Christmas Island

On July 19, 2013, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stood beside Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and said in a classical Rudd pretentious drone: “You won’t be settled in Australia. You’ll be sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea for reprocessing and resettlement.”

Effective immediately, everyone who came by boat seeking asylum would never be given protection in Australia.

The immigration department has confirmed it wrongly sent two Australian citizens to immigration detention after cancelling their visas.

The two, who were born in New Zealand and hold dual citizenship, were taken to immigration detention after their visas were cancelled following their release from prison.

One was taken to Christmas Island, while the other was detained onshore.

Under section 501 of the Migration Act, a non-citizen's visa must be cancelled if they serve a jail term of more than 12 months.

The federal government has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum in compensation to a nine-year-old girl who was detained on Christmas Island for almost a year, after arriving in Australia with her parents by boat in 2013.

She was part of a class action launched in 2014 that initially aimed to secure compensation for thousands of asylum seekers.

Her lawyers argued she had developed post-traumatic stress disorder, a dental infection, a stammer and separation anxiety in detention and still needs ongoing medical treatment.

 

In August, Pamela Curr from Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), and Sister Brigid Arthur, from the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project, travelled to Christmas Island to visit the men seeking asylum, who are currently held in the detention centre, more than 2600 kilometres from the nearest capital city, Perth. On their return they presented this report.

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About 200 people rallied on June 26 demanding people charged under section 501 of the Migration Act 1958 be freed and allowed to stay in Australia.

More than 190 people, mostly New Zealanders, have been ripped away from their families and put in prison on Christmas Island, 380 kilometres south of Java and 2650 kilometres north-west of Perth, pending deportation. The numbers are set to increase.

Despite the immigration minister's attempts to block information and ban journalists from offshore detention camps, information continues to leak out.

Ali Bakhtiarvandi was held in immigration detention for four and a half years in the early 2000s before being recognised as a refugee. He is in regular telephone contact with detainees on Christmas Island.

He spoke to Green Left Weekly's Chris Peterson about the recent events on Christmas Island.

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As of December last year, anyone who is not an Australian citizen who has spent 12 months or more in jail can be deported at the discretion of the immigration department.

By September, 75 New Zealanders and Pacific Islanders were being detained on Christmas Island awaiting deportation.

In this nine-month period, 406 New Zealand citizens had their visas cancelled, 95 had been deported and up to 184 were being held in detention centres.

Refugee Action Coalition Sydney released this statement on June 5.

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Eye-witness accounts of the riot squad attack on peaceful protests on Christmas Island on June 2 have revealed more of the brutality of the attack and disproportionate force used by the Serco Emergency Response Team.

One of the asylum seekers injured remains in hospital with a broken hand/wrist after the riot squad re-broke his hand with such severity that a surgical pin from a previous operation was broken through the bone.

During this year alone, an estimated 128 people have drowned or vanished trying to seek asylum in Australia. By June 14, up to seven asylum boats trying to reach Christmas Island had foundered, sunk or been stranded.

This includes the boat that sank in Indonesia’s Sunda Strait in April, when Australian authorities failed to give accurate coordinates of the foundering vessel to Indonesian search and rescue. Up to 58 people drowned, 53 of whom were never retrieved.

Another boat, believed to be carrying up to 180 asylum seekers, made a distress call to Australian authorities at about 4.30am (AEST) time this morning. The call said the boat was about 50 nautical miles south of Indonesia and heading to Christmas Island, and its engine had failed and that it was taking on water.

ABC Online said the HMAS Wollongong was searching for the boat, but it had not been found.

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