They are part of 35, 550 prisoners released as part of the COVID-19 response by Indonesian authorities, who feared the virus transmission would spread and released those guilty of minor offences.
PNG Consul-General to Jayapura, Col. Geoffrey Wiri said in an interview with TVWan News, “During the global spread of COVID-19, in late March Indonesia announced its decision to release Indonesian prisoners in fear of inmates suffering COVID-19.
Based on that move, the PNG prisoners in various prison camps in Papua Province started making enquiries.
However he clarified there are two groups of prisoners, one are the illegal entry prisoners and the others serving time for drug trafficking.
“Twenty prisoners are in Jayapura, 81 in Abepura and Doyo Baru and 6 in Makassar. That’s a total 107 prisoners convicted of drug trafficking of marijuana and serving jail terms ranging from 4 years minimum to 12 years maximum. Their terms of release or arrangements for return home is a matter of discussion between the governments of PNG and Indonesia however, the PNG Government’s position is firm that these prisoners are not to be released on parole.” He said.
Consul General Wiri says, “ PNG media reports stated that the issue of the prisoners being released had been raised in dialogue between PNG Prime Minister Marape and Indonesian President Jokowi concerning the COVID-19 Joint Border Operations.”
“The ten citizens who will be repatriated back first are those who were detained for illegal entry into Indonesia, five others remain in police custody over the same offence awaiting their court appearances.”