Australia to review refugee process

Australia says it is to revise its refugee evaluation process after Canberra outraged Jakarta by granting asylum to 42 people from the troubled Indonesian province of Papua.

    Canberra angered Jakarta by granting asylum to 42 refugees

    The announcement was made by John Howard, the prime minister, on Friday in a bid to defuse an increasingly bitter row with Indonesia over a decision to grant visas last month to the Papuans who say the Indonesian military is carrying out genocide in their province.

    Indonesia was furious over the move, recalling its ambassador, and is now demanding that it be allowed to review any further refugee claims by Papuans who flee to Australia.

    Indonesia says it must be allowed to help verify such claims.

    Howard said Indonesian input would be considered as part of a review of how bureaucrats judge asylum claims, but declined to say whether he supported such a reform.

    "I won't indicate at this stage that I'm sympathetic to this or that possible change," Howard told reporters in Melbourne.

    "We are looking at the process and ... that is obviously one of many issues that is part of that review," he said.

    "Whatever comes out of that review, you can be certain that we'll continue to meet our international obligations, but we'll also, as we should, pay proper regard to the importance of the relationship between Australia and Indonesia," he added.

    Verifying the claims

    Earlier on Friday, an Indonesian Embassy spokesman in Canberra said Jakarta wants the opportunity to verify the claims of any future Papuan asylum seekers.

    "Whatever comes out of that review, you can be certain that we'll continue to meet our international obligations, but we'll also, as we should, pay proper regard to the importance of the relationship between Australia and Indonesia"

    John Howard, 
    Australian prime minister

    "We thought as partners and also as close neighbours that we have been omitted in the process of verifying the claims of the Papuan asylum seekers," embassy second secretary Dino Kusnadi told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

    "What we are requesting ... is that when serious claims about Indonesians are made ... that we are also asked to verify those claims," he said.

    "You would think that if these allegations are aimed at Indonesia, Indonesia would be involved in trying to verify the issues."

    Kusnadi, embassy spokesman while Ambassador Hamzah Thayeb remains indefinitely in Jakarta, said Indonesia appreciated Howard's comments against the secessionist movement, but added Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian President, appreciates actions more than words.

    Howard told Radio 3AW in Melbourne that Indonesia's respect for human rights in Papua, which is also known as West Papua, has improved and Australia should not encourage the region's independence.

    SOURCE: AFP


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