BY BILL MASON
BRISBANE — Fourteen refugees from the MV Tampa, released from behind the barbed wire of the Nauru detention camp, were welcomed by supporters of refugees' rights when they arrived at Brisbane airport on September 3.
The 14 Afghan refugees had spent almost two years locked away as victims of the federal government's infamous "Pacific solution".
Since the Tampa incident, Australia has shipped all refugees caught trying to land on the Australian mainland without authorisation to detention camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
Hazara Ethnic Society of Australia president Hassan Ghulan said the arrival of the Afghan Hazara refugees was "the start of a long healing process, and a bit of an embarrassment to Prime Minister John Howard".
During the 2001 federal election campaign, Prime Minister John Howard that none of the refugees rescued by the Norwegian freighter would be allowed to set foot in Australia. So far, 15 refugees rescued by the Tampa — most of whom were transported by the Australian navy to Nauru — have been admitted to Australia.
Human rights groups have called for the nine women and 14 children still detained on Nauru to be reunited with their husbands or fathers, living in Australia as refugees.
Of the 433 people picked up the Tampa, 131 were accepted by New Zealand, one by Australia and 301 were taken to Nauru. Thirty percent of those on Nauru were eventually accepted as refugees or later resettled in New Zealand.
Refugee supporters accused the Howard government of refusing to provide proper support for the asylum-seekers who have made it to Australia, granting them only temporary protection visas, mostly for five years. The new arrivals have been left without English classes, and not given full social security rights with Centrelink.
From Green Left Weekly, September 10, 2003.
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