Monday, February 26, 2007

Human rights in Australia: Urgent Action - Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers

The following message is being circulated by refugee advocates.

You may be aware that a few days ago, the Australian Navy intercepted a boatload of 83 Sri Lankan asylum seekers off the coast of Australia, just near Christmas Island.

In a massive contravention of customary international law, human rights law, humanitarian law and Australia's self-assumed treaty obligations, the Howard government has made secret arrangements with Indonesia to send the asylum seekers immediately back to Indonesia, from whence they will be sent back to Sri Lanka. (Read more:

Howard has categorically refused to let the men so much as lodge their applications for asylum in Australia, which is their rights under the law of Australia AND international law. Remember, ***arriving in Australia unauthorised, by boat, even with no papers, is NOT illegal!

Sending people back to a place where they may suffer persecution is called 'refoulement', and it is strictly and unambiguously prohibited under international law as a fundamental principle aimed at protecting the rights and the lives of the world's most vulnerable people.

Let's also remember that the Government has just completed work on an 800-bed $360 million detention facility on Christmas Island. It is ready and waiting to receive these asylum seekers, and although i abhor the existence of such a facility, it is vastly preferable that it should be put to use while these men's claims are processed, rather than sending them back to a situation of grave danger.

It is a serious concern that our Government has decided that this kind of behaviour is OK, especially in light of the fact that it has been proven that at least 9 men and 3 children have been killed upon return from Australia to their homelands in recent years.


Here are a few points you may like to make:

* "Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution" Article 14, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
* Article 33 of the 1951 Refugees Convention *ABSOLUTELY PROHIBITS* sending people back to a country or territory where they may face danger. This is exactly what we're about to do!
* These 83 people are the first asylum seekers to arrive by boat in Australia in over a year. Some areas in Europe get 1500 asylum seekers A DAY!
* Some of the poorest countries in the world are the most generous hosts of asylum seekers. Ethiopia, Eritrea etc... Iran and Pakistan both hold over 2 million refugees each. Australia takes 0.05% of the world's refugee burden.
* Historically, asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia are found to be genuine refugees in 92% of cases. Think about it like this:
people don't uproot their lives, leave their families and get in a leaky boat for 10 days to travel to a strange country unless they are SERIOUS about the dangers that face them at home.

The Government:
PM John Howard - you'll have to contact him using this form: - Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews.

AND your local member of the Liberal Party:
using this form...

And Labor: - (Labor) Leader. Let him know that you do not support Howard's approach, and you'd be interested to see what his approach would be. Encourage him to OPPOSE this stunt and provide a strong, principled alternative. - (Labor) co-leader of Labor party. - (Labor) Shadow Immigration Spokesman.
Would be immigration minister if Labor wins the election. He is generally very open to dialogue and reasonableness but we have yet to see what happens when the rubber hits the road! Encourage him, as well, to take a strong, vocal stand against this awful behaviour.

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