refugee rights

On September 6, 35 people attended a meeting held by the Perth Refugee Rights Action Network to hear a reportback from participants of the RRAN “Compassion Caravan”.

The Compassion Caravan involved 25 people traveling to the Leonora detention centre, in remote Western Australia, where 200 men, women and children refugees are detained. The caravan delivered toys and welcome notes to the refugees, written by Perth primary school children.

Independent Andrew Wilkie won the Tasmanian seat of Denison at the recent federal elections. Previously, the seat had been held by Duncan Kerr for 23 years and was considered a safe Labor seat.

Wilkie came to prominence in 2003 when he resigned from his job at the Office of National Assessments in public protest against the then Liberal/National Coalition government's decision to invade Iraq. The invasion was based on the claim Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, a claim that later proved false.

A 21-year-old Tamil refugee has allegedly been the victim of an assault while in detention.

Leela Krishna was recognised as a refugee by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in April this year, but is still held in Villawood detention centre.

He was waiting for security clearance from ASIO before release. But, on August 21, he was allegedly assaulted in an isolation unit by a former professional kick boxer.

The police are investigating the attack, and Serco — the private contractors who manage the centre — have placed Krishna in the “housing” component of Villawood.

Prisoners detained without trial at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin have staged dramatic protests. On August 29 and 30, about 120 Indonesian detainees, accused of (but not charged with) “people smuggling”, staged protests on the jail’s roof and set fire to garbage. On September 1, about 90 Afghan Hazara refugees broke out of the jail and held a peaceful protest on the Stuart Highway.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told AAP on August 30 she believed the Indonesians were poor fisherpeople who had been conned into making the journey.

A high court challenge to Australia's offshore processing, on behalf of two Tamil refugees whose asylum claims were refused, has questioned the legality of the refugee processing policy.

The case, heard in Canberra's High Court over August 24-26, occurred amid rising numbers of refugee claims being refused.

Australia imprisons refugees in offshore detention and denies them full right of appeal in Australian courts. Access to legal advice and fair processing is greatly restricted.

The lawyers acting on behalf of the Tamils labelled this practice unlawful and unconstitutional.

On August 23, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) reported that a 30-year-old man found unconscious in the Curtin Immigration Detention Centre in Western Australia had died.

After his collapse on August 21, the man was taken to Derby hospital, 40 kilometres away. That night, he was transferred to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, more than 2000km south of Derby. He died the next day.

DIAC would not tell Green Left Weekly the man’s name, but said it didn’t believe there were suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. A Coronial inquiry

Over the weekend of August 14-15, a “Compassion Caravan” left Perth to visit the Leonora immigration detention centre.

Organised by the Refugee Rights Action Network of Western Australia (RRAN), the caravan included 22 people (including university lecturers and children) and a cargo of gifts for the 195 mothers, fathers and children in the remote Leonora detention centre.

At dawn on August 20, the offices of Kurdish groups in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne were raided by Australian Federal Police and state police. Police alleged the groups were linked to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which struggles for self-determination for the oppressed Kurdish minority in Turkey.

The PKK was listed as a “terrorist organisation” by the Australian government in 2005. Kurdish leaders in Melbourne, along with the association’s lawyer Chris Ryan, questioned the timing of the raid, coming as it did the day before the federal election.

Just three days after the federal election, with the result still in the balance, the Refugee Action Coalition held a protest outside the Sydney law courts in support of a High Court case that is challenging the legality of off-shore processing of asylum seekers.

If the case fails, there will be no further legal barrier to deporting refugees currently held in detention centres.

About 500 people rallied in Melbourne on August 13 to put the Liberal and Labor parties on notice that the refugee rights movement is rebuilding, and a growing number of people are willing to stand up for refugees.

The Refugee Action Collective organised the protest under the slogan of “Stand up for Refugees” in a bid to have the treatment of asylum seekers recognized as a human rights issue.

There were contingents of Greens, socialists and the Community Public Sector Union. Protesters chanted, “East Timor no solution, let the refugees in”.

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