an afternoon of crisis talks with Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda.

Prime Minister John Howard has ruled out Mr L'Estrange apologising for granting the temporary visas during the visit, which aims to pave the way for a follow-up mission by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

An Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman warned that Mr L'Estrange must do more than offer an explanation of refugee policy, and detail how the changes will affect the 42 Papuans.


Back to