refugee rights

When I met Kathir (not his real name), in the maximum security stage of Villawood Detention Centre just before Christmas, he had been on hunger strike for five weeks.

The Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka was protesting against ASIO’s negative security clearance assessment of his asylum claim. This assessment — made entirely in secret — allows him to be held indefinitely.

Ten-year-old Tamil refugee Brindha faces deportation to Sri Lanka after being rejected by the immigration department, the January 3 Australian said.

In March 2010, she told Green Left Weekly the International Organisation for Migration was treating refugees “like animals”.

At the time, she was onboard the Jaya Lestari, a boat packed with 254 Tamil asylum seekers who had tried to reach Australia for protection from persecution.

The governments of Australia and Afghanistan have struck a deal to send back rejected Afghan asylum seekers against their will.

Australia promised $5.8 million to the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai to “improve the passport system” and fund resettlement, but has been condemned for neglecting the interests of refugees themselves.

Immigration minister Chris Bowen signed the deal with a minister of the corrupt Karzai regime on January 17. Afghan Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Dr Jamaher Anwary was in Sydney to take part in talks on “people smuggling”.

Socialist Alliance statement

The horrific boatwreck and deaths of more than 30 asylum seekers on December 15 on the rocks of Christmas Island reveals the inhumanity of the Gillard Labor government’s asylum seeker policy.

This tragedy should be the trigger for the complete junking of the government’s current racist refugee policy.

"We need a refugee policy based on human solidarity not one that encourages racism and xenophobia", said Sue Bolton a refugee rights activist and a member of the Socialist Alliance national executive.

At least 30 people are reported dead in the terrible tragedy of the refugee boat that sunk near Christmas Island on December 15. The media are reporting that those on the boats appear to be mainly from Iran and Iraq.

The news comes as US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveal the terrible cynicism with which both major parties have treated the asylum seeker issue.

Iniyan and Ravi (names have been changed to protect their identities) are Tamil asylum seekers currently imprisoned at Villawood detention centre. Both detainees use art to show the oppression of Tamils in their homeland of Sri Lanka.

In May 2009, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were defeated by the Sri Lankan army. Though the war is ended the persecution of Tamils continues. Iniyan and Ravi fled for their lives as they were being hunted by Sri Lankan government forces and paramilitaries, for suspicion of supporting the LTTE.

“Mum’s dead”. The gloomy faced Sujendran Gunesekaram greeted me, as we met in person for the first time. His mother died of a heart attack on September 5, after suffering for three years.

Sujendran is a 27-year-old Sri Lankan Tamil originally from Muttur in Trincomalee, the war-hit town in the east. He was one of 254 asylum seekers on the Australia-bound boat Jeya Lestari that moored off at the port in Merak, Indonesia in October 2009.

The Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) refugee centre in Broadmeadows has beds for 50 people. It housed 46 unaccompanied refugee teenagers until the government expanded the facility to detain more refugees.

The centre now detains 132 boys, all aged under 17. The youngest is 13 or 14. Most of the boys are unclear about their own ages, and many don’t carry any form of ID, passports or birth certificates.

After the arrival of 98 new people, there was a “riot” on November 13. Forty were injured and seven hospitalised.

Tamil asylum seeker Mugeeb Rahuman Mohaideen is detained in Maribynong Detention Centre.

He came to Australia on November 7.

He told Green Left Weekly that he ran a clothes-making store in the war-torn Tamil Eelam province of Sri Lanka.

Mohaideen's customers included the Sri Lankan Army. He said the SLA took a large order in August 2009 and didn't pay. When Mohaideen asked for payment, they came for him.

An Iraqi Kurd in his 30s who had been in detention at Christmas Island for about 12 months, attempted suicide, the Australian said on November 23. This came just a week after the second suicide in two months at Villawood detention centre.

About 20 fellow asylum seekers resorted to sewing their lips shut and 230 other detainees went on hunger strike in protest as “people felt that the Gillard government was ignoring their cases”.


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