Monthly Archives: July 2012

RISE Tutoring

RISE supports refugee and asylum seeker communities to meet their educational needs by offering advice and personalised guidance about the various educational pathways available.

RISE has developed a tutoring project that fills a gap in the community and complements the other programs within RISE’s education and training portfolio. Instead of concentrating on beginner’s English, RISE has chosen to deliver a pre-intermediate programme with an academic slant so that students with some English language skills will be able to improve to the level required to interact with the larger Australian society and either obtains employment or further their studies. The program also helps students to develop their analytical and communication skills, so they are better able to utilise their English language knowledge.

Classes will be held at “the RISE Hub”, a multi-purpose space run by RISE situated in central Melbourne. RISE’s tutoring program is free for students, and will be held for 2 hours every Saturday from 10.30am-12.30pm

For more info and to apply to the ESL tutoring, please email tutoring@riserefugee.org or call us at 03 9639 8623.

Project ReDEFIANT

RISE’s members and peers and volunteers are invited to be involved in ReDEFIANT. A community Forum Theatre project by refugees and asylum seekers to tell it like it is.

Don’t let politicians, and journalists speak for you and DEFINE your identity. Experience how Theatre of the Oppressed devised by Brazilian artist Augusto Boal allows you to take ownership of your language, claim space and address oppression and racism. Be heard and be seen. Advocate for social justice and inclusion.

Workshops are conducted and facilitated by Tatiana Grasso from Brazil in a safe and open environment so anyone can join.

The outcome will be a fun 3 night public forum/act at the La Mama in early November.

Contact: Coordinator Dominic Golding on arts@riserefugee.org for further information

The charade of Australian-Sri Lankan relations

30/07/2012

After the forcible return in the face of desperate pleas, and 16 hours of continuous interrogation by Sri Lanka’s notorious Criminal Investigations Department in the presence of Australian authorities, returned Tamil asylum seeker Mr X has become an emblem of the maniacal turn of the Sri Lankan state.

In May 2012, when Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen travelled to Sri Lanka in a visit intended both to solidify Australia’s alliance with the Sri Lankan terror state and discuss measures to stop refugees escaping from Sri Lanka to Australia – Mr X received an emergency visit from the Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team in Melbourne as his mental health took a sharp decline. Mr X as well as other Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers was fearful that closer relations between Australia and Sri Lanka would mean forcible deportation back to those who persecuted them. The latest events have vindicated that fear.

Friends, family, advocates and supporters who had accompanied Mr X every step of his two year battle for refugee status, were at least relieved to see his face appear on Sri Lankan national television last Thursday night. Mr X had not been allowed any external contact during his 16 hour long interrogation, let alone legal representation. His family and supporters were relieved to know he was alive.

However what followed from a beleaguered and strained Mr X was a chilling statement which in every word spoke of the coercion and threat he is now facing. In this event organised by Sri Lanka’s Information Department, Mr X recanted all of his claims of torture and persecution.

CEO and founder of RISE, Ramesh Fernandez said, Mr X was made to deny that he had suffered a severe back injury while in the cages of the Sri Lankan security forces – an injury that has been twice documented and confirmed by the head of the Australian College of Physiotherapists. Mr X was made to deny the post-traumatic symptoms he has suffered since being tortured, the severity of which have touched and concerned a plethora of Australia’s best trauma counsellors and experts. He was made to describe Sri Lanka as ‘the best place on earth.’ To force your victims to praise you in public is a sick act.

In a scene akin to the most sadistic and cruel international show trial, an obviously coerced Mr X was made to do the bidding of the Australian government, warning others against the use of people smugglers in their efforts to escape from the Sri Lankan state’s vicious security forces. Then, in a sad attempt to distance this statement from the Australian government and its hand in his forced return and 16 hours interrogation, he ridiculed Australia’s disregard for its “international obligations.

This propaganda should be seen as a chilling collaboration of the Sri Lankan and Australian governments” said Ramesh Fernandez. “We condemn Australia’s role in forcing Mr X to act as the mouthpiece for its collaboration with Sri Lanka in the forced return of Sri Lanka’s Tamil victims.

Just three short years ago, the present government of Sri Lanka’s slaughter and destruction of the nation’s Tamil community were later described by international bodies as genocide. At the beginning of this year, Human Rights Watch documented at least 12 cases of torture by the Sri Lankan authorities of forced Tamil returnees. In March 2012, representatives of 24 nations on the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to condemn crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Sri Lankan state.

At what point did we agree to pretend that these war criminals are trusted upholders of the human rights of those Tamils we choose to forcibly deport?

Now, through the opportunistic use of the first forced returnee to Sri Lanka since 2008, the Australian and Sri Lankan governments force their victim to declare the country ‘the best place on earth’. These events are clear evidence of the maniacal turn of the Sri Lankan government and Australia’s willingness to play into their hands, just to evade Australia’s responsibility to give protection to Tamil refugees fleeing persecution.

On behalf of RISE, we demand public reasons from the Australian government and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship for the removal of Mr X, in the face of ongoing concern by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the UN Committee Against Torture, and the UNHCR. We demand an end to the forced return of asylum seekers to the rogue state of Sri Lanka.

RISE Exclusive Media Release – 26/07/2012

United Nations Committee Against Torture appeals to the Australian Government to prevent deportation of tamil torture survivor 26/07/2012

The United Nations Committee Against Torture has today sought to intervene in the case of “Mr X”, a Tamil asylum seeker who was forcibly deported from Australia yesterday.

Ramesh Fernandez, CEO of RISE – Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees (“RISE”) said “Despite being a victim of torture at the hands of the Sri Lankan Government, and suffering extreme ongoing physical and mental trauma as a result of this abuse, the Australian Government yesterday decided to forcibly remove Mr X and return him to the regime that tortured him”

RISE has been acting for Mr X and appealed to Minister Chris Bowen to intervene. Following his forced removal, RISE made a submission to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, and based on Mr X’s documented history, the Committee’s Chairperson this morning made an immediate and direct request to the Australian government to prevent the return of Mr X to Sri Lanka.   

The United Nations contacted the Australian Embassy in Thailand directly as well as the Australian Mission in Geneva.  An appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, is still awaiting response from the Australian Government since October, 2011.

“Australia is a party to the Convention Against Torture, and as such is legally bound, under international law, to adhere to the provisional measures order issued yesterday not to deport Mr X” said Fernandez.

He continued, “Mr X’s family and many members of the Tamil community are severely distressed by the deportation. Victims of torture who have been forcibly returned to Sri Lanka have been subjected to further abuse and have even been killed.”

“The Tamil community in Melbourne, including Mr X’s family, hold grave concerns for his safety once he is delivered to the regime that subjected him to such horrific torture.”

“The Australian Government’s action was unconscionable and essentially involved “…hand-delivering victims of torture back to their abusers.”

Mr Fernandez was grateful for the UN’s prompt appeal on behalf of Mr X, and was hopeful it would not fall on deaf ears. “The Committee has recognised that the Australian Government is doing business with a dangerous regime. I hope their request will cause them to review their decision and realise that a man’s life hangs in the balance.”

“The communication from the United Nations on behalf of Mr X is not simply an appeal but binding under international law – if Australia takes its international law obligations seriously, it is bound to comply.”

RISE Media Contacts at 03 9639 8623.

Update on Mr X’s Status In Detention — 25.07.2012

Security firewalls in detention have become incredibly strict for Mr X. He has been attempting to fax documents to RISE for the last two days and has been repeatedly told “the fax machine is not working” by SERCO guards at the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre. It is creating a great deal of anxiety and stress and can actually jeopardise Mr X’s asylum case if these documents are not sent. We know that their fax machine is not out of order. These are merely excuses meant to keep detainees in a constant state of anxiety and dependency. Please call the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre and express your concern: 03 9318 1999 and press “6” to speak to a SERCO representative . We can play their game too: demand they fix their fax machine as soon as possible!

After Every Application, Request, Please — A Call to Action: RISE Calls Action at Maribyrnong IDC, 22 July 2012

Saturday, 21 July 2012 (Melbourne):  

On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 17, the ALP federal government seized a Tamil refugee, a survivor of torture at the hands of the notorious Sri Lankan security forces, and locked him in a detention centre. They did this to make it easier for them to forcibly deport this victim of persecution back into the hands of those from whose persecution he first fled.

“This is the first forced removal of Sri Lankan refugee from the community under Gillard” said Ramesh Fernandez, CEO of RISE: Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees. “This man is in no condition to be removed: he is medicated out of consciousness for his trauma symptoms. Chris Bowen must know that the asylum seeker and survivor community will not allow this removal.”

Mr X has endured a horror weekend at Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre anticipating his forced removal. His back is broken from beatings he received whilst detained by his persecutors; he continues to receive medical treatment in relation to post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychologists specialising in the treatment of torture survivors have expressed their concern for the life of this man, over at least 4 reports sent to the Minister for Immigration – to no avail.

In October 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture wrote to the Australian Government seeking an urgent response in this man’s case. There has been no response. There has only been action towards his removal. 

It is now time for OUR ACTION. Join RISE at Maribyrnong IDC, 2PM, SUNDAY 22ND JULY.

Contact RISE: admin@riserefugee.org.au / (03) 9639 8623

Event details: http://www.facebook.com/events/501276103232745/

Stop the Deportation of Torture Survivor – 20/07/2012

A crime is happening, now.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 17, the department of immigration seized a Tamil refugee, a survivor of torture at the hands of Sri Lankan security forces, and locked him in a detention centre.

They did this to make it easier for them to forcibly deport this victim of persecution back into the hands of those from whose persecution he first fled. His health is still being massively affected by the torture he already suffered at the hands of the Sri Lankan state.

He is still locked up and will be drugged and forced onto a plane to Sri Lanka unless people make the Minister reverse his decision.

This is the beginning of an new, ugly phase, when refugees fleeing persecution will once again be forcibly deported to Sri Lanka, knowingly sent back into the hands of those from whose persecution they fled.

This is not justice; this is not humane; this is a crime.

Other members of this man’s family have received refugee status in other industrialist countries. In Australia, however, the ALP federal government has consistently minimised the war crimes, ethnic cleansing, torture and other crimes of its allies in the Sri Lankan state. Just as in the 1980s the ALP federal government systematically minimised the crimes of its allies in the Indonesian dictatorship, while supplying and training the Indonesian death squads who slaughtered thousands of East Timorese.

Now, however, this refusal to see the violence and oppression perpetrated by their allies is providing a pretext for the ALP federal government to send a survivor of torture back into the hands of those from whom he fled, the notorious torturers of the Sri Lankan security services, who have a warrant out for the man’s arrest.

The Minister for Immigration has refused to intervene to give this refugee fleeing persecution any form of protection. When the United Nation Special Rapporteur on Torture asked the Minister difficult questions about his case, and asked that this man not be deported in the meantime, the ALP federal government didn’t even bother to respond.

Together, we can and must prevent this crime. Together, we can demand that the Minister stop this deportation, that he abandon his plans to send this man back to his torturers, and return him to his family in Melbourne.

We urgently ask you to contact Minister Bowen and ask him to stop the deportation of Mr X, Sri Lankan asylum seeker in Maribyrnong IDC.

Phone the Immigration Minister now:  (02) 6277 7860 or Email: minister@immi.gov.au  

You can also contact your member in the House of Representatives and ask them to take action. Find your member here.

Update on Deportation of Sri Lankan asylum seeker (Mr X) currently being detained in Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre

18/07/2012

Since being detained yesterday, Tuesday 17 July by the department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), Mr X continues to face roadblocks in accessing his family, legal team and support workers. SERCO staff at Maribyrnong IDC have repeatedly told Mr X that they are unable to fax vital documentation pertinent to his application for Ministerial Intervention to his legal team and support workers. Excuses given were that the multiple fax numbers he provided them were unavailable or not working.

Before fleeing to seek asylum in Australia, Mr X was detained incommunicado and tortured by Sri Lankan government forces in Sri Lanka. This history practically ensures that Mr X will be detained and tortured again by Sri Lankan police and/or government forces if he is deported back to Sri Lanka. As a result of this violence, Mr X has developed severe mental health issues and prior to being detained yesterday, was being treated by a psychologist in Melbourne.

While the UK has overturned deportation orders based on Sri Lanka’s history of detention and torture of those who have been returned to the country after failed asylum claims, Australia appears bent on handing torture survivors back to those who persecuted them in the first place. It is incumbent on DIAC to stop the deportation of Mr X based on Australia’s non-refoulement obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

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