CSO demands access for Indonesian Red Cross to West Papua

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The Papuan Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua) has demanded the Indonesian Government to take urgent measures to provide humanitarian help to victims of internal displacement in multiple regencies of West Papua through the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI). The statement followed recent outbreaks of armed violence in the regency of Mimika which reportedly caused the displacement of over 1.500 indigenous peoples from the district of Tembagapura in early March 2020. The internal displacement of civilians in Tembagapura is not an isolated case. In late December 2019 and January 2020, residents of 15 villages in the regency of Intan Jaya fled their homes after the Indonesian Government deployed additional military units to the regency to conduct a wide-ranging military operation. Other cases of internal displacement due to the military operations and armed clashes in West Papua have been reported from the regencies Puncak, Lanny Jaya and Nduga throughout 2019.

Only few internally displaced persons (IDPs) in West Papua have received temporary aid from civil solidarity movements and some local government agencies. The majority of IDPs are left to themselves. They are stuck in multiple Papuan cities where they live in church facilities, temporary shelters or with relatives, unable to return to their homes as long as security force operations are ongoing. Despite the legal foundation for the provision of Red Cross services during social conflict and natural disasters, the Government has not taken meaningful steps to help IDPs in West Papua through the PMI.  The Director of the Papuan Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua), Emanuel Gobai, explained that "Law No. 1/2018 on the Red Cross requires the organisation to assist displaced persons in times of peace and conflict by taking into account the principles of humanity, equality, neutrality, independence, volunteerism, universality and others."

In March 2018, the Head of the PMI Central hHadquarters, Sunarbowo Sandi, stated in an interview that PMI was “carrying out the mandate of Law No. 1/ 2018 and Government regulation (PP) No. 7/ 2019. The PMI must play an active role in providing humanitarian services during all conditions – during times of peace, if disasters occurs or for refugees in times of social conflict". According to Sunarbowo, the PMI had already entered into communication with several of the local governments in the province of Papua, among them those in Jayawijaya and Lanny Jaya. He stated that the PMI will continue to strengthen the local PMI branch in Papua to improve the humanitarian services. However, Sunarbowo did not elaborate whether the PMI will provide humanitarian services in West Papua after the latest outbreaks of violence in the regencies of Mimika, Nduga and Lanny Jaya.