In Papua-New Guinea, the condition of hundreds of refugees from Irian Jaya is causing concern to the welfare workers and government authorities trying to help them.
In Papua-New Guinea, the condition of hundreds of refugees from Irian Jaya is causing concern to the welfare workers and government authorities trying to help them. An estimated one thousand people crossed the border into Papua-new Guinea in September alone, reportedly fleeing persecution by troops in the Indonesian-controlled Irian Jaya. They are now living in makeshift camps and receiving medical treatment provided by the Papua-New Guinea government and the United Nations -- but journalists visiting the refugees report that more aid is needed urgently.
SYNOPSIS: One of the camps is near Imonda, eleven miles (17.7 kilometres) from the border with Irian Jaya. The refugees here say they were forced to trek over mountains to escape persecution by Indonesian troops who raided their village and shot many people. They are the victims of a long struggle for sovereignty over the mineral-rich territory that was once Dutch New Guinea. Indonesia annexed the region in 1969, and has been waging a sporadic war ever since against bands of poorly equipped rebels.
Now fighting has intensified, driving these villagers across the order where people like Father Graham Oswin help them establish temporary homes.
Many refugees are suffering from tropical ulcers and malaria, contracted during their long walk from their villages. Some, especially children, urgently need specialised medical treatment. They live on rice and fish supplied by government agencies. Papua-New Guinea, which recognises Indonesia's control over Irian Jaya, is reportedly trying to persuade the refugees to return. But, fearing renewed military action near their homes, the West Irians are reluctant to go. Their host country has said it will not force them to return, and a rebel leader -- sentenced to two months jail for entering Papua-New Guinea illegally--has been told he can apply for political asylum. Reporter Bruce Stannard asked Father Oswin about the refugees' escape....
Scores of refugees from West Irian are living in makeshift camps near Imonda, II miles from the border in Papua-New Guinea. They are facing a health emergency -- many are suffering from tropical ulcers and malaria, contracted during a long trek over mountains to escape, as they report, persecution by Indonesian troops.
The refugees support a West Papuan separatist army, whose leader, Jakob Prai, aged 36, has just been gaolled in Port Moresby for two months for illegal entry into ??? Papua-New Guinea. Prai was arrested and sentenced with Otto Ondawaume, named previously as his " Defence Minister ".
Prime Minister Michael Somare later said that if the two men decided to seek political asylum after their gaol sentences, normal legal procedures would be followed.
Meanwhile, refugees supporting the Prai cause are dying on the border--many, especially the children, are critically ill and in urgent need of specialised medical treatment.
They told a reporter from ATN Channel 7 in Sydney, Bruce Stannard, that Indonesian troops pillaged their village, shot many dead and threatened the rest with rifles. They were allowed to leave, taking with them their meagre possessions on the arduous journey over the mountains into Papua New Guinea.
The refugees set up camp near a mission run by a former Australian priest, Father Graham Oswin. They also claimed that Indonesian planes were strafing villages over the border in an attempt to force the rebel army into the open
The PNG government and the United Nations are providing blankets and tents but disease will take a heavy toll unless food and medical attention is provided urgently.