A possie in Aussie

April 6, 2010

Abbott grins as asylum seekers are gunned down

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people,refugee — Nayano @ 8:10 am
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On Q&A last night Abbott  said that Afghans who left Afghanistan  were no longer persecuted when they reached Pakistan.

Quetta, the city  where most Afghan Hazaras are trying to take shelter, is now the headquarters of the  Taliban who roam the area and shoot Hazaras down in the streets with impunity.

Hazaras have an Asiatic appearance, and so are easily identified. They are Shi’a Muslims, who the Taliban considers to be ‘lower’ even than the Jews, and are therefore ‘fair game’.

As we in the West are only too painfully aware, law and order in Pakistan is virtually non existent.

Basithry  posted this video on May 31, 2009

“A very sad incident that took place in Quetta, on 10th of Muharram 3-3-2004. (Day of Ashura, the most holy day for Shi’a). A group of terrorists (belonging to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) attacked the procession, killing 57 innocents, including kids. Not only this, but ATF (Anti terrorist force) also unexpectedly killed few innocent mourners of Imam Hussain (A.S).”

Pamela Curr says:

THE QUESTION FOR THE REFUGEE ADVOCACY COMMUNITY is how we respond to the WAR of WORDS which is being conducted in this election year.


April 5, 2010

The asylum seeker TPV: too expensive, too cruel, and it didn’t work

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people,refugee — Nayano @ 8:32 am
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Around 4,500 boatpeople have attempted to seek asylum in Australia since the Labor government was elected about 30 months ago.

Asylum seekers in Australian immigration detention, Howard era

The Howard government imposed Temporary Protection Visas, which this government has since revoked, with the intention of deterring boat arrivals, reducing people smuggling, increasing security, and making resettlement places available to ‘more-deserving’ off-shore applicants.

Did it work?

Numbers of arrivals showed no reduction in the two years after the introduction of the TPV

Asylum seekers were given very rigorous security checks and no links with terrorism were found among them, and only a very tiny minority was rejected on other character grounds

The number of resettlement places available for the regular refugee program was indeed reduced by onshore claimants, but it was not necessary for the government to include those claimants in the existing quota, nor was it impossible for the government to increase the number of places overall.

In fact, there were unused places even after both the off-shore and onshore claims were settled.

In addition, the TPV cost the government more than it saved for compliance, processing, and appeals. Although government-funded settlement services did not have TPV holders added to their client load, the burden of settlement services did not disappear, but was shouldered by state governments, volunteers, and NGOs.

As well as having little effect on the numbers of arrivals and increasing the government’s fiscal burden, the TPV caused widespread and extreme suffering among holders, and caused separation of families for many years.

March 30, 2010

Canada takes 2,500 more asylum seekers: in Australia Senators worry about ballet classes

The Refugee Council of Australia has recommended that Australia grants an extra 1000 offshore humanitarian visas to refugees from southeast Asia each year, in order to reduce the incentive for people smuggling.

There are more than 150,000 refugees currently registered with the UN in south-east Asia, most in Thailand and Malaysia which are consistently rated among the ”worst in the world” for refugee treatment.

Refugee Council CEO Paul Power said ”Simply saying, ‘Turn back the boats,’ is hardly going to improve the situation for refugees in the region.”

The Canadian Minister for Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism has just announced a commitment to resettle 2,500 more UN-selected refugees living in refugee camps and urban slums once the package is approved.

Minister Kenney said “We know that we can’t help everyone. But what we can do is introduce balanced reforms to our refugee system that will allow us to expand our refugee resettlement programs to provide protection to more people.” Kenney launches refugee reform

‎Meanwhile, Senator Humphries of Australia’s Liberal Party raised this issue in a question on Notice in the Federal Government Additional Estimates Hearing of 9 February 2010:

98) Program 4.3: Offshore Asylum Seeker Management

(1) Is there a ballet teacher at the Christmas Island IDC?

(2) How much did it cost to fly the dance teacher over to Christmas Island and be paid to teach dance classes?

(3) How many classes do they teach per week?

‎(Thanks to Pamela Curr for this heads up)

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!)

March 25, 2010

Concern that Afghan asylum seekers may stop coming to Australia

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people,refugee — Nayano @ 7:48 am
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Afghan asylum seekers may stop coming to Australia because the United Nations is set to downgrade its refugee guidelines for Afghanistan (see Don’t worry about the boats: UNHCR will stop them).

That will mean a loss for both them and for us.

The Afghan Hazaras who began to arrive here from 1999 onwards have settled well in Australia. They are good neighbours, and such good workers that unemployment is almost unheard of among them, and indeed along the Murray, where many workers are being laid off because of water restrictions, the Afghans are being kept on. You don’t find such good workers easily.

The arrival of asylum seekers is a badge of honour. One of the main ways asylum seekers choose their destinations is the state of human rights and democracy in those nations. (See What really deters asylum claims: a REAL change of government)

The Afghans have strengthened our values as a nation. One of the unforeseen consequences of the Howard government’s anti-asylum seeker legislation was that many Australians were so outraged that they rose up in one of the largest spontaneous public actions this country has ever seen. The asylum seekers caused people to rediscover what they believed to be the real Australia: fairness and mateship.

The Afghans helped to regenerate country areas. Afghan Hazaras settled in regional areas that were desperate for residents and workers, and revitalised many centres.

Australia can also be inspired by Riace, a poor rural centre in Italy, which until recently was rapidly becoming a ghost town. Then they began welcoming refugees from around the world. The immigrants get free room and board and are expected to work and learn Italian in return.

The project is proving highly successful, so much so that Wim Wenders has made a film ‘Il Volo’ (‘The Flight’) about it.

When Wenders gave a speech in Berlin, where celebrations to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall had just ended, he said

“The true utopia is not the fall of the Wall, but what has been achieved in Calabria, in Riace”.  (From Der Speigel: Italian Village Welcomes Refugees with Open Arms, with thanks for the heads up to Pamela Curr)

(The following video is in Italian, but shows both Wenders and Riace. If you can find a clip in English, please let me know)

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.

March 15, 2010

Don’t worry about the boats: UNHCR will stop them

Please pass this post on to your Afghan and Sri Lankan friends

The Herald Sun last week claimed that the United Nations is set to downgrade its refugee guidelines for Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, “in a move that could see the Federal Government deny protection claims for the majority of asylum seekers heading to Australia”. UNHCR refugee guidelines could deny asylum claims in Australia

The great majority of asylum seekers arriving in Australia in recent months have come from Afghanistan, and the next largest group from Sri Lanka.

UNHCR regional representative Richard Towle says the protection guidelines for both Afghanistan and Sri Lanka were under review.

“I don’t want to pre-empt what the guidelines will say but clearly there has been a significant number of people who’ve left the camp population in Sri Lanka and are in the process of returning to their places of origin,” he told ABC Radio.

“There are other countries where we’ve conducted similar exercises (to Sri Lanka), including Afghanistan, and I can tell those conditions are also under review,” Mr Towle said.

The Bureau for Asia and the Pacific Standing Committee Meeting (2-4 March 2010), however, noted that “In the case of Afghanistan the voluntary repatriation and implementation of related activities will depend upon the security situation”.

There is some unrest about what is seen as the privileged place of Afghan refugees on the world stage, however.

In a recent visit to refugees and internally displaced people in the Central African Republic, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said

“It is unfair that all the attention is focused on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan when tens of thousands of civilians are living in dreadful conditions in Central African Republic”. UNHCR chief visits Central African Republic, pledges support for the forcibly displaced

February 11, 2010

Don’t be afraid of asylum seekers: mammoths are the real worry!

People like to be scared. Otherwise how would ghost trains and roller coasters make money?

John Humphries takes this one step further to explain why immigrant issues are such big vote winner. The problem with democracy Humphries’ idea is that fear is hardwired into our brains – otherwise we would have all ended up as mammoth fodder – and as the big risks, like large wild animals, disappear from everyday life, we transfer the fear to new and less serious problems.

Humphries claims that because ‘fear’ is hardwired into our brains, as the really big problems disappear, we shift our fear onto new, less-serious, problems. Effectively, we are becoming risk-averse to more and less dangerous things.

Humphries quotes the thesis of Bryan Caplan’s book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, that most  people are not informed about politics, political philosophy or public policy, but vote instead from their ‘preferred beliefs’. Caplan outlines four areas where the average voter gets politics wrong, including “overly-negative impressions about the impact of foreigners”.

It makes sense to me that ‘fear’ can be free-floating, that is, just ‘there’ until it finds something to land on and to be afraid of. And that is why I feel very strongly about public discourse – those of us who speak publically, politicians, journalists, and even bloggers with a handful of readers like me, have a responsibility not to offer ‘straw mammoths’ as a landing pad for fears (anyone care to illustrate that mixed metaphor?), and not to turn one mammoth into a herd.

But in recent weeks I have discovered how difficult this can be. Partisans interpret careful speech as a vote for the other side. And then I get sucked into discussing the mammoth as if it really exists.

Don't be afraid: it's in a cage

January 27, 2010

Richard Branson does not learn the truth about refugees

Besides such criticisms of the Run as “insensitive,” “dehumanizing,” or “disrespectful” (not to mention “ludicrous”) And Now For Something Completely Different: Davos Features “Refugee Run”, the Refugee Run at the Davos World Economic Forum also perpetuated myths about refugees.


Have a look at Richard Branson experiencing the  Run (below).

In the ‘Run’ the participants face an attack from rebels, a ‘mine field’, border corruption, language incapacity, black-marketeering and refugee camp survival. his video is of

It looks like it was a worthwhile experience – except that it reinforced a tragic misconception about refugees today.

Displaced people are increasingly likely to be in urban areas rather than camps, now referred to as ‘urban refugees’. That is, there are millions who are not ‘refugees’ recognised by the Refugee Convention, but who are living lives on the run wherever they can.

In addition, undocumented migrants from poorer nations often use the same trafficking channels as asylum seekers, and resort to claiming asylum in countries of the Global North the hope of being permitted to stay.

In the past, displaced people living in camps or settlements were considered to be prima facie refugees, and this conceptualisation still drives much public and policy discourse. The public is confused by the mixture of refugees and other migrants, and this contributes to xenophobia.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Refugee Run At World Economic Forum“, posted with vodpod

January 14, 2010

Earthquake: Will the US still refuse Haitian refugees?

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people,racism,refugee — Nayano @ 7:23 am
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via Twitpic

Thousands are feared dead in Haiti in the aftermath of the massive 7.0 earthquake that struck near Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince yesterday, and Change.org’s immigration blog is calling for Temporary protected Status for the 30,000 Haitians currently in the US, and who are facing deportation. Demand Temporary Protected Status for Haiti

You may well think that protection of these Haitians would be a given, but the treatment of Haitian asylum seekers is one of the United States most shameful aspects.

The US welcomed Cubans fleeing after the Cuban revolution in 1959, despite the fact that they were unauthorised arrivals. When Haitians began to flee the Duvalier regime in 1971, however, the US denied them asylum, despite strong parallels with the Cuban situation.

Guantanamo Bay was used as an off-shore detention centre in 1991 court order prevented the forcible return of asylum seekers to Haiti, preventing the asylum seekers from accessing the judicial appeals process.

Refugee claims of El Salvadorians and Guatemalans during the same period were not as easily accepted as those of Cubans, but the US meted out especially heinous treatment to Haitian asylum seekers.

Human rights groups then waged a campaign of civil disobedience to enable refugees from these countries to enter the US illegally, called the ‘sanctuary movement’.

In 1990, a new entrance category of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was instituted as solution for the tens of thousands of people who had gained entry and support from the sanctuary movement. Under this system, nations (or parts thereof) can be periodically designated as eligible for TPS, and people who are granted this status may live and work freely in the U.S. for the duration of the designated period, but  are not eligible for permanent residency (US Citizenship and Immigration Services 2009).

You can join the petition for TPS for Haitians at http://www.change.org/actions/view/end_all_deportations_to_haiti_and_grant_tps_status_to_haitians#letter_form

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