A possie in Aussie

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

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March 12, 2010

Should black dolls be cheap?

Filed under: African,race relations,racism — Nayano @ 5:17 am
Tags:

This display in a Walmart store has caused controversy in the US.

ABC News (the American version) reports

“To prepare for (s)pring inventory, a number of items are marked for clearance, ” Wlmart spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien said. “Both are great dolls. The red price sticker indicates that this particular doll was on clearance when the photo was taken, and though both dolls were priced the same to start, one was marked down due to its lower sales to hopefully increase purchase from customers.”

“The implication of the lowering of the price is that’s devaluing the black doll,” said Thelma Dye, the executive director of the Northside Center for Child Development, a Harlem, N.Y. organization founded by pioneering psychologists and segregation researchers Kenneth B. Clark and Marnie Phipps Clark.

“While it’s clear that’s not what was intended, sometimes these things have collateral damage,” Dye said.

Come on! Shops have to be politically-correct when they price items?

Walmart didn’t refuse to stock black dolls. The dolls didn’t sell, for whatever reason.

The reason probably was that people of all races prefer light skin over dark skin, even among their own ethnic group. True! I don’t understand it, personally. I would swap my mottled pink-bluey version any day.

Sociological Images says that “Walmart, however, could have chosen, in this case, to opt out of profit maximization.  The market isn’t physics; a company doesn’t have to follow its laws.”

The laws of physics? No. But the laws of profit making are just as unforgiving.

March 3, 2010

Angry Anderson and friends: please share your statistics!

I’m not Angry, but I am frustrated.

Gary ‘Angry’ Anderson yesterday added some petrol to the fire of racism in Australia by telling a Parliamentary Inquiry that there were racial and cultural reasons behind increases in weapon assaults.

(And gave “Aussie Kids’ a strange commendation: “Aussies use their fists”.

How does he know? How does he get the confidence to make such claims? Does he have access to sources the rest of us don’t?

Of course, Andrew Bolt is always there when there is a sniff of fuel being added to a fire.

Bolt ‘just’ raises the issue, and then lets the moral panic do the talking:

“Peter of Adelaide’:

“Angry is 100% correct.

“The Vietnamese were the first in Adelaide to use weapons and the machette seemed to be the weapon of choice.

“Today it’s knives, machettes (sic) and anything else available.

“Vietnamese, Sudanese, Lebonese (sic). You name the immigrants and you will find weapons within their gangs.

Another reader supports Peter of Adelaide:

“Peter of Adelaide makes points about the propensity of ethnic groups to use weapons. Supported by statistics.”

PLEASE PLEASE tell me, where are these statistics? I really want to know. Every time I have asked police for an idea of which groups are committing crimes I am met by silence. (As it should be.)

The only statistics that I know of that are publically available are from the ABS, and they are currently from 2005, and only of ethnicity of prisoners. (If you know of any others, please tell me).

And, unfortunately for those of us who would l.ike a quick answer to these things, the frequency of incarceration does not equal the frequency of crimes committed.

To take just one example, the wealthy can hire QCs to represent their children, as in a case of friends of mine whose sons didn’t like someone’s attitude in a street one night, and ended the night by killing the guy with a tyre lever.  The sons were ‘Australian’, of Anglo-Saxon descent, by the way.

‘Atatistics tell the story’ also turned up in recent discussions of the crimes against Indians. Commenters told me that the ‘statistics’ showed that the crimes were racist. But the ‘statistics’ turned out to be media reports.

Angry Anderson is clearly an idiot to say such things, and we could just write his comments off as so much hot air. But there is nothing like a ‘devil’ to increase sales of tabloid press and listeners to talkback radio. Especially if that ‘devil’ has a machete.

March 1, 2010

What really deters asylum claims: a REAL change of government

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people — Nayano @ 7:39 am
Tags: , ,

Last week the UK Daily Mail published an investigative piece called From Kabul to an M1 service station via a dinghy: the Afghans dying to get into Britain

It is well worth reading in its entirety, but a few sections in particular shed some light on what is happening with the boats arriving from Indonesia into Australia.

“There has been a surge of Afghans arriving in Britain.”

In the Australian recently Glenn Milne said:

“Kevin Rudd’s claim that the spike in asylum-seekers arriving illegally in Australia is a shared global problem due to international “push” factors has been contradicted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ own figures.

Milne says that UNHCR  figures show that asylum claims rose by only 5 per cent globally in the nine months to September last year, but in Australia they increased by more than 25 per cent. Ergo: Rudd has opened the door and put out the welcome mat. Global asylum claims drop as Australia’s rises

But the same UNHCR figures show that claims by Afghan asylum seekers rose by a third over the same period – and Afghans form the bulk of Australia’s claims from people who arrive undocumented. (China is the source country for asylum claims from people who have arrived by plane i.e., ‘documented’.)

To illustrate the point that total figures don’t mean much locally, Bernard Keane says that globally there has been a 20% rise in Serbian refugees last year to more than 18,000, but we cut Serbian arrivals by 100%.   Lies, damned lies and asylum seeker statistics)

Which raises the question of why Australia is receiving Afghans. They are a long way from home, further than Serbia for example, and face a life threatening sea journey to get here.

Is it that the journey is easier than that to the UK?  The Daily Mail article notes:

“They’re prepared to hand over their life savings and take huge risks to journey to Europe, where they hope to apply for asylum.

“They take the route from their homes in Afghanistan to Iran, Turkey and Greece, then up through Italy and France to the ultimate goal for so many – the UK. This is no simple, two-week dash across Asia and into Europe. Most of those who set out never reach the UK, and journeys can take months or even years. Along the way, the immigrants are fleeced by traffickers and risk beatings and imprisonment by border guards. Many die trying. After paying up to $15,000 to the smugglers. Mostly raised by families selling up their assets, or going into crippling debt.

Does sound worse than the Australian route.

But one of the very biggest drawcards for asylum seekers is the liberal and democratic nature of their destinations. The Mail quotes an Afghan:

‘No, we will pay for this journey. The UK is a good place. People have a good life there,’ he says.

Australia is known world-wide for its safety, democracy and easy lifestyle. Temporary Protection Visas didn’t deter the boats. (See Andrew Bolt supports the claim that Howard lured boat people to Australia) Perhaps we should get rid of Rudd and install a corrupt dictator? That would have a deterrent effect.

February 25, 2010

Andrew Bolt supports the claim that Howard lured boat people to Australia

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people — Nayano @ 12:40 pm
Tags: ,

Andrew Bolt publishes this graph of numbers in immigration detention today, and asks us to note ‘The red dot marks the date Rudd said he go soft” (I am sure he means ‘when Rudd went soft’), and claims that Kevin Rudd’s weakening of our boat people laws has ‘lured’ the boats.

What did Rudd know of this boat and when did he know it?

But here is another graph showing numbers in immigration detention, this time from 1999 to 2009.

Notice the sudden increase for 1999-2001? Temporary Protection Visas were introduced in 1999.

Conclusion: if Rudd’s ‘softness’ towards ‘ asylum seekers has ‘caused’ the increase in boat arrivals, then logically we must conclude that Howard’s policies caused the increase from 1999 to 2001.

February 24, 2010

In which I painfully admit that a Liberal government was better for asylum seekers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nayano @ 3:46 pm

Last weekend some Chinese students studying here and hoping for PR asked me which government is best for migrants. After some painful thought I had to say ‘Liberal’. And followed that with ‘But not that I would ever vote for them!’

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has just released his memoir: Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs (by Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons), and in an interview on the launch said that there ‘maybe’ was a racist culture within the immigration department. Immigration dept is racist: Fraser

I think he’s wrong about the department, but his record gives him some right to criticise.

Fraser blamed the immigration department for policies such as remote detention centres, but it was in fact the Labor government under Paul Keating that introduced mandatory detention.

At the end of the war in Vietnam, the Hawke Labor government accepted Vietnamese refugees but on strict conditions. Prime Minister Whitlam’s personal prejudices played a part in the parsimonious nature of the response. Some of the few who made it to Australia were required, as a condition of their entry, to sign an undertaking that they would not engage in political activity. A recently released departmental file records that Prime Minister Whitlam advised: ‘Do not accept that a person claiming to be a refugee … is entitled to claim residence in Australia’, and warned against repeating the importation of fascists from the Baltic states after the war.

The Fraser government, however, admitted Vietnamese on the sole basis of legitimate claims to refuge, and refugees from Laos and Cambodia were also admitted. The positive stance of the Fraser government continued, and in 1978 Immigration Minister Michael Mackellar announced that it was not illegal to be a refugee, and that the ‘boat people’ were not ‘illegal immigrants’ nor ‘queue jumpers’.

The students I spoke to were probably ‘better off’ under Howard, because they came to Australia under that regime, and now have had the rug pulled from under them in their quest for permanency by the Rudd government’s reforms to student and work visas – but in the end, all international students  will benefit. Those caught in the changeover, however, suffer.

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

February 18, 2010

Europe murders the undesirables at the border

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nayano @ 6:18 pm

We are not protected from exploitation and abuse because our fellow citizens are good people – we are protected under the rule of law of our country because we are citizens.

People who leave their countries because they cannot find protection from their own governments, as in Afghanistan, have no protection except for the goodwill of individuals, until they have residence rights in another country.

We have seen a little of what can happen to such unprotected people in Australia, but a report just released by Migreurop: Europe’s murderous borders shows the extent of the persecution that ‘undocumented migrants’ now suffer in the EU. Migreurop calls this the ‘ordeal of the undesirables’.

“While following the example of nationals of rich countries who travel by aeroplane, they could have entered Europe after a flight lasting a few hours, these exiles have spent a lot more to be left in medieval travel conditions.

“Forced to advance step by step, to multiply the use of means of transport that are as dangerous as they are inappropriate (overloaded boats, hiding places in lorries, walking through the most hostile regions…) and to entrust their lives to those who are enriched by the policy of closed borders, in spite of themselves, these adventurers must embark upon a veritable ordeal of the ‘undesirables’.”

The ‘undesirables live in ‘jungles’, unlawful camps in north-western France in which hundreds of Afghan, Eritrean, Iraqi or Sudanese exiles have been surviving for over ten years, in the shantytowns near to the port of Patras in Greece , or in the ‘tranquillos’ in the countryside around Oujda where sub-Saharans waiting to find a way into Europe are forced to survive.

Wherever they are there is the “same concealment, the same makeshift shelters made of plastic and rubbish bags, the same recovered old clothing, the same relegation into a sub-human existence.” The ‘undesirables’ live in fear of refoulements, violence, detention, and harassment.

Extract from an interview in Istanbul on 10/01/2009: “I went to Izmir. From there, we set

off in a small boat. Our boat was so small and there were far too many of us, we were 20. It was in the winter. The waves were very high. The Greek police arrived. Their boat was far larger than ours.

They started creating waves around us. It was dark and very cold. They were going in circles around us and our boat sank. We stayed like that in the water. There was a woman with her little girl, they both died. The water was so cold that I could not feel the blood circulating in my legs. We stayed like that for 12 hours, 12 hours in the water. The others took care of me. I was pregnant at the time, I lost my baby in the water. I was bleeding heavily when they took me out of the water.

We saw a helicopter, I think they were the ones who called the Turkish police. Afterwards, the Turks arrived with a boat and then I fainted. I awoke in hospital”.

Frontex, Poseidon

In the detention facility for migrants in Lesvos, MSF arranges for detained children to see their fathers.

Young would-be asylum seekers wait around on discarded shopping trolleys

February 17, 2010

Refugees prepared to risk death at sea: Fraser’s Cabinet documents

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nayano @ 1:01 pm

The Cabinet records of the Fraser government of 1979 have been released, and throw an interesting light on matters of asylum seekers in Australia.

Some documents relate to the boatloads of asylum seekers from Vietnam that were arriving in Australian waters at the time.

The writer of Memorandum 380, Indo-Chinese refugees [A12390, 380] shows astonishing prescience:

“This new situation has all the ingredients for one of the most controversial and divisive issues in Australia’s history. It could well become the dominant political issue during the remainder of the century.”

Indeed.

The writer identified the following issues to be addressed:

  • How many refugees could Australia accept without creating serious long-term social and economic problems and disruption?
  • How to maintain Australia’s international reputation and standing
  • How to maintain and be seen to maintain control over the entry of people to Australia
  • How to avoid coming to be seen as a natural or inevitable destination
  • And how to do all of the above without producing conflict with countries of transit

As a possible ‘answer’ to the issues, several options are proposed, including ‘Option “D”: deterring arrivals. The assessment of this option?

‘Given the element of compulsion and the fact that Vietnamese domestic policies have made refugees prepared to risk death at sea rather than to remain in Vietnam, this approach is unlikely to be effective.’

Indeed.

There is nothing new under the sun, nor in the sea, it seems.

Some of Australia's earliest boat people

February 13, 2010

Canada looks set to win the brain drain from India with fast track citizenship

Canada is bidding for the ‘brains’ that are now draining out of Australia and Britain.

Australia has made things harder for foreign students to get PR (permanent residency) through their studies by ending rorts that used study simply as a visa opportunity and encouraging the growth of shonky ‘colleges’ and shady ‘education agents’. International students and temporary workers suffer because of Australian immigration mess

This, along with the recent focus on attacks on Indian students, is drastically reducing student visa applications to Australia. The ‘Indian Issue’ is creating racism

Students from Northern India, Bangladesh and Nepal are also now facing a temporary ban on entry to Britain, which feared foul play after it faced an alarming increase in student visa applications.

Taking the opportunity, the province of Quebec is giving out “certificates of selection” to foreign students who graduate from universities there, putting them on a very fast-track to Canadian citizenship. Quebec Fast-Tracks Citizenship for Foreign Students . Any student who secures a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from any university in Quebec will in effect be awarded citizenship after undergoing security and health checks.

The premier of the province, Jean Charest, told Times of India that

“Our vision is that of an open society. Globalisation is not just about economy and numbers; we need to put a human face to it.’’

This ‘globalised human face’ is not just about people, but about exam scores and qualifications.

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