Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Herald's chief political correspondent laments : "All change, but little of it in the right direction"

Read Louise Dodson's article. An excerpt follows:

"The most pervasive change to Parliament, our democracy and legal system has been the response to terrorism sparked by September 11, 2001, and the Bali bombings. People were stopped from walking over the grassy hill covering the new Parliament building, which was an attraction of the original design. Security barriers were installed to prevent people driving close to the building. Police checks for permanent security pass holders have been tightened.

The new Parliament resembles a fortress more than a people's house; possibly inevitable, but still a shame.

Fear of terrorism also struck the law, sweeping away many democratic freedoms in 29 pieces of legislation passed since September 11.

The anti-terrorism legislation includes restrictions on freedom of expression, police powers to issue control orders (including house arrest) and holding people without charge for up to 14 days, and new surveillance powers. The Law Council said that for the first time in Australian history, law enforcement agencies would be able to read private emails, telephone text messages and other information sent between people who are not suspects...

Nineteen Eighty-Four was the title of George Orwell's classic novel depicting a state ruled by Big Brother, but many saw 2006 as the year Orwell's fantasy came closer to reality in Australia.

Fear of asylum seekers arriving by boat sparked a disproportionate response by the Government, which created an elaborate system for processing and detaining people. If not for the courageous opposition of a handful of small "l" Liberal parliamentarians - including Petro Georgiou, Bruce Baird, Judi Moylan and Judith Troeth - the system for dealing with asylum seekers would be far harsher. Intervention by Georgiou and others also softened aspects of the anti-terrorism laws...

As in 1984, many policies are designed to adapt Australia to something largely out of the Government's control: the global marketplace.

Voters now are less likely to be true believers of either main party, but I hope they will not give up on politics. We don't want our democracy to become a museum."

Yes, Louise, it's a worry and I hope more senior political journalists shine a light on the dimunition of freedoms and rights that are a hallmark of Howard's government.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Lack of integrity one thing but lack of respect for human rights and the sanctity of life another, writes Robin Rothfield in an opinon piece

Robin writes:

"As today is the fifth anniversary of the ill-fated voyage from Indonesia that led to the Tampa incident, it is timely to look critically at the fallout, not just for John Howard, but the Labor party.

It is apparent that Howard, when directing that the Tampa return to Indonesia, failed to consider that his orders could put lives at risk — lives of the crew as well as of the asylum seekers.

Then there was the failure to arrange for civilian doctors and nurses from Christmas Island to visit the Tampa to treat the sick.

Howard's obsession with the control of borders meant that the suffering of the survivors was ignored. Even permission for one of Captain Rinnan's boats to go ashore and get medical supplies and a doctor was denied. The Red Cross was also blocked from the Tampa.

This inhumane policy was continued with later boats. A pregnant woman aboard SIEV 3 was denied permission to be flown to hospital even though the request had been sought by a military officer on grounds of possible delivery complications.

On board Harapindah, a navy doctor requested that a pregnant woman be allowed ashore. This request also was refused and the woman experienced uterine bleeding for one month.

Most tragic of all was the sinking of SIEV X on October 19, 2001, in which 353 mainly Iraqi refugees lost their lives. This boat sank 300 kilometres north of Christmas Island, within Australia's operational zone as announced by John Howard on September 1, 2001."

Nauru calls on Australia to resolve detainee plight

Following is a transcript of the report on the 7.30 report last week. It is about time progressive minded Nauruan leaders spoke out against their exploitation by the Howard Government. Doubtless bully boy tactics will be honed up to put Nauru back in its place. It is notable that no Ministers would front for this interview:

"KERRY O'BRIEN: Ever since the 'Tampa' crisis five years ago, the island of Nauru has been at the centre of Australia's so-called Pacific Solution for processing asylum seekers. More than 1,200 asylum seekers were detained there, most of them gradually being granted refugee status. But since late last year, the Nauru Detention Centre has held just two men. And one of those men, an Iraqi, was recently flown to Brisbane for urgent psychiatric treatment. The Nauru Government says that after more than four years, it's time for Australia to resolve the plight of these two detainees. But as Peter McCutcheon reports, while both men are considered refugees, they've been left in limbo due to adverse security assessments from ASIO.

PETER McCUTCHEON: This is one of two refugees ASIO has labelled a threat to Australian security, but Muhammad Faisal - who was filmed by a friend on Nauru three months ago - says he has no idea why.

SUSAN METCALFE, REFUGEE ADVOCATE: He will say, "Why, only me? He doesn't understand. He truly does not understand what's happened to him.

MUHAMMAD FAISAL: No friend. No anything. No sleeping. All the time you are thinking is very bad. Bad dreams.

PETER McCUTCHEON: The 25-year-old fled Iraq five years ago. He and more than 200 others were taken to Nauru after their small wooden boat was intercepted on the Indian Ocean by the Australian Navy. Last weekend, Muhammad Faisal was flown into Brisbane for psychiatric treatment because of concerns he would kill himself. That leaves fellow countryman Mohammed Sagar, who has also been assessed a security threat, as the last asylum seeker on Nauru. Their plight provides a challenge for Australia's policy of processing asylum seekers offshore.

SENATOR ANDREW BARTLETT, AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS: It's a perfect example of what happens when you have a government that doesn't care about basic rules of justice and basic fairness.

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE, IMMIGRATION MINISTER: They have an adverse security assessment. I don't think Australians want us to bring people to Australia who have an adverse security assessment, but we are very concerned and we're doing everything we can.

PETER McCUTCHEON: Five years ago, the Australian Government set up detention centres on Pacific islands in order to discourage and stop boat people entering Australian waters. The largest of these centres was set up on Nauru, which has processed nearly 1,200 people since 2001. Most of these have been accepted as refugees. With each goodbye, the numbers on Nauru have dwindled, until last November there were just two men left.

SUSAN METCALFE: I've just been able to get a visa again on the basis of my research and it means a lot to the two men that I can came there and spend some time with them.

PETER McCUTCHEON: Susan Metcalfe is a refugee advocate who was doing research on the effects of the Australian Government's Pacific Solution policy. The 7:30 Report caught up with her in May on the eve of her departure to Nauru. Her two visits to the tiny Pacific island this year were filmed by friends. Apart from delivering gifts from Australian supporters, Susan Metcalfe says Muhammad Faisal, in particular, has needed emotional support.

MUHAMMAD FAISAL: One hour for me is one week. If I'm living inside of the camp or outside the camp that's in a jail.

SUSAN METCALFE: He's a very social person, so when all of his friends left in November last year, he very quickly went downhill.

PETER McCUTCHEON: Muhammad Faisal and Mohammed Sagar's bid for asylum reached a stalemate after an interview with Australia's intelligence and counter-terrorism agency ASIO. Although assessed as genuine refugees, they were considered to be a security threat for reasons ASIO will not disclose.

PROFESSOR IAN HICKIE, DETENTION HEALTH ADVISORY GROUP: The worst situation is to be left with no decision or an indeterminate situation. A person can't adapt to that situation. That's the greatest risk factor in terms of their ongoing mental health.

PETER McCUTCHEON: Immigration Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone declined to be interviewed for this report. But she spoke to the 'Insiders' program about the two Iraqi men in June.

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE: We are very concerned about the health of these two people, but, in a sense, we are between a rock and a hard place.

PETER McCUTCHEON: Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett, who's met the two men on Nauru, says that's not good enough. He argues if the men were in Australia, they'd have a right of appeal.

SENATOR ANDREW BARTLETT: They've basically had their future taken away. Frankly, I'm surprised it hasn't come to something more serious sooner.

PETER McCUTCHEON: But do you think most Australians would accept the situation where two refugees are brought into the country, even though ASIO deems them to be a security risk?

ANDREW BARTLETT: Well, we don't know what it means by "security risk". Whether it's just a character issue, or something more serious.

MUHAMMAD FAISAL: You ask how is Muhammad, he is very good, and hello to everyone.

PETER McCUTCHEON: Muhammad Faisal attempted to take his life earlier this year and a medical report, warning he may try again has prompted the Nauruan Foreign Minister to speak out.

DAVID ADEANG, FOREIGN MINISTER, NAURU: Our problem essentially is that it's most unfair, and we don't think it's compassionate consideration of their case to be held uncertain for too long a time.

PETER McCUTCHEON: While Muhammad Faisal is undergoing psychiatric treatment in Brisbane, the Nauruan Government won't commit itself to accepting him back.

DAVID ADEANG: The processing centre is that. It is a processing centre, not a residential facility, security assessment or not. And frankly speaking, it does not reflect on us very well as a government, as a country and as a people to be held responsible for somebody who, on our soil, turns out to be mistreated to the point he becomes suicidal.

PETER McCUTCHEON: Whatever the reason for the adverse security assessment, there's little doubt five years of isolation on Nauru added to Muhammad Faisal's suffering. The United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees has been trying to find another country for the two Iraqis, but without success. That failure, the UNHCR acknowledges, may in part be due to ASIO's security assessment.

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE: Australia's security and the well-being of the Australian population is probably the most vital responsibility a government has, and when your security agency refuses to give a security clearance, it puts you in a very, very difficult position.

SUSAN METCALFE: Now I don't know what's gone on in their cases. No-one can know that. But I know them very well. I've become quite close to both of them, and if this is what I'm being protected from, I think it's absolutely ridiculous. I think there's a big problem here.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Peter McCutcheon did actually approach three ministers for fresh comment on this case - Senator Vanstone, Mr Downer and Mr Ruddock. They all declined."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Is asylum seeker dumping usury?

This is an interesting article on the parallels between commercial usury and bribing poor countries to collaborate with human rights violations. I think the latter is worse because it is dressed up as aid, and worse, perpetrated by a government that preaches good governance to neighbouring countries as a mantra. Andrew Hamilton writes:

"The Australian dumping of asylum seekers on Nauru has always seemed abusive. But a recent interview given by the new Vatican Secretary of State provides grounds for believing that it might also amount to usury...it is interesting because it situates economic activity firmly within its broader human and cultural context, and is prepared to develop a moral language that criticises economic arrangements that fail to respect human dignity.

The examples he gives of usurious conditions are ones that most people would easily identify as 'Catholic' issues, in that they have to do with life and Catholic education. But if it is usurious to impose on penurious nations conditions that abuse human dignity, the patent connection between Australian economic assistance for Nauru and that nation's participation in Australian abuse of asylum seekers is also a prima facie case of usury."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Letter to the Canberra Times: Don't Judge Asylum Seekers without a fair hearing of their claims

Jane Keogh, a refugee advocate from Canberra, has written the following letter to the Canberra Times Editor:

"M Gordon, in his letter of 16 August, shows both overwhelming ignorance and prejudice on the issue of asylum seekers. He makes unsubstantiated and false claims that most asylum seekers are economic migrants misusing the Refugee Convention and making dubious claims. Any study of the figures would have shown him that the overwhelming majority of those who came by boat to seek asylum in Australia have been proven to be real refugees who fled persecution. He also infers that the asylum seekers taken this week to Nauru have come here to exploit our system. Any cursory knowledge of the current human rights situation in Burma, from where our recent arrivals are said to have come, would give any fair minded Australian cause to at least listen to their claims before judging them.

The real shame to Australia is that in putting asylum seekers on Nauru without access to the Australian legal system, or to independent assessment of their claims, Australia is sidestepping our obligations under the Refugee Convention. The human and fair course of action, as recognised by most western countries except Australia, is to at least give asylum seekers a fair hearing. Most Australians believe in a fair go and the government's humiliating defeat on its unauthorized Arrivals Bill this week has shown that most Australians are now better informed on the issue and want a reversal of Australia's system of locking up genuine refugees for years or forcing them back to persecution."


Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Magnificent Seven – and the rest are just sheep

This column in the Border Mail is worth saving to my archive. It tells the tale of seven politicians with guts and integrity and the sorry bunch they call colleagues:

"I ALWAYS voted at my party’s call

and I never thought of thinking for myself at all.”

So sang the buffoon the Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter KCB, explaining his rise to the eminent position of First Lord of the British Admiralty in Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera HMS Pinafore in 1878.

Today, almost 130 years later, we may conclude there are more than a few small-brained Porters in the ranks of the Coalition Government.

The Prime Minister has cut and run sharpish-like from his migration legislation, blown away by the decision of just one government senator to vote against it and of another to abstain, which would ensure the defeat of the legislation.

The action of the two senators follows opposition to the legislation last week by three government members and abstentions by a further two in the House of Representatives.

What passes for progressive thought in Australia applauds this dissent as a victory for a more humane approach towards the predicament of the saddest of the sad and neediest of the needy, those who seek asylum by coming to our shores by boat.

This column joins those who think that way because the Government’s legislation would have confined women and children in detention in far-off Nauru, asylum-seekers held in that island would have lost the legal protections they would have had in Australia and, even if found to be refugees, they may still have been confined in Nauru indefinitely.

Confinement of such people in our own distant gulag, out of sight and mind, is a rotten solution to the problems raised by the few asylum-seekers we receive (certainly as compared with some other countries) and blots our reputation as a humane country.

This column asks why only three government members and one senator were actually prepared to oppose this bill, and three more to abstain.

Only seven!"

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mandy's World - II

Nicholson in The Australian

Mandy's World - I

Bill Leak in The Australian

Howard scraps Migration Bill - a win for common sense and decency

Prime Minister John Howard says the Government will not be proceeding with its controversial migration Bill.

The laws, under which all asylum seekers arriving by boat would have been processed offshore, passed the Lower House last week but numbers were tighter in the Senate.

It would have taken just one Coalition senator to cross the floor, or two to abstain from the vote, for the Bill to be lost.

Mr Howard says he is disappointed the Bill will not go ahead, but it could not succeed.

"What has happened is that the Labor Party and a small number of Coalition members and senators have together - not acting together, let me make that clear - but their views have virtually coincided, that combination means we would not secure passage of the legislation," he said.

Congratulations to all who took a stand on this issue. Now we need to roll back the current laws to bring them in line with human rights requirements.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Breaking News - Family First Senator will vote against Migration Bill

ABC TV is reporting Senator Fielding, the Family First Senator, will vote against the Migration Bill. Barnaby Joyce, the National Senator, refused to commit one way or the other on the ABC Insiders program, making him look like a wishy washy grandstander (to be expected I guess).

My estimation of Fielding will certainly rise if this news report is correct. By contrast, if between now and then Howard gets him to shift, his name will forever be associated with the passing of this legislative travesty.

One of the Insiders 'commentators' (who comes across as a paid mouthpiece for the Liberal Party) made the point that dissident Coalition politicians taking a 'moral' stand did not imply those supporting the legislation are immoral. I beg to differ. The Migration Bill smacks of immorality and low rent political opportunism to appease Jakarta (as a trade off for warehousing asylum seekers)and to dog whistle the politics of fear and intolerance that gave Howard a victory in 2001.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

GetUp Campaign - Help us put a message in the sky

Dear friends,

When GetUp first set our biggest target ever of 100,000 signatures, people called it 'pie in the sky'. So, here's the deal: if you can get us to 100,000 names by next week's refugee Senate vote, we'll write it in the sky.

Already, nearly 90,000 of you have signed the petition to stop asylum seekers who arrive by boat, including children, from being sent into detention overseas.

Help put GetUp's petition message in the sky above Parliament House for next week's Senate vote! If you haven't already, click below to sign the petition, tell your friends or donate now to get us airborne!

Click here to sign the petition.

We've booked a skywriter, checked all the legals and are ready to launch. All we need now is your support to create a message that will help determine the final outcome in this unique chapter of Australian politics.

Already, three Liberal MPs in the House of Representatives risked their careers to vote against this reprehensible Bill - a remarkable act of courage and defiance considering they knew it would not be enough to actually stop the legislation from reaching the Senate, where it can really be defeated.

GetUp has spent this last week in Canberra for meetings with all the key players. We've lobbied, consulted and coordinated, pulling together diverse groups of community leaders to make their views known and help exert pressure where it really counts. The Government only has a majority of one in the Senate and anything could happen now. Your support is absolutely crucial.

Help us get to 100,000 names by next week's vote and we will send up a message they can't ignore. Sign the petition now if you haven't already, and help spread the word (you can also donate to help us lift off).

Throughout this campaign, your actions have made all the difference. When the Government first introduced this legislation the pundits expected it to pass within a few weeks. But instead of throwing our hands up in the air, we rolled up our sleeves, and presented your then 33,000-strong petition to an all-star line-up of politicians from every major party. We came back, doubled our efforts and ramped it up again to more than 77,000 names just two weeks later. Amazingly, we are now at more than 87,500 signatures - and the sky really is the limit.

This is the final push and we're not backing down - we're taking off.

Let's finish this right. Help us get to 100,000 today, and we'll see you in the sky next week.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Human Rights Watch calls for Senate to vote down Migration Bill

The Migration Bill passed by Australia’s House of Representatives on August 10 threatens the fundamental rights of refugees and asylum seekers, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called on the upper house to reject the bill.

“It’s now up to the Senate to ensure that Australia doesn’t shirk its obligations under international law to protect refugees,” said Bill Frelick, director of the Refugee Policy Program at Human Rights Watch. “Australia ought to take responsibility when people fleeing persecution land on its shores.”

Under the legislation, all unauthorized boat passengers who arrive at any part of Australia, will be transferred to offshore processing centers – including locations in foreign countries – where they will be detained while their refugee claims are screened. Even those determined to be refugees will still not be allowed into Australia, but rather will have to wait for resettlement offers to other countries.

Australia has been placing asylum seekers picked up at sea or on remote Australian islands in overseas processing centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea since March 2001. Human Rights Watch determined that this violated international law in its 2002 report, “By Invitation Only.” The new law would expand that practice to include refugees who arrive on Australia’s mainland.

The legislation was drafted after Indonesia reacted angrily to Australia’s decision to grant temporary protection visas to 42 Papuan asylum seekers in March.

“The Australian government is treating respect for human rights as a commodity that can be traded away for better relations with neighboring countries,” said Frelick. “Given the international condemnation of Guantanamo, it’s shocking that the Australian government could be so enthusiastic about establishing detention centers on far-flung islands to try and evade obligations under international law.”

In addition to interfering with the right of refugees to seek asylum, the legislation may also violate the Refugee Convention, which prohibits refugees from being penalized for entering a country illegally. Holding asylum seekers and refugees in processing centers on remote islands would penalize them if their time in custody amounted to arbitrary and indefinite detention.

Detaining asylum-seekers – either in Australia or abroad – also contravenes international standards outlined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which state that asylum seekers and refugees should only be detained in exceptional circumstances. Depending on the conditions of the proposed “group homes” for child asylum seekers, the law could also contravene the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which permits the detention of children only as a last resort.

The bill would also allow Australia to shirk its obligation to share the task of caring for the world’s refugees.

“Australia – one of the world’s wealthiest countries – is seeking to off-load its responsibility to protect and assist refugees onto smaller and poorer nations,” said Frelick. “Nauru, one of the proposed locations, has little experience or infrastructure in the refugee determination process, few resources to accommodate asylum seekers, and isn’t even a party to the Refugee Convention.”

Amen! Never a truer word was spoken, and I know as I oversaw aid to Nauru for a year during this Pacific Solution fiasco. I left in 2004 after 20 years as I could no longer work for a government that had such a blatant disregard for human rights and that routinely bullied neighbouring countries with threats to withdraw aid.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Migration Bill passes Lower House

ABC reports "three Federal Government MPs have crossed the floor and another has abstained from voting as the controversial move to extend offshore processing for asylum seekers passed the House of Representatives.

Petro Georgiou, Russell Broadbent and Judi Moylan sided with the Opposition and Bruce Baird abstained, but the Bill still passed."

The Senate remains the only hope of stalling and reviewing this legislation. Now is the time to pull out all the stops in contacting Senators identified in an earlier blog. We need your action urgently.

Will Family First 'trade' off human rights?

The Age reports "Family First senator Steve Fielding will meet Prime Minister John Howard this morning to discuss controversial changes to Australia's immigration laws.

Senator Fielding's office confirmed the meeting would take place at 1000 AEST and only the two men would attend.

AAP understands Mr Howard, who is under pressure from at least four rebel backbenchers who have threatened to cross the floor over the laws, requested the meeting two weeks ago before parliament resumed.

The dissident backbenchers do not have the numbers in the lower house to prevent the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill from passing.

But the laws could be thrown out in the Senate if Liberal senator Judith Troeth, who opposes the new policy, crosses the floor and takes at least one coalition colleague with her - or Senator Fielding.

But the sole Family First representative in parliament says he is yet to make up his mind."

Senator Fielding traded off the conditions and services of Australian students and their families under the VSU legislation on the basis of a simple-minded opposition to anything with the word 'union' in it. Don't be surprised if he does it again! In which case the benefit of the doubt should no longer apply and he should be seen as just another ideologue masquerading as a 'conviction' politician.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rebel MP slams 'draconian' laws

"(This) is the most profoundly disturbing piece of legislation I have encountered since becoming a member of parliament.

The Age reports "Victorian Liberal backbencher Petro Georgiou has described government laws that will send all asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat offshore as the most "profoundly disturbing'' legislation he has ever encountered in parliament.

Mr Georgiou has vowed to cross the floor of parliament to vote with Labor and oppose the laws.

At least one other coalition backbencher, Russell Broadbent, is likely to join him."

This stand is important for both the health of Australia's democracy and our place as a defender of human rights on the international stage. Much is at stake and these coalition politicians are to be applauded for making a difference.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

More dissembling from Vanstone on Afghan forced returnees

The ABC reports "the Edmund Rice Centre (ERC) has rejected an assertion made by the Immigration Minister that her department has been unable to follow-up claims that up to nine asylum seekers were killed after being deported to Afghanistan.

The Catholic human rights group says it investigated the fate of almost 200 failed Afghan asylum seekers who were detained on the Pacific Island of Nauru while their applications were processed in 2002.

Senator Amanda Vanstone says the centre has made similar claims before, but never in enough detail for her department to investigate.

ERC's Phil Glendenning says all relevant information has been passed onto the Minister's department."

The Government, in typical style, is in denial mode. Up is down and black is white and trust us, we're the government.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Offshore processing for refugees back on the table

On Tuesday 8 August, the federal government will reintroduce legislation into Parliament that will remove some of the most basic rights that all asylum-seekers fleeing persecution deserve.

The discredited Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill (DUA bill) – which even a Senate Inquiry dominated by Liberal Party Senators unequivocally recommended should not be passed – will rear its ugly head once more.

The DUA bill will result in the effective excision of the whole of Australia for migration purposes for refugees that arrive in Australia by boat. Under the bill, all these people – children included – will now be forcibly transferred to Nauru to have their protection applications processed.

In response to the overwhelming community opposition to the bill, the Prime Minister suggested a number of amendments to the original proposal. However, these changes do not go anywhere near far enough to cure the fundamental flaws in the bill that make it inherently unfair and unjust.

What you can do to help

There are presently a handful of Senators who have not yet indicated that they intend to support the DUA bill. A Just Australia (AJA) encourages all its supporters and anyone concerned about the treatment of refugees in Australia to contact these Senators, make your views heard and let them know that you support them opposing this bill:

Senator Steve Fielding (Family First - Victoria)

Senator Barnaby Joyce (Nationals - Queensland)

Senator Marise Payne (Liberal - NSW)

Senator Judith Troeth (Liberal – Victoria)

Senator George Brandis (Liberal – Queensland)

Senator Russell Trood (Liberal – Queensland)

Senator Brett Mason (Liberal - Queensland)

It has been concerted community opposition and support for the position taken by the dissenting Coalition MPs and Senators that has delayed the introduction of this bill. Together we can make sure that it is defeated once and for all.

Read AJA's most recent letter to Senators sent on 31 July 2006

Adele Horin writes about being 'young, alone and legally abandoned"

Writing in the SMH, Adele Horin tells a tale of child abuse in sunny Australia:

"THEY were smuggled out in the dead of night in the backs of trucks under hay or bags of flour. They were children from Afghanistan whose relatives were desperate to save them from the fate of older brothers or fathers, killed or kidnapped by the Taliban. Most of the children had no say in the decision, did not know where they were going, and had never heard of Australia.

And when these children - unaccompanied minors - arrived after traumatic boat journeys, Australia treated them as if they were adults, or in the care of adults, throwing them into detention centres, giving them no special help, or support.

Among asylum seekers, the children travelling alone were the most vulnerable group. But despite our professed love of children, Australia did not even notice them - not in official policy, at least. They were not assigned guardians or lawyers or told of their rights. Last year the law was changed so that children could no longer be put in detention except as a matter of last resort. It was a tiny step forward."

Read the whole article. When are Australians going to become rightly incensed over what has been done in our name?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Prison ships ahoy...

Tandberg in The Age

Local and international press are reporting on Australia's plan "to use an armed detention ship to house illegal Asian fishermen caught off its remote northern coast, fuelling criticism that keeping people in a floating prison would breach human rights obligations...Civil libertarians, the Labour opposition and the Australian Green Party all condemned the prison ship plan as uncivilised, drawing comparisons with British convicts sent from overflowing prison hulks to Australia more than 200 years ago."

Boats again!!! Beware - the fix is in and the wedge is being sharpened!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Aust. set to "deport" sick 9-year-old Afghan boy

Scoop NZ reported yesterday (Monday 31 July), "Acting squarely against explicit doctors' advice at the Brisbane Children's Hospital who told officials to not relocate the boy and his family to any remote detention facility, a nine-year-old Afghan boy who in recent weeks underwent an operation to remove his spleen, is set to be removed from the current arrangement of living in 'community detention' in Brisbane to the remote facility on Christmas Island," WA Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

The family arrived in Australia via the Torres Strait islands two months ago and sought asylum upon arrival, the factor of their sick son reportedly being one of the main factors behind the family's urgency to reach Australia. Soon afterwards the boy was being diagnosed and underwent an operation to remove his spleen in a Brisbane hospital."

DIMA has not changed a jot since the much trumpeted call for 'cultural change'. As DIMA takes its lead from the political leadership there will be no profound change in its culture until the political leadership is changed.

"The Department of Immigration is once again resorting to secretive methods, to methods of whisking away the rights of asylum seekers, and the rights of child asylum seekers. The Department remains happy to be in breach of the Convention for the Rights of the Child and of several other Conventions Australia has ratified."