refugee rights

An Essential Research poll released October 25, asked the question, “Do you approve or disapprove of the federal government’s decision to move children and their families out of immigration detention centres and allow them to live in the community while their cases are being processed?”

Alarmingly, only 33% approved while 53% disapproved and 13% said they didn't know. Furthermore, 29% strongly disapproved, while only 11% strongly approved.

One hundred people gathered in Brisbane’s King George Square on October 22 to commemorate the tragedy of the SIEV X, an Indonesian fishing boat bound for Australia, which sank on October 19, 2001, drowning 353 asylum seekers — 146 of them children.

The rally and the march through the city was organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC).

A RAC statement said: “The Australian government knew of this disaster and allowed these refugees, fleeing war and persecution, to die.

The federal Labor government has announced plans to move some children and families out of refugee detention, but will not change its policy of locking up unaccompanied children who arrive in Australia by boat.

The October 18 announcement followed a concerted campaign by refugee advocacy groups to end mandatory detention and a Greens bill to release all 738 children presently in detention.

The Pacific Solution
By Susan Metcalfe
Australian Scholarly Publishing, North Melbourne, 2010

Review by Julian Gormly

There are many myths around the issue of asylum seekers in Australia. Yet, when you look at the facts, it’s obvious that asylum seekers aren’t a problem. The problem is Australia’s punitive policies, including mandatory detention of asylum seekers arriving by boat, which contravene international law.

Lack of transparency ensures that human rights are abused daily in Australia’s detention centres, creating many mental health problems for people who are already traumatised.

The policy of mandatory detention will cost the taxpayers more than $1 billion dollars over the next four years.

This year is the 15th anniversary of the Nargar Kovil school massacre in Tamil Eelam, the Tamil area of Sri Lanka.

On September 22, 1995, the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) bombed Nargar Kovil Maha Vidyalayam schoolyard, which was crammed with 750 children on their lunch break. Reports of the number of children killed vary from 26 to 70.

Twelve of the children killed were six or seven years old. One hundred and fifty were injured, including 40 seriously. Twenty-two children had their limbs amputated. Ten of the amputees were under 12.

Immigration minister Chris Bowen visited East Timor on October 11 to push Australia’s offshore detention centre plan.

He also visited Indonesia and Malaysia over October 12-14. Bowen’s purpose was to enforce “strong cooperation with regional neighbours” on Australia’s border control.

He said he wanted East Timor to “play a role” by allowing the Australian government to build a refugee detention centre there.

About 25 people attended an October 5 Green Left Weekly forum on "The Fight for Refugee Rights".

Paul McKinnon, convenor of the Refugee Action Collective, said: “While the refugee rights movement is still not up to the strength it was three years ago, the achievement of the earlier movement didn't disappear. There is a large reservoir of largely passive support for asylum seekers, which needs to be mobilised.”

Seven refugee rights activists were forced out of Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre on October 4. Two days later, another refugee advocate, Rosalie Scolari, was banned from Maribyrnong detention centre in Melbourne.

Private prisons operator Serco runs both detention centres.

Scolari was trying to visit gay Tamil detainee Leela Krishna, who was recently moved from Villawood to Maribyrnong. He has spent more than 12 months imprisoned and a community campaign has called for his immediate release.

Refugee Action Coalition NSW media release

A year ago, then prime Minister Kevin Rudd called Indonesian President Yudhoyono requesting that the Indonesian navy intercept a boat carrying 254 Tamil asylum seekers to Australia. The boat was the subject of
international attention after the asylum seekers refused to disembark at Merak in Indonesia. In April 2010, the asylum seekers were forcibly removed to Tanjung Pinang detention centre.

Except for two families shifted to detention in Medan, all the Tamils remain in appalling conditions in Tanjung Pinang.

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