« Home 

04 April 2006 

Questioning Australian asylum granting policy

By Yasmi Adriansyah, Oxford
The Jakarta Post, 4 April 2006

The granting of Temporary Protection visas by the Australian authorities to 42 Indonesians from Papua Province has caused diplomatic problems between thetwo countries. Indonesia has called its envoy home while waiting for aconvincing explanation and further reaction from the Australian Government. Diplomaticties between the two have plummeted, instead of peaking as they should haveafter a recent official visit by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyonoto Australia.

Indonesia's position is clear -- Australia should not have granted any visassince the Papuans were not under threat or facing political abuse. Furthermore, Indonesia knows that Australia officially recognizes Indonesia'sintegrityand does not support the Papuan separatists. Hence, granting visas to Papuansis considered a double standard, a game played by Australia, as the fleeingfigures often claim human rights violations in the easternmost province ofIndonesia.

Since the ball is now in Australia's hands, let us now ask Australia why thispolicy took place.

Australia's statement that its asylum policy is independent is its right.Because of this, Australia should be able to convince Indonesia of the legalbasis of the policy's principles. If Australia fails to provide a legal explanation of the policy, it is logical for Indonesia to consider Australia ashaving avested interest in Papua.

Based on this reason, Australia should be very careful in stating the explanation since Indonesians are not people without knowledge. Indonesiansmightalso have questioned how a policy of one government body could be independentfrom the Federal Government.

There is no doubt that Indonesia should respect Australia's claim that thegranting of the visas to the Papuans was in accordance with the country's legislation and international law. It is commonly understood in internationalrelations that national jurisdiction and international law are put in highesteem.Again, it is the right of Australia to conduct any policy it wishes to.Nevertheless, the policy on seeking asylum within Australia should beconducted consistently in order not to be regarded as having a hidden agenda.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), a non-governmental organization, has released areport titled By Invitation Only: Australian Asylum Policy. In this report, HRWwrites that Australia has been using a double standard in its treatment towardasylum seekers by accepting some "preferred" asylum seekers while at the sametime rejecting others.

Why did the Australian authorities move so quickly to grant the Papuans visas? This question is legitimate since there is no coherence between thepreviouspolicy (in rejecting the asylum seekers) and the current one. Even thoughIndonesian President Yudhoyono had told Prime Minister John Howard that thePapuans were not suffering political abuse and requested Howard send them backtoIndonesia, Australia chose to move backward by granting the visas.

As one of its closest neighbors and friends, Australia definitely knows howsensitive this issue is for Indonesia. The top priority on Indonesia's agenda is national integrity. The tragedy of East Timor was very bitter for Indonesia and it has been trying hard not to repeat its miserable history. Therefore, any attempts to upset national integrity will heavily counteracted by the Government.

Australia keeps saying that it supports Indonesian national integrity. Sadly, by granting visas to the Papuans, Australia has already given fuel to theseparatist movement which Indonesia for years has been trying to control. That Indonesia feels betrayed by Australia is understandable.

Indonesia has shown its clear and strong position against Australia's behavior. By recalling its envoy, Indonesia has given a signal that it is even willing to sacrifice good relations with its neighbor for the sake of national integrity.

Australia could buy time and hope Indonesia's anger will ease later. Nevertheless, since Indonesia is very firm in its position, the quiet reaction ofAustralia might not help at all. As long as there is no change of its policytoward the Papuans, it is very unlikely Indonesia will consider recovering itstieswith Australia. In other words, diplomatic relations between the two countries at the currenttime depend on Australia. Indonesia has made its opinion of the matter clear. The choice to make relations better or worse rests, at this point, with theother side.

Quo vadis, Australia?

About us

Quote of the Day

Previous posts

Syndication & Statistic

    Syndicate this site (XML)

    Subscribe to Brainstorm

    Add to Google

    Blogger Templates

    eXTReMe Tracker