Papuans displaced by military operations in the central highlands remain unassisted

Report: Papuans displaced by military operations in the central highlands remain unassisted
IDMC & NRC, 13 October 2010

Since May 2010 and particularly in May and June, an unknown number of Papuans, ranging from several hundreds to several thousands, have been reported to be internally displaced in the central highlands region of Puncak Jaya, where the government of Indonesia has been conducting counter-insurgency operations against rebels of the OPM (Free Papua Movement). Fleeing the army’s “sweeping operations”, which are often accompanied by severe human rights violations, most internally displaced people (IDPs) have taken shelter in the jungle, where they have very limited or no access to basic necessities of life including food, shelter, water and health care. Following past waves of violence, displaced Papuans living in similar conditions have faced malnutrition, disease and sometimes death.

The high level of violence and destruction carried out by the armed forces, such as the burning of homes and properties, the destruction of vegetable gardens and other means of livelihoods including livestock, makes the prospects of recovery and durable solutions poor. The recovery process is also hampered by the lack of access to basic services in these very remote places.

Lack of independent access to the conflict-affected areas in the central highlands makes it difficult to get any reliable estimates on the number of people affected by the military operations, or to assess the IDPs’ humanitarian needs and to provide assistance. The government generally does not recognise people displaced by conflict in Papua as IDPs and provides no specific assistance.

Host communities and church groups are the main providers of assistance, but the church groups as well as human rights NGOs have often been viewed with suspicion by the government, which has considered some as too close to the OPM and as supporting separatism. Activities of international organisations are also limited and closely monitored. Since 2009, a number of international organisations have been banned from the Papuan provinces.