Irian Jaya, which covers the western half of the island of New Guinea, and shares a 725-kilometer border with PNG, has been an Indonesian province since 1963. The terrain, climate, flora and fauna are much like PNG. The people are mainly Melanesian and Christian, and the Christian missions run schools and provide health services. The official language is Bahasa Indonesia and there are several hundred local languages. There are nine administrative districts. The capital is the coastal town of Jayapura which is only 65 kilometers west of Vanimo, the headquarters of the Sandaun Province of PNG.
The Indonesian goverment has been encouraging migration to Irian Jaya, mainly from the overcrowded island of Java. Some Melanesians oppose the Indonesian government and a rebel group, Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM), was formed to fight for Irian Jayan independence. Thousands of Irian Jayans have fled into PNG to escape fighting between the OPM and Indonesian troops. In 1986 PNG accepted the 1951 United Nations Convention on refugees and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees became involved in the screening and supervision of voluntary repatriation, and subsequently, the resettlement of some refugees within PNG. Repatriation was continuing in the second half of 1993.