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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 March 2006, 06:02 GMT
Papua refugees get Australia visa
Map showing Indonesia's Papua province
Australia has granted temporary visas to dozens of asylum seekers from Indonesia's restive Papua province.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said 42 of a group of 43 people would be given temporary protection visas, entitling them to stay for three years.

The 43 Papuans arrived in Australia by boat in January, saying they were fleeing abuses by Indonesia's military.

Jakarta says they have nothing to fear and has warned granting asylum could strain its relations with Australia.

Indonesian President Sushilo Bambang Yudhoyono had phoned Australia's Prime Minister John Howard to urge that the refugees be sent back.

Separatist insurgency

Ms Vanstone said the Papuans would now be transferred from a holding centre on remote Christmas Island to Melbourne in southern Australia.

"This is not a country-to-country decision, it is individual decisions based on evidence put forward by the individuals themselves and third-party reports," she said.

A decision was still to be made on one of the asylum seekers, she added.

A low-level separatist insurgency has been going on for decades in Papua, where the Indonesian authorities are frequently accused of human rights abuses.

The group of Papuans reportedly includes leading pro-independence activists from the province.

Indonesia gained sovereignty over Papua - a former Dutch colony - in 1969.

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