Monthly Archives: January 2013

At present large number of Sinhalese (and Tamils) fishermen are coming to Australia from North West Sri Lanka.

It is a concern that the Australian media, as well as a number of Australian human rights activists, are not aware of the political context surrounding the economic crisis these fishermen are facing.

The news reports written by journalists such as Ben Doherty from The Age and this piece from the 7:30 Report (http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2012/s3657990.htm) have been devoid of proper context and critical analysis of the socio-political climate as well as legal and protection issues within Sri Lanka:

The following two examples illustrate what Sri Lankans from the North-West coast face:

1. In 2011 Police fired live ammunition at protestors in Katunayake (which is near Negombo) and soldiers were called to “control” the protest. What was the protest about? It was about a proposed pension bill. One man (Chanaka: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFXkfAJY_7E , http://www.ucanews.com/news/activists-protest-factory-worker-killing/19308) was killed in the cross fire and a number of others injured. The Sri Lankan army were also present at Chanaka’s funeral.

2. In 2012 Fishermen in the Northwest (Negombo, Chilaw and Mannar) went on strike because of ongoing, rising kerosene prices. The Rajapaksa Government again used the Sri Lankan army (http://www.muthuvision.org/watch.php?id=19608) against the protesters. Grenades were thrown into a crowd of protestors killing another young man and injuring others.

As such it is no wonder that the Negombo/Chilaw fishermen have “economic” problems. Should they speak out about their pension or escalating fuel prices, which are making it impossible to operate their fishing boats, the Rajapaksa government sends out the army to supress any dissent and lobs grenades at them.

Sri Lankan Tamils in addition to the usual human rights abuse and suppression of political dissent are contending with the continuation of the Genocide/ethnic cleansing they face. They are not just victims of “collateral damage” in a war. Their own government’s Sinhalese security forces have destroyed infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, grab and occupy their lands and threaten the safety of the people. Of course these people who are persecuted due to their ethnicity do not have fair access to the economic system in the country.

It is telling that almost none of the Australian media reports about Sri Lankan asylum seekers have mentioned that Sri Lanka has the second highest unsolved disappearances in the world. Yet the phrases “people smugglers” and “economic migrants” appear so frequently in these reports.

It is however important above all, for us to not forget that the Australian government, a signatory of the UN refugee convention and a member or the UN Security Council has been deporting these asylum seekers with impunity. The majority of them have not even been allowed to lodge a claim for asylum, have access to legal advice and have the merits of their claim assessed in a fair manner.

Report submitted to RISE on “Thailand’s Rohingya Issues” by Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation (TCR) in Thailand.

Thailand’s Rohingya Issues need Domestic and International Mechanisms

Early in January, issues about the Rohingya coming to Thailand once again became a hot topic as news about the interception of Rohingya boats off a tourist island and reports of police raids on several southern plantations that led to subsequent arrests of the Rohingya people were featured in the media. Read the full report here

Victorian state government’s plan to turn the housing of the neediest into a profit-making venture

MEDIA RELEASE – 18/01/2013

Since its inception, RISE has been dedicated to supporting refugees and asylum seekers settle in Australia. This has included our commitment to working with various housing services and advocacy groups to address the lack of sustainable and affordable housing for asylum seekers and refugees in this country.

We were appalled to hear the suggested plans for the redevelopment of public housing in the Fitzroy and North Richmond areas. The residents of most housing estates in this area consist of people from refugee/asylum seeker backgrounds as well as low income earners, both old and young. The plans put forward involve the privatisation of 50% of public housing in these areas. This announcement is great cause for alarm as the demand for affordable housing increases, while available properties decline. Potential outcomes of such a move will be increased homelessness in our community as well as the breakdown of community cohesion as individuals and families in need are left to compete with one another for very little remaining assistance.

A similar scheme has gone ahead in the Kensington area where it failed to live up to the reality it suggested to public housing tenants. Although some residents were offered places in the new development, 50% of tenants were forced to move into already overwhelmed housing estates, due to the reduced number of homes offered to the public sector.

We must not forget implementing such scheme not only affects community members and their wellbeing but also it will also overload crisis accommodation services where there are overwhelming numbers of people currently on waiting lists. Rather than the suggested scheme which has been tried and has failed elsewhere, RISE believes a complete review of the public housing sector is needed. Those in need should be prioritised with homes designed and built for families and pensioners, rather than those seen in Kensington favouring individual studios and one/two bedroom apartments that have limited capacity.

The current plan by the Victorian state government has targeted some of the poorest members of our community in order to benefit middle class Australians. The current residents of public housing properties in Fitzroy and North Richmond are members of an established community. They have roots, friends, family members, jobs, schools etc. in these neighbourhoods. On top of shaky housing options, our community in these regions is also dealing with under-servicing by government agencies as well as the scant opportunities available to them in a society that can be incredibly hostile to the newly arrived and poor. Rather than displacing our community in the pursuit of profit, RISE calls on the Victorian state government to scrap its current privatisation plan and instead, increase resources for public housing.

Media contact:
Mohamed Nur (RISE Support Service worker)
0418 810 036 or admin@riserefugee.org

Take action and push the State government to scrap its privatisation of public housing. Contact your local MP via phone/fax/email and voice your concerns!

Wendy Lovell,
Minister for Housing
Phone 03 9096 0301
Email wendy.lovell@parliament.vic.gov.au

Richard Wynne
Shadow Minister for Housing
Phone 03 9415 8901
Email richard.wynne@parliament.vic.gov.au

Lily D’Ambrosio
Shadow Minister for the Suburbs
Phone 9465 9033
Email lily.d’ambrosio@parliament.vic.gov.au

Ms Jenny Mikakos
Shadow Minister for Seniors and Ageing
Phone 03 9462 3966
Email jenny.mikakos@parliament.vic.gov.au

Adam Bandt
Federal Member for Melbourne
Phone 03 9642 0922
Email: adam.bandt.mp@aph.gov.au

Colleen Hartland MLC
Phone 03 9689 6373
Email colleen.hartland@parliament.vic.gov.au

RISE Alert Manus Island:

The Australian Government’s “humanitarian” solution

Manus Island in Papua New Guinea is now the latest offshore camp being used by the Australian government to forcibly transport and indefinitely detain asylum seekers, men, women and children, who arrive in Australia to seek protection. Currently there are 221 asylum seekers held in this detention camp, run by the government of Australia.

Within just two days over the weekend, Refugee advocates in Australia were alerted to the following incidents in the camp.

– An asylum seeker tried to hang himself (at the moment awaiting information if he has sustained permanent damage)

– Asylum seekers ran out of the camp to the ocean and tried to drown themselves.

– Asylum seekers collapsed because they had refused to take any food as a protest with many asylum seekers undertaking a hungry strike in front of the reception centre on the island

– Young asylum seekers had cut themselves.

Note;- We must not forget that “Refugee Expert Panel” recommendations are in-line with the government “stop the boat” policies and punishing people coming on boats – thanks to the panel “Gurus” Paris Aristotle, Michael L’Estrange and Angus Houston.

Hazara community mourns deaths in Quetta

As the Hazara community mourns deaths in Quetta, please keep in mind that the Australian government is working with Pakistani intelligence to stop Hazara people from fleeing Pakistan to safety in Australia. Take action and express your concerns to Bob Carr, Julia Gillard, Chris Bowen, your local MP and UNHCR: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-12-20/an-australia-helping-pakistan-stop-hazara-asylum-seekers-from-l/4439262

Please note a number of reports of killings in Pakistan of Shia/Hazara have been close to Pakistani military installations, making it clear that Pakistani security forces are complicit in a number of these killings. This makes the Australian government’s use of Pakistani intelligence to stop fleeing Hazara asylum seekers even more disturbing.

From Melbourne Hazara Community:

Candlelight vigil in memory of the Hazaras who were massacred in Pakistan
Monday 14 January 7.30pm
Princes Bridge, St Kilda Road (near Flinders St Station)

Event Page:- http://www.facebook.com/events/492741794111592/

Appalling Service Providers

Private government-contracted firms servicing asylum seekers are operating below standard, leaving small non-government organisations to pick up the slack. Asylum seekers are sleeping on floors in overcrowded houses, have untreated medical conditions and limited access to medical care and cannot afford nutritious food due to expensive housing costs.

Case workers from these private providers are often negligent with many instances of misplaced files, including urgent medical and immigration documents, and other files sitting inactive for many months without being transferred to the appropriate department.

RISE is concerned that case-workers from these private providers are inadequately trained and are not offering important services such as resume and job search assistance for people who need to work in order to support themselves. These organisations, when working with recent arrivals with no money and no familiarity with the Australian system, have not provided assistance with accessing reduced-cost services, such as concession transportation and pro-bono legal advice. These well-equipped and government contracted agencies often refer asylum seekers to small non-government organisations with very limited funding, such as RISE, for these services.

This is another manifestation of the Australian government continuing its misplaced, expensive and antagonistic funding in policy that punishes and alienates refugees and asylum seekers.

First week of 2013, asylum seeker committed suicide

A young Tamil man from Sri Lanka has committed suicide on 4th of Friday in Perth. He was on a bridging visa and was told by some that he would be deported to Sri Lanka.

RISE is not surprised by this suicide and is particularly concerned about the safety and wellbeing of Sri Lankan asylum seekers in Australia with over 850 Sri Lankan asylum seekers in the last 4 months have been refouled without being allowed to make an asylum claim, the close association of the Australian and Sri Lankan government and the constant media and political spin that implies that Sri Lankan asylum seekers are mostly economic refugees without giving them a fair chance to prove their cases. Even non-signatory to the refugee convention like India and Indonesia have not refouled such a large number of Sri Lankan asylum seekers in the last 3 years and Australia holds a record for doing so.

What is most disturbing about this racially discriminatory treatment and refoulement by Chris Bowen’s department is that the latest report by UNHCR (released in December 2012) on eligibility guidelines for asylum seekers from Sri Lanka states clearly that three years after the war officially ended in 2009, the 11th largest number of refugees in the world are from Sri Lanka, more people have started fleeing from the country and there is a decrease in Sri Lankan refugees returning voluntarily to Sri Lanka using UNHCR’s return and resettlement package. The UN CAT and UN working group of disappearances also reports that Sri Lanka has the second largest unsolved disappearances in the world.