refugee rights

On September 24, Australia took another step backwards.

Hadi Ahmadi, 35, was sentenced in a Perth court to a maximum of seven and a half years for assisting 562 asylum seekers to reach Australia on two boats in 2001. He was originally charged with “smuggling” 900 people on four boats, but this number was reduced during the course of the trial.

Ahmadi had been recognised as a refugee by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). After twice failing to reach Australia by boat, he turned to helping others attempt the journey.

“After the election: What now for refugee rights?” was the theme of a September 29 Refugee Action Collective forum.

Wesley Widlend, from National Labor Students, condemned federal Labor’s “disgraceful display” on asylum seeker policy. “Many members of the Labor Party consider the party policies inhumane”, he said. An immediate aim of the refugee rights movement should be “community processing of asylum seekers”.

The Greens’ Elissa Jenkins said it was “time for the Greens to listen to people's ideas” on the goals of the refugee rights movement and for a “real campaign plan”.

During recent protests in Villawood Detention Centre that followed the September 20 suicide of detained Fijian exile Josefa Rauluni, detainees who tried to help rooftop protesters with water and blankets were stopped by security. One man was bashed.

A “people's assembly for refugees” met in front of Parliament House on September 28 to call on the government to introduce humane policies and stop using refugees as political footballs.

More than 160 people from Victoria, the ACT and NSW were joined by Greens parliamentarians Sarah Hanson-Young and Adam Bandt, and independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

The rally was called by the Refugee Advocacy Network, a Melbourne-based coalition of refugee activist, advocacy and support groups. It was endorsed by 48 groups from across Australia.

It has been a dramatic week at Villawood detention centre, with a suicide sparking off a spate of rooftop protests. These events highlight the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and the need to get rid of mandatory detention.

A September 24 Crikey.com.au article revealed: “Up to 27 deaths have occurred in immigration custody since 2000.”

The federal Labor government has ignored the rising humanitarian crisis in Australian detention centres, even after Fijian-born Josefa Rauluni jumped to his death inside Villawood on September 20.

Three days before the tragic event, newly appointed immigration minister Chris Bowen announced that $50 million would be spent on 1600 new detention spots for asylum seekers.

Six hundred beds would be added to Curtin detention centre in remote WA, and 100 places would be added for families and children inside Melbourne’s “Immigration Transit Accommodation”.

When the last of the Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers stepped off the Australian customs boat the Oceanic Viking on November 17, 2009, most Australians assumed that the issue was resolved.

The 78 Tamil asylum seekers were “intercepted” in mid-October and taken onboard the Oceanic Viking. They were then taken to Indonesia. The asylum seekers refused to get off the boat, fearing they would be deported back to Sri Lanka.

The statement below was released by the Sydney Refugee Action Coalition on September 20.

VILLAWOOD IN CHAOS AFTER SUICIDE AS HUNGER STRIKES AND PROTESTS CONTINUE

The suicide of a Fijian man facing deportation from the Villawood detention centre this morning has thrown the detention centre into chaos.

The Fijian man died after throwing himself from the roof of a building in stage 2 of the detention centre.

Seventy-five people staged a noisy rally in Vancouver on September 11 in support of 492 Tamil asylum seekers who landed on Canada’s west coast in August. The rally was organised by the Vancouver chapter of No One Is Illegal.

The rally was held outside the Burnaby Youth Detention Center where many of the 63 women and 49 children who were on board the MV Sun Sea were held. (Burnaby is a suburb of Vancouver). Noisemakers and loud music were deployed to send a message to the asylum seekers that they have strong support in Canada for their claim for refugee status.

After a record high vote for the Greens in the August 21 federal election, it did not take long for the corporate media to get its claws out.

In particular, Rupert Murdoch-owned News Ltd’s flagship newspaper The Australian has been called out for its string of critical stories and headlines targeting the Greens.

In a September 9 editorial, the paper responded to Greens Senator Bob Brown's criticism that the paper was openly attacking the Greens-Labor deal, saying the Greens “are bad for the nation; and ... should be destroyed at the ballot box”.

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