Six West Papuans have fled across the border to Australia after being sought by Indonesian authorities for participating in a Freedom Flotilla to West Papua ceremonial function at sea with Australian Indigenous Elders. A press release issued by the organisers of the Freedom Flotilla said, they six West Papuans have been detained by Australian Immigration after reaching Boigu Island in Australia on Tuesday.
The release said, the cultural ceremony of passing on the symbolic gifts of sacred water and ashes was the culmination of the Freedom Flotilla to West from Australia to West Papua.
The ceremony was intended as a symbolic reunification of the peoples and struggles of Indigenous West Papuans and Australians.
However, it had to be conducted in secret after Indonesian authorities refused permission for the Australian participants to enter Indonesian waters and threatened to arrest or respond violently to their arrival, the release said
Indonesian authorities had also refused permission for Papuans to hold a welcoming ceremony for the Freedom Flotilla in its destination port of Merauke.
Indonesia security agencies had surrounded the house of the welcoming committee's chairman Jhon Wob to stop him from organising the event.
The release said, despite the intimidation, a small ceremony was held at a remote beach, sending origami boats south towards the Australian mainland.
Reports say, families of those who participated in the ceremony are being harassed by Indonesian intelligence agencies in a bid to identify the people who participated in the ceremony.
As reported earlier, four Papuans from Sorong already charged with treason for holding a congregation to pray for the safe passage of the Freedom Flotilla - a charge which carries a maximum life imprisonment.
Freedom Flotilla Spokesperson Ruben Blake expressed fears, the six refugees having been arrested by Australian authorities will be sent back to Indonesia.
"In this case if they 'turn back the boats' the Australian government would be sending them directly back to the country from where they have fled from persecution. Sending refugees back to a country where holding a ceremony can get you arrested, or refusing to cut your hair can get you killed, would be criminal," Blake said.
Amos Wainggai, himself a refugee, said that "these people have no choice but escape from Indonesia. Now the intelligence is hunting them, they must run otherwise be arrested or killed. They need a safe place to live like I have now in Australia."
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