The Jakarta Post
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Asylum seekers back in Papua
Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Merauke
Two Papuans who sought asylum in Australia in 2006 have returned
to their hometowns, claiming they did not get what had been
promised before they left.
Hana Gobay, from Merauke, and Yubel Kareni, from Serui, were
part of a group of 43 Papuans who crossed the sea on a boat to
Australia on Jan. 13, 2006, claiming they had been oppressed and
were thus seeking asylum.
But their motives were revealed to be based on economics rather
than politics, at least in the case of Hana.
The 43 Papuans arrived at Cape York demanding asylum, while Hana
was promised she would be able to continue to higher education
when offered the opportunity to leave for Australia.
Hana claimed she paid Rp 7 million to Herman Wanggai, the leader
of the fleeing Papuans, for a passport and visa.
When rounded up on Christmas Island, the group was asked by a
lawyer from an NGO to sign a letter agreeing not to communicate
with any Indonesians in Australia.
After three months of assimilation on Christmas Island, the
group was then dispersed to various cities in Australia, with
Hana and Yubel sent to Melbourne. The two received protection
visas and were placed in a home designated for poor people.
Hana was given English language and computer courses while in
the halfway house.
In July, Yubel gained access to the Indonesian Consulate General
in Melbourne and contacted Jahar Gultom, the consul for economic
affairs, expressing her wish to be repatriated.
The consulate general contacted the Indonesian Embassy in
Canberra, which then reported the matter to the Foreign Ministry
“Their wish to go home was then taken care of by the Australian
and Indonesian governments,” said Jahar, who accompanied Hana to
When other asylum seekers learned of the pair’s intention to go
home, rumors spread that they would be jailed and killed once
they arrived in Indonesia.
“The rumors were circulated by Herman. But I am sure they are
not true, and I was committed to going home,” Hana said.
“I miss my parents and hometown. My future is in Papua and not
in Australia. The promises were not fulfilled.”
Other asylum seekers said if Hana and Yubel were unharmed after
returning home, they would follow suit.
“If they want to return, we will take care of them because they
are Indonesian citizens,” Jahar said.
Arriving at Mopah Airport in Merauke on a flight from Bali, Hana
was greeted with tears and hugs by her mother Bastina Gobay and
other family members.
“Welcome home,” a tearful Bastina said.
“We considered her a missing daughter, but we kept praying she
would return. God has answered our prayers and now we are
Merauke Regent John Gluba Gebze was also on hand to welcome
Hana, saying happiness “could only be found in one’s own
“There is no freedom and independence as free as those in our
own country. Why look for freedom in a foreign land?” he said.
Hana expressed her desire to share her knowledge in English and
computers by teaching Papuan children.