A possie in Aussie

December 14, 2009

Opposition OUTRAGED by heat

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people,detention — Nayano @ 7:17 am
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The latest news from Christmas Island:

Christmas Island’s detention facilities reached their capacity of 1,400 regular beds last Thursday, and now about 60 asylum seekers are now being housed in tents..

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison is outraged.

“I think it’s outrageous that we’re in a situation now that we’ve had so many boat arrivals that these people will have to spend these hot summer months under tents” he said. Anger as asylum seekers housed in tents

Firstly, I reckon that someone who has escaped the Taliban, fled using dodgy people smugglers, and sailed to Australia on a ramshackle fishing boat skippered by people who have never sailed that far before is not going to worry too much about being HOT!

Secondly, if Mr Morrison is concerned that the asylum seekers might suffer because they have to sleep in tents, how can he support the return of the Temporary Protection Visa that drove people mad and drove them to suicide with its inhumane conditions? TPV agonyScott Morrison is


December 3, 2009

Christmas Island: will there be room for Father Christmas?

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people,detention — Nayano @ 2:25 pm
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Community noticeboard on the Island, after the news that the detention centre capacity would be expanded to 2200.

November 11, 2009

The Wall: Ex-East German guards patrol new asylum seeker wall

The wall.It’s been in the news a great deal recently, as Berlin and the world commemorate the 20th anniversary of  the falling of the wall that divided East and West Berlin.

The new wall hardly makes it to the news at all – that is, the walls, both physical and virtual, that have been erected all over the world to keep people out.

Not just any people: people too poor to have skills or wealth that nations in the Global North (the ‘Western’ nations’) need, and people fleeing persecution. These are walls that are dividing the Global North and Global South.

Peter Andreas points out that many of the guards who were employed by East Germany to prevent East Germans escaping via the old Wall are now employed to keep people from entering Germany. The wall after the wall

Asylum has been externalised over the pas few decades.

That is, instead of people arriving in safe countries and applying for asylum, they are prevented from arriving at all. Some of these means include aggressive visa regimes, detention and interdiction practices, airline carrier sanctions, off-shore screening of passengers by airline liaison officers and visa restrictions to exclude asylum seekers. (See Asylum seeker crowd control: Australia and Europe hire 3rd world bouncers)

IN the EU there are ‘bilateral readmission agreements’. In order to be accepted into the EU nations such as Poland had to sign such an agreement, which means that Poland must accept any asylum seeker found in the ‘western’ EWU nations who has gained entry to the Union through Poland. Many of the less- western EU nations are signatories to such agreements.

As a consequence, Andreas says, “Poland hired thousands of border guards, built more border stations, purchased new equipment, and implemented tough new laws against unauthorized migration.”

‘Externalisation’ of asylum allows nations not to contravene the requirement of non-refoulement – that is, the obligation not to return asylum seekers or refugees to the situations from which they are fleeing.

Jennifer Hyndman and Alison Mountz have coined the term ‘neo-refoulement’, the geographic exclusion of asylum seekers before they come under the ambit of non-refoulement.

November 4, 2009

Let’s stop talking about asylum seekers and do something – want to come to Indonesia with me?

James Hathaway is something of a hero of mine (yes, I know, I’m a nerd).

He is the sort of academic expert you refer to almost as you would holy writ – “if he says it it must be so”- for issues of refugee and international law.

He has been dean of Melbourne University Law School for just over a year, and now he has quit.

Hathaway says that his mother Bernice had recently asked him when he was going to “quit being a bureaucrat and starting doing good things for the world again”.

He quit so he could devote himself to promoting a “globalised” system whereby countries would take on obligations to accept refugees regardless of where they have fled to, to share the burden more equitably

The Sri Lankan refugees who were refusing to leave their boats had “crystallised” his thinking.

“This is a unique opportunity to really engage with decision-makers and judges on an issue that I felt, after 25 years, I had something to offer,” he said. Law school head quits to seek global help for refugees

I had something of the same impulse after reading the report Behind Australia’s Doors. I was so upset by the report of the conditions in which refugees are held in Indonesia that I am intending to go and see for myself, and see what I can do. I am now looking for an NGO that I would attach to, or at least someone to go with.

Any ideas?

November 3, 2009

“Indonesian Solution” is sickening, degrading: new report


What does the ‘Indonesian Solution’ look like?

And why do people try to escape by risking their lives on rotten boats?

Jessie Taylor has today released a comprehensive report on immigration detention facilities in Indonesia.

She visited 11 facilities in July 2009. Her report, Behind Australian Doors: Examining the Conditions of Detention of Asylum Seekers in Indonesia, is available at  http://www.law.monash.edu.au/castancentre/news/behind-australian-doors-report.pdf

Extracts from the report are below, but a warning, they are sickening and upsetting:

“Generally water is rationed at around 500mls per person per day. A number of detainees at Kuningan are suffering an aggressive skin disease.  It is dark purple in colour, and has the appearance of an allergy or fungal infection, and causes great discomfort to those who suffer from it. It is apparently brought on by lack of each person’s ability to maintain an acceptable standard of personal hygiene, and the cramped and filthy conditions inside the cells.”

“As there are 13-15 adult males in each of the irregularly shaped 3x4m cells, sleeping is very difficult.  Detainees inform us that they sleep in rows, on their sides, as there is not enough room to lie flat.

“The kitchen is open to the elements and covered in fungus and mold.  The shower is a hose over a filthy toilet.  The water supply is polluted and contaminated.  There are problems with rodents and snakes in the kitchen and living areas.

“The filth in this accommodation is difficult to describe, and constitute by far the worst conditions I have seen human beings living in.

“Almost all of these detainees have been accepted as refugees by UNHCR, many of them in mid-2008.  Needless to say they are anxious as to when they might be resettled elsewhere in a country where their children can get on with life.

“Medical treatment was utterly lacking.  There was a man who had broken his ankle very badly a number of weeks previously. The ankle was inflamed and infected around the primitive stitches, and he depended on another detainee to dress the weeping, pus-covered wound once or twice a day.  Fluid seeped through the bandage and was visible from the outside of the dressing.  He had been supplied with weak painkillers by IOM, but no further attention had been paid to him and he was in significant pain.

“I’ve been waiting nine years now.   How much longer will it take?” – MDK, 26, Cisarua

Also released today: results of a News poll on asylum seekers:

“Question: The Federal Government is currently working with the Indonesian government to stop asylum seekers entering Australian waters. For each of the below statements that have been made about current incident of asylum seekers, please indicate your level of agreement.”

November 1, 2009

PhD tales from the Heathrow detention facility

Filed under: detention,humor,humour,migration,racism — Nayano @ 6:52 am
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It’s Sunday Funday!

I regularly have a look at Jorge Cham’s ‘Piled Higher and Deeper’ website, where Jorge cartoons about life and PhD candidates.

It’s funny, or, as Jorge says,

“Results show that persistent exposure to phdcomics dot com (PDC) is mildly correlated to jocular deportment, which suggests improvements in temporal-delay behaviour of bounded activity.”

And this week Jorge cartooned his experience of being detained and very nearly deported from Heathrow airport.

(If you need some seriousness on the same topic, however, see yesterdays’ post on this blog Want child abuse? Night raids? Summary justice? Just ask your Immigration official)

October 16, 2009

The unbearable heaviness of being: Asylum seekers on our conscience

“What they really don’t want is to go through the normal process. They’re fully aware that if they get off the boat and end up in an immigration detention centre they will be there for up to 10 years. That’s what happens. They’ve got 16 million asylum seekers around the world, that’s the queue that they’re trying to jump, it’s a long one and that’s something that they’re trying to avoid through this sort of desperate performance they have on the boat at the moment.”  Geoff Thompson speaks with Mark Colvin on PM about the Sri Lankan’s refusing to leave their boat in Indonesia.   Asylum seekers keeping tabs on their fate

I have been feeling a sense of gloom and despair that has been building in intensity as the number of boat arrivals increase.

I thought that it was worry about a return to the inhuman anti-asylum seeker measures of the Howard era. I supported Hazaras on Temporary Protection Visas then, and their suffering nearly broke my heart.

But after watching the SBS video yesterday  – Malaysia’s Crackdown’ – of the suffering of asylum seekers in Malaysia, I realised that the return of the boats means return to an inescapable awareness of the tragedy of the large majority of human kind.

It is an unbearable heaviness of being.

(Sorry, I couldn’t figure out how to embed the video here, but please click on http://www.sbs.com.au/dateline/story/watch/id/600182/n/Malaysia-s-Crackdown)

September 4, 2009

The Australian wraps asylum seeker story in dirty tactics

It seems that, in mourning the passing of the Coalition federal government, the Australian has picked up the dirty baton of spinning stories designed to inflame anti-asylum seeker sentiment.

Paige Taylor authored a story about the government’s decision to move 10 unaccompanied minors from Christmas Island to Australia for processing on compassionate grounds in Thursday’s Australian

The story was headed: No visas, boys? Welcome to Australia

Taylor’s story included the incorrect implication that the Howard government had not acted in this manner themselves – which the Immigration Department corrected in a later story, pointing out that there had been 61 previous occasions under the Howard government when asylum-seekers from detention facilities on Nauru or Manus islands had been allowed to stay on the Australian mainland for processing after going there for medical or legal reasons, including to give birth or attend court. Kevin Rudd denies change in asylum policy

Taylor also implied that the move “that coincided with the arrival of yet another boat of asylum-seekers at the Indian Ocean territory last night” was to address overcrowding on Christmas Island  – echoing Sharman’ Stone’s position – without attribution:

“…we’ve simply been told, ‘shock, panic, let’s move some people off quickly before they’re processed and make way for the next boatload hovering on the horizon’.” Kevin Rudd denies change in asylum policy

It is interesting to compare headlines from other sources on the same matter:

Immigration first: Afghans allowed onto mainland without visas from the Macquarie Network’s Live News

No visas needed for 10 asylum seekers from Bigpond News (Telstra)

And the least inflammatory of all: Child Refugees enter Australia Without Visas from Embrace Australia, “the number one website for people interested in Australia immigration and those who simply love Australia”.

UPDATE: Media release from Senator Evans

Policy on irregular maritime arrivals remains firm

The Rudd Government is not changing its policy on asylum seekers.

Under the Rudd Government, unaccompanied children are processed as a priority.

Ten unaccompanied children were transferred from Christmas Island to the mainland on 2 September 2009.

This is to enable the department to finalise their cases and provide proper support to this particularly vulnerable group of children.

The children were part of a group who arrived on Christmas Island on 7 May 2009 and they have been undergoing the relevant processing while on Christmas Island.

Their move to the mainland in the final stage of their processing is not a change of Government policy. The department is simply finalising the processing of this particularly vulnerable group of children in an environment where better services can be provided.

They have not been released into the broader community and remain under the care of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) centre.

The Opposition Immigration spokesman Sharman Stone is wrong to claim that their legal processing arrangements and entitlements have changed.

Dr Stone clearly does not understand the legislation introduced by the Howard Government. This makes no change to their legal status whatsoever. They are still offshore entry persons and do not have access to the onshore legal processes.

This is not unprecedented. This is not the first vulnerable group that this or the previous government has moved from offshore to the mainland before their visa status has been finalised. Exceptions have been made for vulnerable people or those with health issues, for example pregnant women or people who are seriously ill. Decisions such as these are made on a case-by-case basis.

The Rudd Government has maintained a system of mandatory detention and excision and made it clear that all irregular maritime arrivals will be detained and processed at Christmas Island while health, identity and security checks are undertaken.

The Rudd Government has also maintained extensive air and sea patrols and allocated $654 million in the Budget for measures to combat people smuggling.

August 13, 2009

Australian immigration officials investigated over child abduction

In March 2001 an Iranian man and his four-year-old daughter arrived in Australia by boat. They were in South Australia’s Baxter detention centre in January 2003 when there were allegations of sexual contact between the man and his daughter.

Those allegations were discredited.

The man was then accused of aggressive and abusive behaviour and then placed in solitary confinement for a lengthy period. While he was in solitary confinement the Department of Immigration sent the daughter to her mother in Iran.

The man says that the detention centre manager asked him whether his daughter could go shopping with him and his wife. He agreed.

They were actually sending his daughter back to Iran.

ABC’s AM program quotes a Baxter Detention Centre file note:

“If she requests to say goodbye to her father, I will advise her that it is not possible as it could stop her from being returned to her mother in Tehran. We will have several toys etc for distraction purposes”. Immigration Department lie misled detainee

The AFP is now, after six years, investigating immigration officials for possible criminal conduct, since it is illegal to remove a child from  South Australia without the parent’s consent.  Officials investigated over child’s removal

The man now has a permanent protection visa and lives in Melbourne.

July 16, 2009

Failed your exam? Go to jail!

Guy Healy of the Australian reports that thirty-six overseas students, some as young as 18, are being held in immigration detention for breaching study visa conditions. 36 overseas students in detention

Most of the student visa holders are from China, but others come from India and Pakistan – and India in particular has become sensitive to issues with their student in Australia in recent months. Bashings of Indian students

A student visa can be cancelled for a variety of reasons, including failure to meet course requirements such as “passing subjects” and “attending class”.

A department spokesperson said most of those in detention had overstayed their visas. None had been locked up “simply for breaching attendance requirements or failing to meet minimum course requirements”, although these could be factors in non-compliance with visa conditions.

The Immigration Department, however, insists that none was locked up solely for failing to meet course requirements. The Department claims that student visa holders currently in detention had either ‘posed an unacceptable risk to the community’, or had ‘repeatedly refused to comply with visa conditions’.

I know that Immigration has changed since the bad old Howard days when there was a culture of harshness and flagrant breaches of human rights. Pamela Curr reminded us recently  of the Howard days:

Pamela relates a story of an Indian student who she know who, in 2003, had successfully passed his exams for 3 years when the course at his university changed structure.

“The old course structure was available at another university nearby.

“He transferred his enrolment with permission from both universities.

“His father transferred the funds to pay for a full year upfront as required.

“He then went to the Department of Immigration to notify them of the changes in accordance with his student visa provisions. He was placed in a small interview room, locked in, his passport was taken and one hour later he was escorted down stairs to the basement by two burly officers and put in a van with covered windows. He was told that he had breached his visa conditions by not informing the department BEFORE he changed his enrolment.

“He was sent to Maribyrnong Detention Centre.

“The Department demanded $4,000 dollars and an air ticket to India which departed within 10 days to release him from detention. He left.

“Some students failed exams, some could not pay their fees and some worked an extra hour or two in a week. Overseas students were subject to compliance raids in the middle of the night instigated by anonymous dob-ins. When their passports and visas were found to be in order, the laundry basket was searched for evidence of working hours by over- zealous compliance officers.  www.asrc.org.au

I hope that my impression of a new attitude in the Department of Immigration does extend to compliance section.

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