Monthly Archives: August 2013

RISE Refugees Call on Politicians to “Stop the Rot” on Asylum Seekers this Election – Exclusive Media release 30/08/2013

Melbourne-based welfare and advocacy organisation, RISE (Refugees, Survivors and Ex-detainees), has just launched their 2013 federal election campaign entitled, Stop the Rot.  

The campaign aims to provide the Australian public with accurate research and information that cuts through the misinformation and politicisation surrounding the issue of refuge and asylum in the lead-up to the election.

RISE, which is the first refugee and asylum seeker welfare and advocacy organisation in Australia to be run and governed by people who are former refugees, asylum seekers, and immigration detainees- knows first-hand the detrimental affects the politicisation of asylum seekers has on the lives of its members.

“For decades, Australian politicians have been stoking fear by misleading the public for political gain, by painting asylum seekers arriving on boats as ‘queue jumpers’ – unscrupulous illegal entrants without morals, capable of throwing even their children into the sea.” Says CEO and founder of RISE, Ramesh Fernandez, who is himself a refugee and ex-detainee.

The document addresses Australia’s proportional global refugee intake, the financial costs of detention, the human cruelty of the ‘no advantage’ policy and the desperate situation of those who have been refused asylum and deported. In addition to those struggling to survive in detention and in the community on bridging visas

“Stop the Rot campaign de-politicises the debate that has made refugees the victims of the deceit and political opportunism of this election,” adds Fernandez. “It must be the voices of refugees that lead the challenge to the lies and fear-mongering of Australia’s political leaders.”

Volunteer advocate at RISE and co-creator of Stop the Rot, Areej Nur, says,

“What we’ve put together might take a little longer to read, but the truth is, this issue is incredibly complex. It deserves people’s serious attention.”

“A large part of what is so ugly about the conversation around asylum in Australia is the tendency to reduce everything to sound-bites. We’ve made a conscious effort to resist that.”

Nur says her advocacy work with RISE is one of the ways she copes, as the national policy on this issue becomes ever-more draconian and inhumane.

“RISE is a special place because not only is it run by our communities, it is run solely by volunteers and that really makes a difference, because we’re all incredibly passionate”.

Stop the Rot campaign will run until this federal election.

http://riserefugee.org/post/56113874713/stoptherot  

Media contacts:

Ramesh Fernandez 0430 007 586 or @RameshFernandez
Areej Nur 0433 019 733 or @areejnur

RISE ALERT 28/8/2013

STOP Mass deportation of Sri Lankan asylum seekers planned this week by Australia and SAVE LIVES:

The Australian government is planning to deport scores of Sri Lankan asylum seekers to potential danger from Christmas Island over the next week WITHOUT allowing them to apply for asylum through the proper legal process.

Since June 2012, Australia has deported over 1000 Sri Lankans in this manner. Most of these asylum seekers have only been interviewed for about 30 minutes in total by a DIAC official without being informed that they have a right to legal representation and “screened out” for deportation. This process is called the “enhanced screening process” and is similar to a policeman interviewing a crime suspect, charging them outside a court of law and jailing them without giving the suspect any access to a lawyer.

A former immigration official Geoff Lake has called the enhanced screening process dangerous and said that he fears the use of this process has resulted in the refoulement of asylum seekers who would have been recognised as refugees under the convention. (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-10/asylum-seeker-enhanced-screenings-dangerous-former-official-says/4744628, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/17/australia-refugees-legal-sri-lanka?view=mobile)

ACT NOW and ask for the mass deportations to be stopped by

Emailing:
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd:
http://www.kevinrudd.org.au/contact_kevin

Immigration Minister Tony Burke:
Tony.Burke.MP@aph.gov.au and minister@immi.gov.au
(has worked probono as a lawyer representing refugees!-but seems to be more interested in grabbing votes than protecting lives or legal rights)

Opposition leader Tony Abott:
Tony.Abbott.MP@aph.gov.au

UNHCR Australia:
aulca@unhcr.org

UNHCR Geneva:
http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/contact_hq

Twitter: Politicians:
@KRuddMP @Tony_Burke @TonyAbbottMHR @ScottMorrisonMP @JulieBishopMP @bobjcarr

UNHCR:
@Refugees

UN Human rights committee SECRETARIAT
@UN_HRC

What is Australia’s answer to the Syrian refugee crisis?

The lives of the Syrian people are sacrificed and crushed between the geopolitical interests of industrialised countries who hold power in the UN. Australia is a member of the UN security council yet all Australian politicians including Foreign Minister Bob Carr talk about is “stopping boats”.

The numbers released last week indicate that more than 684 000 Syrian refugees are in Lebanon, 516 000 in Jordan. In just the last 5 days, 30 000 Syrian refugees have fled to Iraq. During the last financial year Australia received only about 25 000 asylum seekers. In Australia these refugees will be sent to Nauru or Manus Island.

Syria itself over decades has hosted refugees from other countries including about half a million Palestinian refugees and they are now going to be displaced again.

UNHCR predicts that the projections in 2013 indicate a continued outpouring of refugees from Syria to neighboring countries with an uncertain timetable for return (http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/syria.php).

What steps are being taken by the UN and the international community to ensure that independent monitors can move freely in Syria and all parties are held accountable for the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed against the people?

What steps are being taken by Australia, particularly as a member of the UN security council, that in addition to ensuring there is independent monitoring we share the world’s responsibility to provide safety for people from Syria. Is the government willing to act by

a. increasing humanitarian assistance in this region
b. increasing our humanitarian intake

rather than funneling millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money into private corporations running the immigration detention and “security” industry that imprisons a relatively small number of refugee men, women and children seeking asylum in Australia to serve the personal interests of politicians and their mates?

These are questions to ask

Minister for foreign affairs Bob Carr
foreignminister.carr@dfat.gov
http://bobcarrblog.wordpress.com/
http://foreignminister.gov.au/contacts.html

and

Shadow minister for foreign affairs Julie Bishop
http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Parliamentarian?MPID=83P

And make a decision to stop the ROT:
http://riserefugee.org/post/56113874713/stoptherot

The more things change, the more they stay the same – 21 August 2013

Many have been stunned by the Government and Opposition’s recent immigration announcements. The proposals – forcing all boat arrivals to PNG, putting the military in charge of the ‘crisis,’ setting up tent cities on Nauru – are so extreme that they border on farce. But they are real, and they should hardly surprise us given the way both parties have collaborated to outdo each other when it comes to the most hardline approach to a humanitarian issue.

The past few weeks have been a bitter realisation for refugee advocates.  After over a decade of protests, debate and advocacy, we are further back than where we started. The campaigns to tell Australians the ‘real facts’ about asylum seekers, to humanise refugees with stories about how they are hard workers with families who want to contribute to Australia ‘just like us,’ it seems, have been completely pointless.  In a country that insists on ‘calling a spade a spade,’ we have managed to call border policing, mandatory and indefinite detention and forcible deportation, everything but racist.

The Muslim community has learned the same tough lesson in the years since 9/11 – that racism is not simply a set of misunderstandings that can be fixed with a polite PR campaign that educates the public with facts and good news stories about hard working migrants ready to assimilate.

Now the refugee movement – based largely on appeals to middle-class compassion – has been outflanked by the feigned morality of ‘stopping deaths at sea.’ Australia, once declared terra nullius, ‘a land belonging to no-one,’ has excised itself from its own migration zone.  It is effectively a land that no longer exists – a legal black hole in the corner of the globe.  We are in the business of outsourcing human misery to PNG and Nauru; a former prison colony that now creates its own prison colonies.

Asylum seekers are the human by-products of a global system that lets us live in peace.  They represent the 90% of the world that lives in misery so that we can live in comfort.  We benefit from shaking hands with regimes like Sri Lanka and invading Afghanistan and Iraq, but must deny people fleeing the consequences of our actions.

Australia hates asylum seekers because of our preoccupation with invasion – not theirs, but ours – the original crime on which this nation was founded, which it seems will forever overshadow the national conscience.

Submitted by Aamer Rahman (writer and comedian) & published in the Northern Territory News  – His final performance of his solo show “The Truth Hurts” is on this Friday at the State Library. All proceeds to Palestine Red Crescent for relief work in Gaza. http://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=57151

Media Release 13th August 2013. Papuan Refugee setting sail back to Papua.

Amos Wainggai, a Papuan refugee who came by boat to Australia in 2006, will be making the return journey by boat to Papua in 5 days’ time.

While Rudd’s ‘PNG Solution’ threatens to deport all asylum seekers arriving by boat to Manus Detention Centre, Amos is making the journey to Papua by choice, to fight for the freedom of his people.

A press conference will be held at Cairns Yacht Club Boatshed, Marlin Marina, on August 15th 9-10am before the crew embark.

Amos’ arrival in Cape York as one of the 43 West Papuan asylum seekers sparked a diplomatic row with Indonesia when all of the group were recognised as genuine refugees fleeing from persecution. 

The group forged links with Aboriginal people from around the country, and were recently granted Aboriginal Passports in a ceremony at Victorian Trades Hall. “We must remember that besides the Indigenous people of this land, we are all boat people, these politicians who talk about ‘turning back the boats’ and ‘go back to where you came from’ should practice what they preach” says Amos.

Should the group have made the short journey by canoe today they would be deported to PNG under Labor’s scheme. “Many West Papuans who fled the violence and came to PNG in the 80s are still not citizens, don’t have secure access to land, health or education, and have been attacked by the PNG security forces” reports Papuan activist Ronny Kareni.

Under the Liberal’s plan, the canoe could be turned back to Indonesia. “We fled because of the violence of the Indonesian military against us and our families. If we had been forced to return they would have torturedand killed us” said Wainggai.

Bob Carr’s cruel depiction of asylum seekers as ‘economic migrants’ is a desperate attempt to justify the Labor government’s draconian policy. Amos Wainggai along with his West Papuan community who continue to struggle for their country’s freedom after settling in Australia, tell us a different story.

“Of course we come here to look for a better life, where we can be free from the killings, torture and repression carried out by the Indonesian military in West Papua” says Amos.

“I want to return to West Papua, but not to be hunted by Indonesia or be forced to renounce my belief for our freedom. Now I am going back to West Papua with the Freedom Flotilla to help in the struggle for freedom of my people.”

For all media enquiries please contact:

media@freedomflotillawestpapua.org

 or

Amos Wainggai: +61431284731 (Bahasa Indonesia Preferred)

Kevin Rudd’s Cruel Deceit – Australia Deceives The Pacific Again

02/08/2013

Kevin Rudd’s ironic plan to banish asylum-seekers to PNG is a cruel deceit on its moral obligation as a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention. In 2011 the Australian government was quick to act on live export of cattle to Indonesia but the Australian public have witnessed that its government is now sponsoring the live export of human beings to PNG.

I grew up as a refugee in a small shelter in Wewak, north coast of PNG, where it was ‘survival of the fittest’ to live in a country with high unemployment while being harassed and intimidated by Indonesia’s Intelligence operations. Despite most New Guineans’ support for their West Papuan relatives’ struggle across the border, the PNG government is easily bought off to turn a blind eye to these incursions and the human rights abuses across the border, just as they are being bought off by Australia to ignore their own obligations to the Refugee Convention and to human dignity.

For example, in November, 2011, my father Pastor Abraham Kareni and uncle Judith Kambuaya, fled from the violence after the Third Papuan Peoples Congress in West Papua and upon their arrival in Wewak, they were arrested by the local authorities who were tipped-off by opportunists from Indonesian intelligence for ‘tax evasion’ and spent few months in a prison with local criminals.

Earlier in 2011, PNG security forces attacked refugee villages, burning houses to the ground and destroying their gardens. Threats were made to forcefully return refugees to Indonesia, despite many of them being registered with the UNHCR. Thankfully the operation was stymied by members of PNG’s security personnel, who refused to betray their wantoks by working for “Jakarta’s interests”

 Lets not forget that at least 12,000 West Papuan refugees who have settled in PNG since the 1980’s are still being treated as a second-class citizen and border-crossers. Most Papuan refugees have not been recognised by PNG authorities as permanent residents or citizens but instead some have been given ‘permissive resident’ status, even though they are born in PNG. Furthermore, many Papuan refugees in Port Moresby live in limbo with resettlement issues even today.

Though refugees coming from Australia being placed in extended detention on Manus Island is a shocking new development, the precedent of this detention centre goes back to 1969 when Australian colonial authorities detained two West Papuan leaders, Clement Ronawery and Willem Zonggonau. At the time they were about to board a plane in Port Moresby to New York and alert the world about the outcome of the sham ‘referendum’ that took place in 1969 in West Papua. Instead they were arrested and detained on Manus Island, preventing their story from reaching the outside world.

Forty-four years later, what goes around has come around with PNG’s Manus Island detention centre being expanded to detain even more people attempting to escape from brutal regimes and bring their stories to the outside world. Meanwhile in August, the journey of Clement Ronawery and Willem Zonggonau, will be made in reverse, with a group from Australia travelling via PNG to West Papua in order to finally expose the illegality of the Indonesian occupation to the world.

The truth is kept secret from the people. As stated by the great Bob Marley, ‘you can fool the people sometimes, but you can not fool all the people all the time.’ Despite Australia’s politicians continuing to deceive Australians about the threat of ‘illegal boat people’ and joust to outdo each other in the cruel treatment of refugees, thousands are coming out on the streets to protest, challenging this new policy’s legality as well as its humanity. In PNG the challenge is mounting against the governments complicity with Indonesian and Australian colonial powers. The Freedom Flotilla to West Papua arriving in PNG in August will mobilise the massive grassroots support for human rights across the border. And the peak regional body the Melanesian Spearhead Group is moving towards recognition of West Papua as a member state, placing the demand on PM O’Neill to finally act on the will of his people. Both Australians and Papuans are rising up for the rights of all nations for self-determination, and the rights of all people to live free from persecution.

Submitted by Ronny Kareni