Armed clashes between the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) and Indonesian security forces have caused the internal displacement of thousands of indigenous Papuans from the regencies of Nduga, Intan Jaya and Mimika. Local human rights observers have estimated their total number at around 60,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Particularly, IDPs’ situation from Nduga is of great concern – most of them have already been displaced since December 2018, and an end of military operations in their regency is not yet in sight. The large majority of IDPs are left to themselves, without humanitarian aid from the government, relevant state agencies or the Red Cross. They are not able to return to their villages due to ongoing military raids in the Papuan central highlands which continue to be accompanied by cases of torture and extra-judicial killings.
Download joint report on humanitarian crisis in West Papua here
400 Nduga IDPs died since January 2019
The vast majority of IDPs in West Papua originate from 12 districts in the Nduga Regency – their total number is estimated at 45,000 people. About 8,000 of them have sought shelter in the Jayawijaya Regency. According to solidarity groups, 400 IDPs have died since January 2019 in Jayawijaya alone due to diseases and other strains they face there.
A humanitarian aid team from the Cenderawasih University which visited Nduga IDPs in Jayawijaya in late November 2020, stated that many IDPs struggle with health issues. Particularly skin diseases appear to be among the most common forms of health challenges. The diseases mainly affect children between the age of eight months and 15 years. The Central Government has tried to provide humanitarian aid to Nduga IDPs in Wamena. However, cultural perceptions among the Nduga people impede them from accepting food from the “enemy” during conflict times.
IDPs from Nduga explained that almost the entire regency is paralysed due to the ongoing military operations in multiple districts. Meanwhile, nearly all indigenous Papuans have left their villages as essential government services like healthcare and education are only functional in the town of Kenyam. However, many IDPs refuse to stay in Kenyam due to police and military forces’ heavy presence.
Raga Kogeya, a human rights defender from Nduga, pointed at multiple IDPs challenges in a media interview with media outlet Jubi. Many IDPs outside of Jayawijaya face difficulties to access sufficient food and even firewood because the landlords do not want the IDPs to settle in their areas, said Kogeya.
IDPs in Intan Jaya finally receive food donations
The total number of IDPs from Intan Jaya is estimated at 13,000 people. The vast majority of them come from the district of Hitadipa. Some of the IDPs have moved to Intan Jaya’s largest town Sugapa, where they live with relatives and friends. Others have moved to larger cities in neighbouring regencies, such as Timika and Nabire. Sugapa is heavily controlled by the police and the military, who closely monitor indigenous people’s activities and use threats and acts of intimidation against them. For more than two months, the IDPs from Intan Jaya did not receive any form of humanitarian support from the government.
According to media sources, the IDPs recently received food supplies from the provincial government. On 30 November 2020, the IDPs from Hitadipa residing in the town of Sugapa finally received food supplies (see photo on top, source: Jubi) from a provincial government humanitarian support team and the Christian Evangelical Church in Indonesia (GKII). The IDPs in other regencies continue to be left to themselves, without access to food, shelter and medical supplies from the government.
The first internal displacement of 1,237 indigenous peoples from Intan Jaya occurred in December 2019 after TPN PB fighters killed 2 Indonesian soldiers. A second wave took place in the Hitadipa district, shortly after military members allegedly executed Rev. Yeremia Zanambani in the Bomba village on 19 September 2020. A third wave of internal displacement was observed after the military members conducted multiple raids in Hitadipa on 2 and 3 October 2020.
Since early October, almost all residents have left the Hitadipa District – houses, gardens and domesticated animals abandoned. The IDPs declared they wouldn’t return to their villages as long as the police and military continue to operate in Hitadipa.
IDPs in Timika demand return to their villages
In early March 2020, joint security personnel forced indigenous Papuans in the villages Opitawak, Waa, Aroanop, Tsinga, Banti and Kimbeli to leave their homes and move to the town of Timika after repeated attacks by TPN PB forces against police and Freeport workers. According to human rights observers, 1,752 IDPs are stranded in Timika without humanitarian support from the central, provincial or local government. The indigenous villagers live with relatives or in temporary shelters. Some IDPs had sufficient financial means to rent a boarding house. Many of them have difficulties to adjust to the living conditions in Timika, where food and other essential supplies can only be purchased with money. Some IDPs have become sick since they moved to Timika, eight IDPs have reportedly died due to the strains they experienced since the internal displacement.
The IDPs in Timika have repeatedly urged the government to organise the return of IDPs to their villages. The media outlet Jubi reported on 25 November 2020 that the Regent of Mimika Regency Eltinus Omaleng continues to prevent the IDPs from returning to their homes. According to Omaleng, the security situation in the Tembagapura District is still critical. Jubi also stated that the regent had not visited the IDPs since their displacement to get an immediate impression of their living conditions on the ground.
On 15 November 2020, Lokataru, a Jakarta-based human rights NGO acting as the legal representative of IDPs from the villages Aroanop, Waa, Banti and Tsinga, published a media release in which he formulated four demands to the Indonesian government. Firstly, the local government, PT Freeport Indonesia and joint security forces must immediately ensure that the situation in Tembagapura is safe enough to allow the IDPs to return to their homes. Secondly, the local government, PT Freeport Indonesia and joint security forces should accompany a group of IDP representatives to their villages to ensure that the villages’ condition is safe. Thirdly, the local government, PT Freeport Indonesia, and joint security forces shall ensure the highest level of transparency regarding the villages’ security situation. Fourthly, the local government must facilitate the return of IDPs to their villages as soon as their condition is safe.
Download joint report on humanitarian crisis in West Papua here