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!)


February 9, 2010

Up to 40,000 civilians were killed in secret in Sri Lanka

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,Tamils — Nayano @ 2:19 pm
Tags: , ,

It has been nearly impossible to get into Sri Lanka in the last 6 months if you are a journalist, but recently Eric Campbell from ABC TV’s Foreign Correspondent made it.

He was not, however, able to access the areas where the final offensive against the Tamil Tigers took place. He and his team tried to Jaffna but were turned back at the checkpoint despite having the right papers.

So Campbell’s is not an eyewitness account, but he did speak with a former senior UN official (anonymously)  who believes that up to 40,000 civilians were killed during this offensive that took place over five months from January to May 2009, virtually unseen by the outside world.

He also spoke to a group of 150 asylum seekers who’d tried to reach Australia. They told him that  when they go and apply for asylum in Colombo at the Australian High Commission; it’s not taken seriously at all, but that they believed there was a much better chance by boat:

“We’ve heard that the way to get into Australia is to actually reach Australian shore; that way you’re claim for asylum’s going to be taken much more seriously”.

Campbell says that you can’t say definitively that they are economic migrants or fleeing persecution.  To them it’s the same:

“They see themselves as being in a position where the war has destroyed their communities, their livelihood, and it’s also made them appear to be traitors to much of the country – particularly the military and the police who are dominated by Sinhalese, which is the main ethnic group.

“So they talk about daily harassment. They talk about not being able to get jobs; about if they get into university they can’t get jobs afterwards. They talk about their friends disappearing, being given anonymous death threats. They feel their country has no future for them, and they have to get out.” Why the Tamils want to flee

Things have changed since the Refugee Convention was drafted in 1950, and now it is difficult to distinguish refugees and asylum seekers, as defined by international instrumentalities, from undocumented migrants seeking havens from extremities not recognised in international refugee law.

January 13, 2010

ASIO complicit in the Australian Government’s asylum seeker deterrence policy

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people,refugee,Tamils — Nayano @ 10:20 am
Tags: , , ,

Four people from the Oceanic Viking have received an a, have therefore been refused protection as refugees by the Australian government because of adverse security assessments, and are now being held on Christmas Island.

Pamela Curr, campaign co-ordinator at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, sent this email about her experiences of ASIO security determinations and the politics of the refugee process:

“I sat through an ASIO interview with a man released from Nauru after four years incarceration. This was his second interview and the reasons for it were never disclosed. He was summonsed to the Immigration Department in Melbourne as were many post Nauru Iraqis on a supposedly immigration matter. There we were shuffled off to a side room where he was asked all over again about the torture and imprisonment he had endured in Iraq before fleeing to Australia.

“What astonished me was that ASIO and Immigration knew as early as 2002 that this man had been comprehensively tortured by Saddam Hussein’s men. They had corroborated evidence of the hanging upside down on huge fans for hours each day, of the hanging by arms turned backwards, which dislodges the shoulders causing exquisite pain. Yet they still held this man and many others on Nauru for years despite their own guidelines that tortured persons would not be detained longer than necessary.

“ASIO have been complicit in the Australian Government’s asylum seeker deterrence policy in the past so why would they not continue this co-operation when the Sri Lankan embassy has been so shrill in its claims that all Tamils coming to Australia are either Tamil Tiger terrorists or potential terrorists. Where, if not from the Sri Lankan embassy, are ASIO getting their information?

“Australia has funded the security cameras in Colombo airport to detect any potential Tamil asylum seekers from leaving while simultaneously funding the Sri Lankan Navy to prevent people escaping by boat. Indeed in December the Sri Lankan Navy took their responsibility to deter so seriously that they shot two asylum seekers, killing one as he struggled into a fishing boat.

“That ASIO has produced adverse security assessments against three men, one woman and her two children is not to be unexpected. Whether these assessments are valid or accurate is unlikely to be tested. ASIO assessments can destroy lives

November 18, 2009

Can you help? I am all at sea about Tamils

Will someone please help me with this?

What is going on with Tamils on boats?

Dr Kohona claims that they are just economic migrants, and could go just 22 miles across the water to Tamil Nadu in India instead, but would not make enough money there. Tamils could volunteer as sitting ducks for the Sri Lankan navy: Dr Kohona

Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, says that Dr Kohona is deluded, And that they can’t get to India because the Sri Lankan navy would short them out of the water. Tamil refugee boats sunk by Sri Lankan navy

Michael Roberts, a dual nationality Australian/Lankan Adjunct associate professor of anthropology at the University of Adelaide says that some Australians have displayed incredulous gullibility about this issue, and that the camps where Tamils are in Sri Lanka are only surrounded by ‘one strand of barbed wire’, have shops and banks and complete medical services, and people are being moved out of them rapidly. Crude Reasoning

David Feith says that “All international media and non-governmental organisations have been locked out of the camps” and that the camps were marked by a “shortage of food and medical facilities.” Tamils’ horrific treatment makes them desperate to leave

Dr Kohona said that 54 NGOs had access to these camps U.N. Ambassador Kohona: Sri Lanka Refugee Situation Improving.

In a media release yesterday Minister Chris Evans said that 119 asylum seekers have been deported from Australia this year because they were not refugees.

“More than two thirds of a group of 50 Sri Lankans who arrived by boat in April have now been returned to Sri Lanka after they were determined not be refugees…

(The latest six) join 30 others from the same boat who returned to Sri Lanka voluntarily after their claims for protection were thoroughly assessed and it was found they had not raised any issues which might engage Australia’s obligations under the United Nations refugee convention.”

Seems to support the economic migrant theory.

But can someone explain why they did not set out in boats before the camps were filled? And why the risky journey to Australia, when it seems that in Tamil Nadu there are economic opportunities also?

I am plain confused.

November 13, 2009

Tamil refugee boats sunk by Sri Lankan navy

Kohona’s argument is “bizarre”, according to Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research and a commentator on Sri Lanka. See Tamils could volunteer as sitting ducks for the Sri Lankan navy: Dr Kohona

The Australian reports today that Professor Chellaney says that the boat journey to India was “far more dangerous than Southeast Asia”. Sri Lankan navy ‘forcing refugees further afield’

“The Sri Lankan navy has been intercepting boats trying to cross the Palk Strait to India,” Professor Chellaney said.

“In the name of fighting remnant Tamil Tigers they attack boats of refugees; they have arrested people and sunk boats.

“That’s the reason why you’re getting boatpeople through Indonesia and other points; otherwise these guys would all be coming to India.”

November 12, 2009

Tamils could volunteer as sitting ducks for the Sri Lankan navy: Dr Kohona

Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre sent an email this morning commenting on the interview on Lateline with Dr Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s permanent representative on the UN.

Dr Kohona denys that Tamils are persecuted and at risk in Sri Lanka.

As well as claiming that the Tamils coming to Australia are just economic refugees, Dr Kohona claimed that they could go to India 22 miles away.

The Sri Lankan Navy, however, turns back and shoots boats attempting to cross

Dr Kohuna spoke of the many businesses run by Tamils in Colombo did not mention that under the PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) they are ordered to register, that their houses are being checked in house to house surveillance by police. http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=30584

November 7, 2009

How many would come if we just opened the borders?

Worried about asylum seekers flooding Australia?

What would happen if we just opened our borders to everyone?

Gallup polled people in 135 countries between 2007 and 2009, and found that about 16% of the world’s adults (roughly 700 million) would like to move to another country permanently if they could. 700 Million Worldwide Desire to Migrate Permanently

Nearly one-quarter said that the United States was their desired future residence. Forty-five million adults named the United Kingdom or France as their desired destination, 45 million would like to move to Canada, 35 million would like to go to Spain, 30 million to Saudi Arabia and 25 million would like to relocate to Germany. Twenty five  million named Australia.

If all adults actually moved to their desired destination country today, some countries would suffer tremendous losses and others would be overwhelmed.

Gallup’s Potential Net Migration Index (PNMI) is the estimated number who would like to move to a country, less the estimated number of adults who would like to move out of it, as a proportion of the total adult population.

The higher the resulting positive PNMI value, the larger the potential net population gain.

So there’s your answer – Australia’s population would suddenly increase by two and a half times.

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.”

October 12, 2009

Hysterical claims about Sri Lankan asylum seeker

The Rudd Government has publically lost its temper with Sharman Stone (opposition spokes woman for migration), saying that “Dr Stone has maligned Department of Immigration and Citizenship staff and the Australian Federal Police”.

Sharman Stone has claimed that asylum seeker processing had been ‘compromised’ because of the arrest of a Sri Lankan man returned to Colombo this week.

The media release from Minister Chris Evans quite correctly points out that the fact that the person was arrested and charged with a criminal offence in Sri Lanka on his return does not engage Australia’s international protection obligations.

Evans then adds “Dr Stone has a history of making hysterical and baseless allegations. Last week she made the outrageous claim that the United Nations refugee agency is corrupt”.

I agree with the Minister that Stone is defaming the Immigration Department with baseless claims. Departmental officials have had to abide by legislated guidelines to assess refugee claims for many years, including under both the Howard and the Rudd governments.

I witnessed very dubious ‘interpretations’ of that legislation in the days of Minister Ruddock, which resulted from a culture of antagonism to asylum seekers, inspired by Howard government rhetoric.

The culture of the department has changed radically since the new government took power. Refugee legislation has a much better chance of being interpreted and enacted correctly now than it ever did in the Howard era. (For the asylum seeker side of the story see Sri Lankan asylum seeker says he will be killed)

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