IPD Update, Nov 2023: The IDP crisis persists across West Papua

Maybrat Regency

The Secretariat of Justice and Peace (SKP in Indonesian) of the Catholic Church visited IDPs who were victims of the Kisor conflict more than two years ago in the Maybrat Regency. They had to flee their home villages and seek refuge in the Sorong district. The SKP has urged the government to facilitate a safe return of the refugees to their hometowns. 

Despite government and TNI/Polri statements claiming that refugees have returned to their hometowns, reports from various sources, including Komnas HAM, reveal that many refugees, including those from Maybrat, have not been able to return. The living conditions of the IDPs are dire, with overcrowding, limited resources, and inadequate access to education and healthcare. Tragically, more than ten people have lost their lives in these camps.

Maybrat refugees like PF and FA in Sorong express their desire to return to their hometowns and live in peace again. They call for the military to withdraw from East Aifat and urge all parties to dialogue to find peaceful solutions to the conflict, in line with Maybrat cultural traditions.

Yahukimo Regency

The Head of the Representative Office of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) Papua, Frits B Ramandey, has urged the Yahukimo Regency Government in Highland Papua Province to take serious measures to address the refugee crisis resulting from conflict in Yahukimo Regency. Ramandey has also called upon the conflicting parties to prioritise dialogue as a means to resolve the issues in Papua. According to Ramandey, approximately 674 residents from Yahukimo have been internally displaced as a consequence of the ongoing conflict. 

Ramandey emphasised the pressing need for government intervention to address the refugees’ essential requirements, including security, shelter, and basic necessities. On 13 September 2023, a one-year-old toddler named Yulian Matuan passed away due to malaria after spending three weeks in a refugee camp in Dekai, Yahukimo.

The vulnerable position of the refugees also raises concerns about their safety. Ramandey highlighted an incident involving two women, Aminera Kabak and Ima Selepole, who were attacked in Dekai, Yahukimo Regency. The attack on AK occurred on the morning of 11 October 2023, while she was gardening. She was found dead on the same day with multiple stab wounds. IS, on the other hand, was attacked while walking with her 6-year-old son. The child fled to seek help after witnessing the attack on his mother. IS sustained multiple stab wounds and was receiving treatment at the Dekai Regional General Hospital (RSUD). The police are investigating the case but have not yet published any findings.

Puncak Regency

On 20 October 2023, approximately 70 residents of Eronggobak Village in Omukia District, Puncak Regency, Papua, were internally displaced and sought refuge around a military post due to fear of further attacks by separatist groups. 

First Marshal Deni Hasoloan Simanjuntak, the head of Kaskogabwilhan III, reported that dozens of people, mostly mothers and children, sought safety at the Eromaga Post of the Mobile Raider 300/BJW Task Force located in Omukia District. They were concerned about the presence of foreigners suspected to be members of an armed independence group who were reportedly carrying sharp weapons and bows.

The displacement is believed to be a response to a previous attack on 23 workers from PT Gloria Papua Permai, who were involved in building a healthcare facility (Puskesmas). This incident occurred on 19 October 2023 and resulted in one worker’s death, with two others sustaining injuries from arrows. The IDPs were reportedly accommodated in Eromaga Village.

The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), which claimed responsibility for the attack, has issued warnings since 2018, stating that civilians, especially migrants, should leave areas designated as conflict zones. These areas include Puncak Jaya, Timika, Intan Jaya, Puncak, Nduga, Yahukimo, Pegunungan Bintang, Maybrat, and now Fakfak. 

Pegunungan Bintang Regency

In the Pegunungan Bintang Regency several people have died due to a severe lack of access to healthcare (see photo on top, source: WPCC). This crisis has persisted from the onset of the conflict and continues to affect the region until October 2023.

The IDPs in the Kiwirok area have been plagued by various health issues, including persistent coughing and bleeding. It is suspected that mortar smoke from the conflict has begun to have adverse effects on both the elderly and children, exacerbating their health conditions. 

The victims include:

  1. Merri Melanesia, aged 2 years and 3 months, who passed away due to severe coughing and bleeding. She hailed from the village of Lolim and died at the refuge site of Okding Aip on 2 October 2023.
  2. Tamkon Ningmabin, a 3-year-old child from Delpem, who also suffered from severe coughing and bleeding. He lost her life in the refuge site of Okdikia on 29 September 2023.
  3. Melongki, a 19-year-old adolescent male from Delpem died in the refuge site of Okpakyolki on 8 September 2023 due to the absence of medical access and continuous coughing with bleeding.
  4. Mama Ese Uopmabin, a 70-year-old woman from Lolim, died in the refuge site of Ngumolkonaka Bakon on 17 August 2023. Like others, her death was a result of the absence of medical access and persistent coughing with bleeding.

The situation remains dire, with refugees compelled to seek shelter in the forest, leading to inadequate food intake and a lack of health assistance, particularly affecting children, the elderly, and individuals of all ages.

On the other hand, approximately 300 residents of Serambakon District in Pegunungan Bintang Regency, have returned to their homes after being displaced. Efforts to restore security conditions in the area involve intensive security operations, and routine patrols featuring the military and police, and intelligence personnel. These efforts aim to secure the region and prevent further disturbances. Community involvement is key and includes meetings held with community and religious leaders to rebuild.

The Pegunungan Bintang Regional Government reports that it is providing basic food assistance to returning residents and supporting the repair of damaged infrastructure, including hospitals, bridges, roads, and schools.