A possie in Aussie

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)

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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 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 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.

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?

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