A possie in Aussie

January 26, 2010

Mobiles suddenly banned on Christmas Island? How you can help

My friend Michelle who is supporting detainees on Christmas Island sent this email today: (To see how you can help, see end of post).

In recent weeks, detainees been told they are no longer allowed to have mobile phones. As one detainee explained to me, “an immigration officer told me this is the new rule of immigration”. Phones that have been sent to the centre by well-wishers are now being kept in the properties department upon arrival. Detainees are then notified that the phone has arrived but they cannot have it.

Mobile phones inside the detention centre have not been an issue until now. As long as the mobile phones have no camera and are security cleared by Serco when they are sent in, it is not a problem. Several detainees currently have phones that were sent in before the “new
rule”. They have not been confiscated but once those phones leave the centre no more will be allowed in.

Not only is this ban on mobiles unfair to Christmas Island detainees, who have been sent phones from friends, advocates and relatives on the mainland, it symbolises how asylum seekers who arrive by boat in an excised territory and then detained in an island maximum security centre are treated as second class asylum seekers with lesser rights than those
that arrive by air.

Mainland detainees are allowed mobile phones. Why should it be any different on Christmas Island?

I have written to the Department asking the reasoning behind this “new rule” but am yet to receive a response.  Please write to the Department, express your disappointment in this new rule and ask why should the mobile phone policy on Christmas Island be any different to mainland detention centres.
All emails should be sent to Mr Bob Correll who is one of DIACs Deputy Secretaries and deals with Christmas Island detention at:
All emails should be cc’d to DIAC’s Secretary Mr Andrew Metcalfe at this address:
Other ways to help:

There are plenty of asylum seekers who need penfriends. Please contact Lisa Hartley at letters@asylumseekerschristmasisland.com if you would like to be involved.

We are still desperate for reading material and DVDs in Dari, Farsi, Arabic, Indonesian, Tamil, Vietnamese and Burmese.

Feel free to send pens to ACSI or asylum seekers on the island as well seeing Serco is
now making detainees purchase them from the canteen rather than supplying them.

There is a great article in today’s Australian you should all check out by Linda Briskman, Susie Latham and Chris Goddard:


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
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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

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 31, 2009

Want child abuse? Night raids? Summary justice? Just ask your Immigration official

Actions taken against people suspected of violating migration legislation are decided and applied by decision of the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

These ‘compliance’ actions are mostly taken against ‘aliens’ who have no resident status, but as we have seen in recent years, the Australian Immigration Department has also acted against Australian citizens such as Cornelia Rau.

Residents and citizens of Australia are protected by the Rule of Law, and so, once her status was discovered, Rau had to be released immediately and had recourse to compensation.

(Notice that protection against summary actions of the immigration department depends on those actions coming to light.)

When migration officials decide to take action, however, it seems that residency or any other status have little deterrent effect. This blog has reported about the child in immigration detention who was separated from her father and flown to Iran without his permission, Australian immigration officials investigated over child abduction, and overseas students who have been subject to compliance raids in the middle of the night and had their homes searched by immigration officials.  Failed your exam? Go to jail!

It is not only in Australia where immigration is a law unto itself. Human Rights Watch reports that, in 2008, airport police deported or removed one third of the 1,000 unaccompanied migrant children who arrived at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and who were denied entry into France.

“Airport border police place detained children in the same facilities as adults, putting the children at risk of abuse. They routinely threaten children as young as age six with deportation, subject children to strip searches, handcuff them during rides to hospitals, and order intrusive age examinations even when there is no doubt the child is under 18.” France: Abolish Airport Limbo for Migrant Children

There are of course international treaties that proclaim guidelines for the treatment of aliens. Some people refer to these as ‘laws’, but a law is not a law unless it can be enforced, and there is no body that can sanction nations for their treatment of people who are not official residents or citizens.

The wonderful Hannah Arendt more than half a century ago saw that the concept of human rights ‘collapses in ruins’ in the face of the stateless, the refugee, and the asylum seeker. To these we may add ‘those in the hands of immigration departments’.

October 28, 2009

‘Indonesian solution’ for asylum seekers should be ‘Pakistan solution’

Andrew Bartlett notes that we are on the cusp of changes in asylum policy in Australia and regionally. Future asylum policies in the balance

He reminds us that the ‘accommodation’ for many asylum seekers in Indonesia ranges from adequate to appalling.

“The Australian government, having gone on at length about the increasing cooperation with the Indonesian government, cannot now simply sidestep their responsibilities by saying the conditions are the responsibility of the UNHCR and IOM”.

I absolutely agree.

But the asylum seeker question will not be answered by improving conditions in Indonesia, or any other of Australia’s ‘Fortress Pacific’ neighbours. Asylum seeker crowd control: Australia and Europe hire 3rd world bouncers

If conditions in countries like Indonesia are improved then those nations may become magnets in themselves, and they will be forced to take increasingly severe deterrent measures.

There are suggestions that more aid to source nations would reduce refugee and asylum seeker flows, but there is no guarantee that this would reduce the numbers of people leaving to seek a better life, and indeed improvement in conditions is associated with increases in emigration, at least initially.

Economic assistance has reduced flows only when the sending country has the means to stop the flows by preventing refugees from leaving, as in the case of Haiti. The major sending nations of Afghanistan and most African nations are not able to do so, however.

And preventing people from fleeing persecution is a gross violation of human rights.

The bulk of the world’s refugees exist in developing countries without adequate financial resources for their care and maintenance. Perhaps we should instead invest in those nations who have always borne the brunt of flight: neighbours of the major source nations, like Pakistan and Kenya.

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