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Monday, 8 October 1984
Page: 1438

Senator MISSEN(10.42) —I rise tonight to address myself to the problem which has arisen before in this Senate; that is, the question of refugees or border crossers in Papua New Guinea, those who have come from West Irian and who are now, in greater numbers than ever, in Papua New Guinea. I do not propose to go over the details, with which many honourable senators will be familiar. I spoke on this matter on two earlier occasions in the adjournment debate-on 9 May and again on 31 May. At that time my concern was particularly with the death of Arnold Ap who was a Melanesian curator of the university who had been killed in very suspicious circumstances. In the subsequent speech I dealt more particularly with the development of the actual refugees and the situation they are in. Since that time we are aware that there has been something of a tragedy due to the deaths of a number of people who were living in camps in Papua New Guinea, a neglect which has been acknowledged by Papua New Guinea, due to perhaps inexperience on the part of the people who were supposed to be looking after them. That was an occasion when our Government made some offer of assistance. I think the whole position is still one of concern. We have known that no real arrangement or agreement has been reached between the Papua New Guinean Government and Indonesia. There is a constant threat so far as these people are concerned.

The development which is of considerable interest to us is that from 2 September to 16 September of this year the Australian section of the International Commission of Jurists sent a mission to that area to see the camps , to extensively interview people there and to ascertain the position. The delegation that went was a distinguished one of wide experience, including Mr John Dowd, a New South Wales member of parliament and President of the Australian Section; retired judge Trevor Martin, also a member of the Executive Committee; Professor Garth Nettheim, Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales; Mr D. Rowland and Mr David Bitel, solicitors in New South Wales and also father L. Van Der Berg of the Netherlands who had the advantage of speaking the Indonesian language. An interim report has been presented by Mr Dowd on behalf of the mission, dated 24 September 1984. It is a short report and I think it would be very useful to honourable senators and the public to know its contents. I seek leave to incorporate the report in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The report read as follows--



Mission to Papua New Guinea, 2nd to 16th September, 1984 concerning the refugee status of ''border-crossers'' from Irian Jaya


24th September, 1984

In view of the urgency of clarifying the status and situation of the nearly 11, 000 people who have crossed into Papua New Guinea from Irian Jaya in the last year, the members of the mission decided that it would produce this interim report setting out a short history and summary of the fact finding mission. The major part of the final report is in fact completed but will inevitably take some few weeks for compilation, editing and reproduction, which will delay publication.


1. For convenience, in this report the term ''refugee'' will be used rather than try to distinguish precisely the particular status of the various groups. As will be seen from our conclusions and recommendations, with the exception of a small number who will voluntarily return, the balance are either refugees or ' 'persons in the situation of a refugee'' and entitled to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees assistance. The more neutral word, ''border-crosser'' only covers the status of some of those who have come into Papua New Guinea.

2. The conclusions and recommendations are approved in final form by the Australian Members of the mission although they reflect the agreement in principle of all members.

Background to the Mission

As a result of representations made to the Executive Committee of the Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists in April and May, 1984, the press reports and various publications being made available to it, it was decided by the Australian Section to make inquiries concerning the status of the refugees. Subsequently the Section resolved to seek permission from the Papua New Guinea Government to visit Papua New Guinea and particularly the refugee camps to investigate that status of the inhabitants of the camps.

Permission in principle was given after an outline of the purpose of the mission and identification of the members of the mission were furnished to the PNG Government. Visas were granted for all Australian members of the mission. Some few days prior to the date of the mission, it was clear that the Papua New Guinea Government had reservations about the mission and its officers queried in detail the purpose of it and only after representations made to the PNG Government on Wednesday 29th, Thursday 30th and Friday 31st August, 1984, was the mission allowed to proceed.

The members of the delegation were:

John Dowd, M.P. (N.S.W. Parliament) President, Australian Section ICJ, as leader of the mission.

Judge Trevor Martin QC (Rtd), member of the Executive Committee of the Australian Section, ICJ.

Professor Garth Nettheim, Professor of Law, University of New South Wales, member of the Executive Committee of the Australian Section, ICJ.

Mr. D. Rowland, Solicitor of N.S.W., Head of the Centre for Technology and Social Change at the University of Wollongong, member of the Executive Committee of the Australian Section, ICJ

Mr. David Bitel, Solicitor, N.S.W., member of the Executive Committee, Australian Section, ICJ.

Father L. Van Der Berg, of Megan, the Netherlands, member of the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights, former missionary to Irian Jaya, Bachelor of Canon Law, attending at the invitation of the Netherlands' Section of the ICJ.


The five Australian members met the head of the PNG Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Matane and his principal advisor and discussed the refugee problem for an hour and a half on the first day of arrival. Discussions were also held with members of the press and former Irian Jayan residents living in Port Moresby.

Two members of the mission, Professor Nettheim and Judge Martin, then flew to Vanimo in the north to visit the camp in Vanimo, namely Blackwater, and the camps at Green River and Kamberatoro. The remaining members joined by Father Van der Berg, flew to Kiunga in the Western Province of what was formerly Papua, to visit the refugee camps in that area. The members of the mission in the Kiunga area visited camps at Kungim, Komopkin, Atkamba, Niogombin, Dome and Rumginae ( the latter being a hospital dealing with the malnourished and those affected by respiratory and other disorders).

Having trekked in through the bush and by canoe to examine conditions at Komopkin camp and to carry out interviews, Dowd, Bitel and Rowland stayed overnight to better understand the people and conditions. At each of the western camps, the principal interviewing was done by Mr Bitel who speaks Bahasa Indonesia with some fluency and of course Father Van der Berg who also speaks Bahasa Indonesia. Some of the interviews were conducted by people alone, some were conducted in the presence of others and some in the presence of PNG Government officials. Group interviews have obvious disadvantages but very often the reaction of the people around assist in showing the veracity of the person who is making particular statements. On the other hand, group interviews inhibit individual frankness.

In addition to the interviews with the refugees, members of the delegation had interviews with the patrol officers, police officers, the district head in the Western Province area, Mr Trevor Downes, the Catholic Bishops in the Vanimo and Kiunga area, a local Member of Parliament, Mr Warren Dutton, other Catholic Priests, people resident in the towns and indeed, officers of the Foreign Affairs Department stationed in Vanimo.

The mission was given considerable assistance in understanding the issues involved by these officers and of course the cross-section of persons involved in the camp areas, all of whom had lived with the situation for some months. Members of the mission had the opportunity of examining particular records showing the names and numbers of people in various camps. Some members of the mission also had the opportunity of discussing the conditions of the refugees and the medical circumstances with hospital workers at the Rumginae Hospital.

The leader of the mission flew from Kiunga to Vanimo to also examine the Blackwater camp near Vanimo and talk to members of the Catholic Mission and other residents of the town in addition to PNG Foreign Affairs Officers.

On return to Port Moresby, further discussions were held with press and with former Irian Jayan residents and with officers of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, some of whom had visited the camps. An interview was granted on Saturday, 8th September by the Indonesian Ambassador and a lengthy discussion took place with him.

Three members of the mission remained on during the following week and carried out further discussions with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Red Cross, Save the Children Fund, the UNHCR and others. One of the members, Father Van der Berg, then visited Vanimo and visited the camps in that region.

The purpose of outlining this history is to underline the fact that as well as direct evidence, the members of the mission had an opportunity to compare their impressions and evidence with other people in the area who had worked with this problem in order to give them a perspective on the evidence they had taken.

It is intended in the final report to deal with particular findings and humanitarian issues concerning the refugees and particular matters relating to Mr Arnold Ap and the circumstances surrounding his death. The conclusions and recommendations of the mission are set out below.


1. That a large number of the approximately 11,000 refugees now consider themselves to be indefinitely or permanently displaced from Irian Jaya. These comprise mostly people with traditional border-crossing rights under the Border Agreement between PNG and Indonesia and having clan and language affiliations with people on the PNG side. They include also a further, smaller group of urbanised people, mainly coming from the jayapura area.

2. That this large number of people are either refugees within the terms of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, or are people clearly in a refugee-like situation within the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees excepting that small number that is now prepared to return voluntarily.

3. That because the people who have come across are people from the immediate border area, most with clan and language affiliations on the PNG side, there is therefore little evidence that the taking of this number of refugees will open a floodgate for refugees from other parts of Irian Jaya.

4. That the displacement of this large number of persons is an indication of serious problems within Irian Jaya.

5. That there is clear evidence of human rights violations in the area of Irian Jaya nearest to PNG by the Indonesian authorities against local villagers.

6. That the eye witness evidence concerning the state of Ap's body and the injuries shown, are clearly inconsistent with the statements made by Indonesian officials that he was shot escaping.

7. That there is some evidence that the PNG Government was deficient, in distributing aid and assistance to the refugees during the first few months after they had crossed into Papua New Guinea.


1. That no one be returned involuntarily to Indonesia.

2. That the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees be given full authority and responsibility in conjunction with the Government of PNG, to provide assistance to the refugees pending the achievement of durable solutions.

3. That nations, and national and international aid agencies, including the UNHCR, be urged to offer assistance to PNG to care for the refugees pending completion of durable solutions, and also to help to achieve such durable solutions.

4. That the administrative arrangements for the distribution of aid to the refugees include the participation of the UNHCR and appropriate church agencies.

5. That the Indonesian Government take no immediate action against the families and property of refugees so that the prospects of voluntary repatriation are not diminished.

6. That the Indonesian Government make clear both the precise nature of criminal charges that individual refugees will attract on their return to Irian Jaya, and the appropriate authority, civil or military, to deal with such charges, and that the Indonesian Government provide firm guarantees subject to UNHCR monitoring, that those who return voluntarily will face no other punishment or penalty.

7. That the PNG Government ensure that, for the time being, all refugees be given permissive residence status within PNG.

8. That the PNG Government invite the assistance of the UNHCR in the determination of the status of the refugees.

9. That the PNG Government ensure that before refugees are interviewed to determine their status, appropriately qualified advisers be made available to them.

10. That the PNG Government ensure that those refugees who have actively participated in political actions (mainly those refugees in the Blackwater Camp near Vanimo) ought to be given refugee status and settled within PNG or, if necessary, in other countries within the region. But the remainder should be located where possible in their own clan/language groupings within PNG, but at some reasonable distance from the border to prevent them from constituting a continuing problem for PNG-Indonesian relations.

11. That the PNG Government should not discriminate against the refugees in decisions on the granting of citizenship.

12. That Australia has a special role to play in the future of the refugees from Irian Jaya as the most appropriate independent nation in the region, and in particular Australia should be willing to accept some of the refugees for whom third country resettlement is decreed necessary.

13. That the Indonesian Government, in the implementation of the policy of transmigration in Irian Jaya, be urged and encouraged to respect the culture, traditions and rights of the indigenous people of Irian Jaya.

14. That both the Indonesian Government and appropriate international organisations, within and outside the UN system, should investigate the situation in Irian Jaya, to examine the problems that have given rise to the refugees leaving the country, with a view to their resolution.

15. That an internationally supervised enquiry be held into the circumstances surrounding the death of Arnold Ap in view of statements made by the Indonesian Government conflicting with evidence made available to the mission and to others .

16. That Indonesia and Papua New Guinea ratify the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

17. That Indonesia and Papua New Guinea ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

John Dowd, M.P.,


Australian Section

International Commission of Jurists

Senator MISSEN —The report is very interesting because apart from the detail of where members of the mission went, they proceed to form certain conclusions as to the situation. They draw our attention to the fact that there are now approximately 11,000 refugees who consider themselves indefinitely or permanently displaced from Irian Jaya. This has been a growing number all the time and the position, therefore, is that the number is greater. They also give some information about the evidence of human rights violations in the area of Irian Jaya nearest to Papua New Guinea and those are violations by the Indonesian authorities against local villagers. They also draw attention to the evidence they saw there concerning the death of Arnold Ap and the injuries which he suffered, obviously prior to death, which were clearly inconsistent with the statements made by Indonesian officials who said he was shot when escaping.

Their recommendations are even of more interest because they deal with a situation recommending that nobody should be returned involuntarily to Indonesia and urging the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other authorities to take an active part, and that they be allowed to take an active part, in assisting refugees pending durable solutions. It is clear that the position at the moment is very indefinite and that the position is not satisfactory. It is clear from the report that there are refugees who obviously cannot go back to Indonesia who need to be settled and probably settled in areas not close to the border so that they are not involved in further problems. But other people, including the Australian Government, may have a special role to play, according to the report. I think we have a great need to continue taking an interest in the situation of this very considerable number of people in this very difficult situation in life. I therefore desire mainly to night to put into the record this interim report because I think it is important that we know at this stage what Australians who have been observers on the spot have determined. I hope that the Australian Government will take an interest in that report and will keep reporting the situation to the Parliament and what Australia is doing to help the very real problem in this area.