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.
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 Government agreed with the West Papuans that they face persecution if they returned home.