The Immigration Department may be forced to consider Australia’s interest, not just humanitarian concerns, when deciding who is allowed asylum.
The Prime Minister, John Howard, has ordered a review of the asylum process and yesterday warned Papuans thinking of fleeing to Australia: “Do not imagine for a moment that we want you to come to Australia.”
The Howard government has experience in abusing asylum seekers:
Papuan boatpeople face the same treatment as the Tampa refugees did under the 2001 Pacific Solution, as the Howard Government moved yesterday to defuse tensions with Jakarta, warning the asylum-seekers they were not welcome in Australia.
John Howard raised the prospect that boatpeople fleeing the troubled Indonesian province would be treated in future in the same way as the 433 refugees picked up by Norwegian container ship the Tampa in 2001.
“I’d be concerned about the abuse of human rights anywhere in the world, and I guess no country is free of human rights abuses, but I do not think it serves anybody’s interests for us to encourage in any way the fragmentation of Indonesia,” the Prime Minister said.
The idea that Indonesia should have any influence in determining asylum for Papuan refugees is as ludicrous as asking the Taliban or Saddam during their reigns whether Afghanis or Iraqis were being persecuted. Howard’s decision is political cynicism of the most transparent side.
Self-determination for West Papua is both inevitable and morally sound. So-called pragmatists in Australia will resist such moves – as they did during Indonesia’s East Timor occupation – but history is on the side of justice.