British swimmers cross Lake Geneva with West Papua petition


A live clip from the Swim for West Papua crew early in the venture bound for Geneva.

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

A British team was today swimming a crushing 30 hours and covering 69 km straight across Lake Geneva to deliver a petition calling for self-determination in West Papua to the United Nations.

A message received after more than seven hours into the swim on the live Facebook page said:


“We, the Swim for West Papua team, want you to know why we swimming. We support the fundamental human rights, including (and especially) the right to self determination for the West Papua.

“Things on the boat are going well. We are 7.48 hours into the swim. The mood on the boat is good. We have been blessed with good weather – 26 degree water and 33 air temperature. Things are good here!

“We are gunning for West Papuan freedom! West Papua never give up your fight for freedom! We stand shoulder to shoulder with you and will support you in the fight for freedom!”

At 21 hours, one of the swimmers said on a live video feed: “It’s not as scary as I thought it would be.”

WATCH LIVE: #BackTheSwim

Under way … the Swim for West Papua across Lake Geneva, Switzerland, with a petition for the United Nations. Image: Swim for West Papua

A large campaign in support of the petition has been repressed by Indonesian security forces inside West Papua, with at least one Papuan leader, Yanto Awerkion, remaining imprisoned.

The British group, Swim for West Papua, in collaboration with the Free West Papua Campaign, has been gathering tens of thousands of signatures for months across the globe.

140,000 signatures
The petition has garnered over 140,000 signatories online and an as-yet-unknown number of paper signatories. Avaaz, one of the websites hosting the petition, has been completely banned in Indonesia for its involvement in the campaign.


West Papua, occupied by Indonesia since 1963, has been growing in international stature in recent years.

Over the past year, eight Pacific Island states have joined the Pacific Coalition for West Papua in calling for human rights and self-determination to be upheld in the territory.

In March, seven Pacific island governments called on the UN Human Rights Council to urgently consider the situation in West Papua.

Referencing the swim, the English-language daily The Jakarta Post said in an editorial the “campaign for an independent Papua has been relentless and has made significant gains in past years”.

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