refugee rights

Last updated July 7: What a difference a month and a change of leadership makes. In late May this year Julia Gillard said that Liberal-National opposition leader Tony Abbott's call for a return to the "Pacific solution" on refugees was just a "slogan not a solution" but now she's PM (with the blessing of mining giants BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata), it has once again become a "solution".

The detention of about 150 asylum seekers in a disused mining camp at Leonora, near Kalgoorlie in remote Western Australia, is a return to the dark days of previous Coalition prime minister John Howard.

Under Howard, asylum seekers were detained at a disused defence department shooting range at Woomera in South Australia. Both cases involve refugees being detained at remote prison camps and only allowed out accompanied by detention centre staff.

Just after becoming prime minister, Julia Gillard told media on June 24 she could understand “the anxiety and indeed fears that Australians have when they see [refugee] boats”. She did not cite evidence for this claim. She said that, as PM, she would explain to the Australian people “what we are doing to manage our borders and what we are doing to manage asylum seeker flows”.

A Short Border Handbook
By Gazmend Kapllani
Portobello Books 2009
159 pages

Review by Alex Miller

This book, which the author describes as “part autobiography, part fiction”, is hard to assess. Each chapter is divided into two parts. The first part tells the story of a man (presumably Kapllani himself) who crosses into Greece from Albania when the border between those two countries opened in 1991. The second part consists of “philosophical” ruminations on issues raised by the story of the first part.

Eighty people gathered at the State School Teachers Union offices in Perth for the Socialist Ideas Conference over the weekend of June 26-27. Speakers included Jeyakumar Devaraj, Socialist Party of Malaysia MP, and Richard Downs, spokesperson for the Alyawarr People's Walk-off in the Northern Territory.

A wave of rallies and marches commemorating World Refugee Week swept across the country in the past week.

On June 20, people rallied in Melbourne, coming from across the city and regional areas.

Given the rain, organisers were happy with the turnout of 2000 people. It was the biggest protest in support of refugees for several years.

Tamil refugee Arun Mylvaganam described his experiences escaping Sri Lanka and traveling to Australia, where he spent three months in detention. He was only 13 at the time and had no family members with him.

The deaths of three Australian commandos in a helicopter crash on June 21 should bring home the message: it's time to leave Afghanistan.

The deaths bring the total number of Australians killed in the occupation to 16. This, not to mention the countless thousands of Afghan deaths, should be enough reason to call an end to Australian participation in this war.

Michael Kumarasamy, one of the asylum seekers accused of being involved in a riot between Tamil and Afghan detainees at Christmas Island detention centre in November 2009, attended his trial on June 18 … about two hours late.

Kumarasamy’s lawyer, Simon Freitag, had emailed Perth Immigration Detention Centre to ensure staff there knew when the case was on. When his client was late, he again rang Perth IDC.

A wave of rallies and marches commemorating World Refugee Week has begun to sweep across Australia.

On Sunday June 20, people came from all over Melbourne as well as Ballarat, Geelong and other regional areas for the rally, indicating that refugee rights networks are being re-established. Given the rain, organisers were happy with the size of the rally, between 1000-2000. This has been the biggest protest in support of refugees for several years.

Rallies also took place in Canberra, Perth (200) and Brisbane (300) over the weekend.

Late last year Western Australian artist Nathalie Haymann exhibited thirty-six artworks based on the book "A Certain Maritime Incident — the Sinking of the SIEVX" in Fremantle. The showing commemorated the 2001 sinking of a refugee boat off the coast of Australia — a crime against humanity about which many controversial questions still swirl.

The entire exhibition is now available for viewing at www.sinkingofsievxpaintings.com.

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