On May 31, the nine Sydney men who were arrested in raids on their homes in November 2005, and who have been incarcerated in Goulburn maximum security prison since, finally faced a hearing in the Supreme Court. The nine men pleaded not guilty to the charge of conspiring to organise a terrorist act under the Howard government’s so-called anti-terror laws.
Christmas Island, 2800 kilometres north-west of Perth, 2500 kilometres from Darwin and 500 kilometres from Singapore, is one of Australia’s most remote Indian Ocean territories. It is where many asylum seekers first make their refugee claims. But since the 2001 arrival of the Tampa and the island’s excision from Australia’s migration zone, the island has been pivotal to the Howard government’s heartless response to asylum seekers.
The old adage one step forward, two steps back encapsulates the experience of the refugee movement in 2006. Despite some positive changes to refugee policy, the result of consistent campaigning by refugee rights activists and organisations over a number of years, the Howard government has pushed on with its regressive immigration agenda, especially the treatment of refugees.
On October 21, two days after the anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X, shadow minister for immigration Tony Burke announced that he would recommend that the ALP change key aspects of its refugee policy.
Advocates of justice for asylum seekers and refugees were relieved when the government was forced to withdraw its proposed amendments to the Migration Act, amendments that would have meant that any asylum seeker arriving by boat in Australia would be deported to Nauru to be processed.