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Australia grants interim visas to Papua boat people

Written by: Staff
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SYDNEY, Mar 23 (Reuters) Australia has granted temporary visas to 42 asylum seekers from Indonesia's troubled Papua province, despite Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urging Canberra to send them back.

The asylum seekers were found in late January on Cape York, Australia's northernmost point, after sailing for five days in a traditional outrigger with a banner accusing the Indonesian military of conducting genocide in their homeland.

Yudhoyono had phoned Australian Prime Minister John Howard and said the group should not be given political asylum and should be returned to Indonesia. He had given an assurance they would not be prosecuted.

A spokesman for Indonesia's Foreign Ministry warned in January that the issue could harm the neighbours close ties.

REUTERS SK SP1010

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