A possie in Aussie

March 29, 2010

‘Kevin Rudd’s boats’ are looming, and yet some people just don’t care!

The asylum seeker rhetoric is coming out of the closet, after a remarkably slow awakening, and the Australian is paving the rhetorical road with new nasty labels and malevolent metaphors.

Asylum seekers are now ‘Kevin Rudd’s boatpeople’, and the boats are now also ‘Kevin Rudd’s’.  Not only are they flooding us, but now the Australian says, they are ‘looming’ Detainees flee Villawood as Kevin Rudd’s 100th boat looms

Single words and simple phrases are of such importance of in the asylum discourse that Niklaus Steiner used rhetoric as the empirical basis of his book about asylum in Europe, because of ‘the power of language’ to ‘set the political agenda’.

In contrast to our national paper, Al Jazeera has produced an excellent report on asylum in Australia, very balanced, acknowledging both the rights of asylum seekers and of the government to control entry.

There is a remarkable comment from Gordon Thomson, the Christmas Island Shire Council president.

“I think, complaining about a couple of thousand people coming to Australia by boat is just absurd”.

Clearly Gordon Thomson does not perceive the ‘looming threat’ nor is he concerned about being ‘flooded’ by the boat people, who now number about twice the population of his council area.

Here’s the video: enjoy. (And thanks to Jack Smit for the heads up!)

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March 17, 2010

Sri Lankan asylum seekers in limbo:first video

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Al Jazeera English – Asia-Pacific – S…“, posted with vodpod

This is the first video available of the group of nearly 240 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who have been stranded in an Indonesian port for five months, since their boat was intercepted by the Indonesian navy following a tip-off from Australia.

Refugee advocates are preparing to make submissions to the Senate Inquiry into the Anti-People Smuggling and Other Measures Bill.

Jack Smit of Safecom thinks that the Bill is “superfluous, not necessary, and does not target “people smugglers” any more than the previous Bills”.

“The Anti-People Smuggling and Other Measures Bill 2010 further victimises one of the most powerless citizens’ groups in Indonesia: fishermen who have lost their age-old livelihood following Australia’s re-drafting of its northern maritime boundaries during the Whitlam years. It is the fishermen who consistently find themselves as ‘recruits’ to sail boats to Ashmore Reef and Christmas Island: their fathers, grandfathers and earlier relatives and members of the communities have done so for centuries, as the surrounds of Ashmore Reef have been their favoured fishing grounds since longer than they can remember.

“In almost every case where Australia apprehends and brings before the courts those who are skippers and crew of boats arriving in our waters, the convicted ‘people smugglers’ turn out to be these young, broke, generally illiterate, non-English speaking members of the fishing communities of Roti and surrounding islands.”

Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre points out that the new law could punish people trying to support friends and family in Indonesia.

“What is the difference in money for food, medicine and shelter and money for a boat- who decides? “

If you wish to make a submission to the Inquiry, the deadline is the 16th of April. The report is due 11th of May.

February 22, 2010

Games may be fun for the Australian Navy – but they kill asylum seekers

Australian Customs and Navy procedures for boarding illegal vessels will be reviewed in an ‘effort to make interceptions safer’, as a result of the Siev 36 explosion, in which five asylum seekers died. Boarding of illegal vessels for review

The review will examine changes in the types of boats and technologies used by people smugglers and illegal fishermen, and possible improvements to the equipment used by customs and defence.

But no mention of the most dangerous and nasty practice of all – the game of ‘cat and mouse’. The coronial inquiry into the Siev 36 affair heard that boarding parties ‘tease’ passengers and crew by talking about turning the boat around and back to Indonesia, even when they are fully aware that the boat is in Australian waters, and so they will not be able to do so. It is likely that the Siev 36 was set on fire by desperate asylum seekers who fell for the ‘trick’.

The Inquiry heard that the Chief Petty Officer of HMAS Albany handed one of the crew a notice in English and Bahasa, the last line of which read: “You should now consider immediately returning to Indonesia with your passengers and not enter Australian territory.”

The Commander of the Albany was ‘surprised’ when he heard of the notice. The SIEV 36 had crossed into Australian territorial waters long before. “This guy could see Ashmore Reef. He could see land,” the Commander said. “It was my expectation that a warning notice would not be issued.”

A senior policeman investigating the explosion asked: “Why is this sort of cat and mouse game played and not telling them where they are going?” Cat and mouse; the deadly game on our borders

Pamela Curr says that this sort of ‘game’ has been happening for years:

“I have asked four people from four different boats — rescued by Navy and Customs since the SIEV 36 disaster —   if they were informed about what was happening to them. I asked specifically if they were told that they were being taken to Christmas Island. In each case they said no. The most recent person was rescued in November 2009”. Navy leaving asylum seekers in the dark about their final destination

October 2, 2009

Asylum seeker boat blast: Who dunnit?

The inquiry into the blast on the boat that killed five asylum seekers off north-west Australia earlier this year was caused by arson, the Northern Territory Police inquiry has found. Sabotage behind refugees’ boat blast: Australian police

I receiver the following email from Pamela Curr this morning, who says that the inquiry in fact raises more questions than answers as to the cause of the fire.

Pamela’s email is as follows:

“While strongly exonerating the Navy from any wrongdoing, the inquiry claims that film footage of the events showing Naval personnel kicking victims away from rescue boats cannot be seen or considered.

The inquiry concludes that an unnamed and unknown asylum seeker deliberately lit the fire but that there is not enough evidence to charge this person. Claims that asylum seekers poured petrol all over the boat do not provide an explanation as to how this took place in light of the fact that for 24 hours the Navy had total control of the boat and that the asylum seekers were sitting on the deck floor under armed guard which would make it difficult to do what the police inquiry claims.

There is also no explanation as to how a fire could be deliberately started if strict boarding protocols were carried out. These protocols dictate that naval personnel when boarding an asylum seeker boat must secure and contain the passengers immediately under armed guard, must then search the boat for weapons and flammable materials and remove same. How is it that the men were sat on the deck floor for 24 hours under guard, next to the leaking petrol drums? All witnesses have commented on the strong smell of petrol on the boat. How and why did naval personnel allow these frightened men to smoke in close proximity to the fuel?

The inquiry claims that the boat was being transferred to Christmas Island when the Navy themselves have admitted that the men were not told what was going to happen to them or where they were going. Indeed evidence was presented that some men were told that they were being sent back to Indonesia without any refugee assessment. This was a practice of the previous government but so far not the Rudd Government which is more inclined to adhere to the International Conventions which Australia has signed. This begs another question- were the Navy “riding cowboy” and trying to frighten the asylum seekers or were they intending to push them back to Indonesia.

An urgent Coronial Inquiry is needed to provide answers to these questions and provide some truth and clarity to ensure that such a tragedy is not repeated. It would seem that this police inquiry is based on half the evidence with a strong bias to ensure that the Navy is presented in a good light.

Pamela Curr is the coordinator of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

September 16, 2009

Indonesia offers cash to asylum seekers

The Indonesian government is offering Afghan asylum seekers financial inducements trying to return home.

It is very likely that those ‘inducements’ are being in  turn financed by Australia Asylum seeker crowd control: Australia and Europe hire 3rd world bouncers

In a recent interview, Hariyadi Wirawan, Indonesian international relations expert, told Radio Australia that instead greater effort must be made to ensure the asylum-seekers do not return to danger or persecution in their homeland. Indonesian govt asylum-seeker payoffs questioned

“If you give them the money and then they will tell people back home and it will in fact encourage people to come over to Indonesia at least they will try to get their way into Australia, because they will say if you get caught in Indonesia you will get the money and return, if not then you’ll succeed in getting into the Australian shores. So actually it’s not tough enough for them to teach them that going through these islands of Indonesia is not really an option”.

Wirawan also said that standards of immigration detention in Indonesia are “far from adequate”, but explained that  Indonesia is not really prepared because they think that  they will only come for a very short period of time, on route to Australia.

August 22, 2009

‘Solution’ for Australia means death for Rohingyas

Australia’s current ‘solution’ to managing asylum seekers is to pay countries to the north, in particular Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, to prevent them from leaving About AusAIDin Indonesia

It is a ‘solution’ for Australia, but can be a ‘final solution’ for the asylum seekers themselves. Malaysia sells deported refugees into slavery

Andrew Bartlett reports once more on the dreadful conditions for asylum seekers in Thailand.  Treatment of asylum seekers in Thailand. Two young Burmese Rohingya ‘migrants’, aged 15 and 19, recently died in a Thai detention camp.   The UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) is being denied access to the camp, despite many requests.

Andrew comments:

“The simple fact remains that refugees only use people smugglers when there are no other viable options to reach safety and security from   persecution. Cracking down on smugglers while doing nothing to create viable pathways for refugees will just make things more difficult for refugees, including a probable increase in suffering, dangers and cost”.

The aid and assistance that Australia is presently providing to its northern neighbours is in the main directed at preventing smuggling of asylum seekers to Australian waters. A more ethical stance would be to provide aid and assistance for decent living conditions and recognition as persons in need of humanitarian treatment.

July 22, 2009

Why are there so many boat people coming to Australia?

Why is there a surge in numbers of Afghan asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australian waters?

* 2008 was the most violent year in Afghanistan since 2001

Civilian casualties resulted from the actions of both anti-Government and pro-Government elements, roughly evenly split.

The pattern of deliberate attacks on civilians by /Taleban /forces, summary executions, massacres, the deliberate and systematic destruction of livelihoods through a “scorched earth” policy, and forcible relocation are widely reported.

* One out of every four refugees in the world today is from Afghanistan

* Civilian casualties have increased by 40% on last year

* Afghans have fled to 69 different countries –2.6 million are in Pakistan and Iran

* The top 15 destination countries of Afghan asylum-seekers in 2008 recorded an increase in numbers

United Kingdom (3,700 claims),

Turkey (2,600)

Greece (2,300)

Italy (2,000)

Tajikistan (1360)

In South-East Asia, 1,617 Afghan asylum-seekers arrived in 2008, compared to 900 in 2007. They arrived in India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and now Australia.

Thanks to Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for alerting the Aussie Possie to this information, from the UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum-Seekers from Afghanistan July 2009

July 13, 2009

Finland wins asylum seeker race! (C’mon Aussie! You can do it!)

UNHCR statistics for the first six months of 2009 show that Australia experienced a 30% growth in numbers of asylum seekers compared with January 1 to June 30 2008. But we are lagging well behind some other nations, no matter what Piers Akerman might say.

Scandinavian countries recorded the greatest surge in numbers, with numbers in Finland increasing by 136%, in Norway 24 per cent, whereas numbers in Sweden decreased by 38%. Switzerland had a 56% increase, and France 21%, while the UK numbers reduced by 15%.

Numbers of asylum seekers in the USA increased 6%, and in Canada reduced by 34% Asylum claims in industrialized countries – Latest monthly data

July 6, 2009

Malaysians do Australia’s dirty-work: Rudd goes to encourage them

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is beginning a week-long overseas trip in Malaysia, where he will hold talks on people smuggling with the Malaysian  Department of Home Affairs.

He and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith “will have very serious conversations about the joint efforts on how to stop it”. People smuggling first on PM’s overseas checklist

Just one day before the trip, an article by Tom Allard appeared in the Brisbane Times Tamils’ transit to Australia, ‘land of freedom’, about conditions refugees are living under in Malaysia.

Allard quotes Rameshwaren, a young Tamil asylum seeker:

“‘I feel castrated,’ he says, casting his eyes up from the floor. ‘All of this is unbearable. I am on the edge of a mental breakdown.’

One of an estimated 100,000 refugees living precariously in Malaysia, the Sri Lankan’s helplessness is a frustration felt around the world. Out of every 250 people forced to flee their countries because of war, famine and persecution, only one can expect to be resettled as a refugee this year.

This is why Rameshwaren is prepared to chance his arm and take a boat to Australia. “I can’t return to Sri Lanka but there is no life for me here in Malaysia,” he says. “I cannot work here legally, there is no medical [care], there is no education. I don’t think that the UN will be able to resettle us. So we have to find somewhere else, we have to find some way to get there by ourselves. That is why I want to take a boat to Australia.

‘It is a land of freedom. It is somewhere safe for me, my mother, my sisters and brother.’”

July 1, 2009

If there’s 10,000 by boat, how many by plane? The asylum seeker ‘crisis’

10,000 asylum seekers by boat? Let alone the plane people!

The opposition keeps telling the Rudd government to take the situation seriously, so here goes:

The temporary protection visa and other punitive measures have been proven to be ineffective – as well as horrific.

Germany experienced a sudden drop in asylum seekers when the Schengen agreement introduced regulations about ‘third country’ applications, meaning that asylum seekers who had already arrived in a country of asylum could, ipso facto, be refused asylum in another.

Since airports in Schengen countries turn around asylum seekers before they officially ‘arrive’ (that is, leave the airport transit zone). Arriving by road in Germany necessarily means traversing a ‘safe asylum country’, making this measure extremely effective for the Germans.

Perhaps we should erect fences in the sea?

Let alone controlling numbers of boats – what about

The UN keeps telling us that the only effective measures will be to reduce the causes of asylum flows – but that is certainly easier said than done.

Robert Skidelsky is a member of the British House of Lords, is professor emeritus of political economy at Warwick University, author of a prizewinning biography of the economist John Maynard Keynes, and a board member of the Moscow School of Political Studies.

In an article on how to tackle the numbers of refugees from Africa, he says

“With refugees spilling over borders, pirates hijacking ships, and terrorists finding shelter, it is clear that, although Africa’s solutions are its own, its problems are not. The rest of the world can no longer afford Africa’s poverty”, and suggests:

For nations in civil war, military intervention, when feasible, to secure peace

Ongoing international assistance should be limited to providing voluntary good-governance templates

Governments should make public spending transparent

Foreign resource-extracting companies should report their profits would make yardstick comparisons easier for local political activists, as well as providing a source of legitimacy for the government.

Formalising the huge informal economy in states such as Ghana.

The Kimberly Process is a pilot project. Diamond companies volunteer not to buy from conflict areas in an attempt to prevent diamonds from funding warlords. This would be good for business, as affluent Western customers are now put off by the thought of buying blood-soaked jewellery.”

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