Asia-Pacific Report Press Office
West Papuan students stranded in Aotearoa New Zealand by an abrupt cancellation of their Indonesian government scholarships earlier this year as they tried to complete their degrees and diplomas can breathe easy with the latest news.
It is understood that Immigration New Zealand told them they would not be deported while New Zealand considered their fate.
After weeks of advocacy by Green MPs, an immigration team will now be formed to assess the students’ future needs.
“The Green Party has called on the government to do its part to support the indigenous communities of West Papua and we are pleased that action is being taken,” said Teanau Tuiono, Green Party spokesperson for Pacific Peoples.
Tuiono – with Papuan student spokesperson Laurens Ikinia, Professor David Robie, editor of Asia-Pacific Reportand the leader of the opposition National Federation party, Professor Biman Prasad, a former scholar of the University of the South Pacific, spoke at a seminar on the issue at Whānau Community Center in Auckland yesterday.
Ikinia welcomed the news that none of the Papuan students would be deported and praised the community support they were receiving in New Zealand.
“Dozens of students from West Papua are facing hardship and the prospect of not being able to complete their studies due to the cancellation of their scholarship by the Indonesian government,” Tuiono said in a statement.
Urgent action requested
“We wrote to [Immigration Minister Kris] Faafoi asking him to act urgently to issue new visas to students from West Papua.
“We are pleased that government agencies are taking steps to assess the needs of students from West Papua and ideally grant them renewed visas to stay in Aotearoa.
“The West Papuans are indigenous people who have been occupied by Indonesia. As a Pacific nation and a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we have a responsibility to support West Papuans and their struggle for self-determination.
“Helping students come to Aotearoa to study and stay is a tangible way of doing our part to support the people of West Papua,” Tuiono said.
Dr. Robie published an open letter in Asia-Pacific Report yesterday asking for the minister’s help for the 34 New Zealand students, ranging from masters and diploma students to a high school student.
“They must complete their education here in New Zealand because returning to a low wage economy, high unemployment, the ravages of the covid-19 pandemic and an insurgency war for independence will ruin their educational prospects. “, did he declare.
“Papuan students studying in Australia and New Zealand face difficult and stressful challenges apart from the language barrier.”
The open letter adds:
“Minister Faafoi, New Zealand can surely open its arms and embrace Papuan students, offering them humanitarian aid, first through extended visas, and then helping them with their financial situation.”
Alarming human rights violations
Ricardo Menéndez March, Green Party spokesperson for immigration, said:
“Ongoing alarming reports of human rights abuses in West Papua mean that students could have been forced to return to their home countries without the safety and tools they need to support their communities”
“The government has shown us that where there is political will, we can provide certainty and security for temporary visa holders.
“The rapid issuance of the special visa for Ukraine and the renewal of up to 19,500 working holiday visas demonstrate that there are levers the Minister of Immigration can use to ensure a safe pathway to stay in Aotearoa for students from West Papua.
“We call on the government to guarantee replacement visas for students from West Papua and to consider establishing a scholarship fund to do our part for the indigenous people of the Pacific,” said Menéndez March.