National | Indigenous

Papuan students who had scholarships cancelled will not be deported

Two of the West Papuan students who fought to keep their scholarships to study in Aotearoa.  Photo / File

Indigenous students from West Papua whose scholarships were cancelled by the Indonesian government will not be deported after assurances from Immigration New Zealand.

Green Party spokesperson for Pacific Peoples, Teanau Tuiono, who has Māori (Te Uriroroi, Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Takoto) and Cooks Islands whakapapa (Atiu – Ngāti Ingatu, Ngāti Toki, Ngāti Paerangi), said this was the result of weeks of advocacy by Green MPs, with the government agency agreeing to form a team to assess the students' future needs.

Tuiono said they had been calling on the government to "do its part to support the indigenous communities of West Papua".

“Dozens of West Papuan students are facing hardship and the prospect of not being able to finish their studies due to the cancellation of their scholarship by the Indonesian Government."

Tuiono, who issued a statement Friday, said they wrote to immigration minister Kris Faafoi asking him to "act urgently to issue new visas for the students" and are pleased the government is taking action and will "ideally grant them renewed visas for them to remain in Aotearoa".

“West Papuans are indigenous peoples who have been occupied by Indonesia. As a Pacific nation and signatory of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples we have a responsibility to support West Papuans and their struggle for self-determination," he said.

Ricardo Menéndez March, Green Party spokesperson for immigration, added that human rights concerns in their homeland made it even more important the students felt secure in Aotearoa.

“The ongoing alarming reports of human rights abuses in West Papua, mean the students could have been forced to return to their homelands without the security and tools they need to support their communities.

“The Government has shown us that where there is political will we can guarantee certainty and security for temporary visa holders," Menéndez March said.

“The prompt issuing of the Ukraine Special Visa and the renewal of up to 19,500 working holiday visas demonstrate there are levers the Minister of Immigration can pull to guarantee a safe pathway to remain in Aotearoa for students from West Papua.

“We are calling on the Government to guarantee replacement visas for the West Papuan students and to explore setting up a scholarship fund to do our part supporting indigenous peoples in the Pacific.”


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