Prime Minister Tony Abbott has come under fire on a Indonesian newspaper after 31 people died trying to reach Australian shores.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirmed today that four asylum seeker boats had arrived in the last week, including a small group of Papuan activists with links to the Indigenous Freedom Flotilla.
Mr Abbott left Sydney today on his first official visit as Prime Minister and he's headed to Indonesia. But with the heads of 30 Pacific Nations set to meet in less than a week at the APEC summit, the Freedom Flotilla and West Papuan asylum seekers could be an unwanted topic of discussion for a prime minister looking to strengthen relationships with Indonesia.
“And I have said, and I mean, that while Indonesia may not yet be our most important economic or security relationship, it is in many respects our most important relationship,” Mr Abbott said before leaving.
Since Sovereign Borders has been operational, one of the boats that arrived in Australian waters was carrying a group of West Papuan activists, and West Papua is officially Indonesian territory.
After showing solidarity with the group on the Freedom Flotilla, they themselves had to flee Indonesia and seek asylum in Australia. But instead of being sent to Australia, or to Nauru or Manus Island, they were sent to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.
In 2006, the Howard government granted asylum to 43 West Papuan refuges. They were among a group of protesters who gathered outside the Immigration department in Melbourne today. They claim that PNG is not a safe option.
One of the elders involved in the Freedom Flotilla, Kevin Buzzacott, says if Australia is really concerned about "sovereign borders", they should stop supporting Indonesia's claims of sovereignty over West Papua.
"The West Papuans have sovereignty over West Papua, not Indonesia. So Indonesia needs to go back to their country and claim their sovereign title there".