West Papuan refugee crisis

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In early 2006, a furore erupted in Indonesia over the Australian government's decision to grant temporary protection visas to 42 West Papuan asylum seekers. The controversy caused diplomatic tension as well as a "war of cartoons", with newspapers in Indonesia and Australia trading hits over a decision that the Indonesians say questions the sovereignty that they officially have over West Papua.[1][2][3]

The issue was caused by the Australian Government's decision through the immigration department to allow visas to 42 refugees that arrived in January. Part of the Indonesian concern is based on the speed at which these asylum seekers were processed – forty-two were processed in just two months, with the remaining asylum seeker having been approved in mid-April. The Indonesian government took the move as a direct challenge, inferring that the approval of the temporary protection visas indicated that the Australian Governmnent agreed with the West Papuans that they face persecution if they returned home.


On 27 March 2006, Indonesian newspaper Rakyat Merdeka published a front-page editorial cartoon depicting the then Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer as dingoes. The cartoon was intended to protest the acceptance of the Papuan refugees by the Australian Government.[4]

The Weekend Australian published a retaliatory cartoon by Bill Leak on 1 April 2006, apparently depicting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as a dog, copulating with a Papuan native.[5]

Alexander Downer labelled both cartoons "tasteless and grotesque", while Andi Mallarangeng, the spokesperson for President Yudhoyono said the cartoon was "in poor taste".[6]

In response to The Australian cartoon, Indonesian activists in Makassar, South Sulawesi, demanded that Australian guests be evicted from their hotels and searched hotels across the city for tourists from the country.[7]


Notes and citations[edit]

  1. ^ "Lurid cartoon adds to Australia-Indonesia strains". One India. Reuters. 30 March 2006. Archived from the original on 2 October 2016. 
  2. ^ "Satirists put the bite on Howard". The Sydney Morning Herald. 30 March 2006. Archived from the original on 14 April 2006. 
  3. ^ "Dingo cartoon fails to faze Howard". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 30 March 2006. Archived from the original on 13 June 2007. 
  4. ^ "Rudd slams 'disgusting' cartoon". The Age. 30 March 2006. Archived from the original on 2 October 2016. 
  5. ^ Hyland, Tom; Debelle, Penelope (2 April 2006). "Cartoon anger fears". The Age. Archived from the original on 2 October 2016. 
  6. ^ "Australian cartoon irks Indonesia". BBC. 1 April 2006. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. 
  7. ^ Forbes, Mark; Grattan, Michelle (5 April 2006). "Papuan boat arrival fuels crisis". The Age. Archived from the original on 18 January 2016. 


See also[edit]