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Monday, 14 October 1985
Page: 1133

Senator McINTOSH —Can the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs confirm media reports that 12 Irian Jayan refugees were forcibly repatriated from Papua New Guinea in the past few days? If so, can the Government ascertain the reasons for this repatriation? In view of the reports of ill-treatment of refugees by Indonesian authorities, will the Government be taking any steps to ensure that refugees will not be repatriated against their will?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Government has noted the return of 12 Irianese to the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya by the Government of Papua New Guinea. At this stage the Government does not have full details relating to this return but media reports have stated that the 12 were gaoled on their return. I understand that the Indonesian Government's policy is that Irianese border crossers who have broken Indonesian laws will be tried on their return to Irian Jaya. The Government is seeking further information on the circumstances surrounding the return of the 12 and their subsequent treatment.

All I can perhaps usefully add is that the Government remains concerned at any suggestion of discrimination against the Melanesian population of Irian Jaya and has indicated to the Indonesian authorities its belief that Melanesian aspirations and cultural values should be accommodated within the framework of Indonesia's national development. We have also indicated our hope that the transmigration program in Irian Jaya will be conducted in such a way as to avoid any adverse effects for Irian Jaya's Melanesian population.