Monthly Archives: December 2014

Open letter from mother of Australian born baby-who is to be deported to Nauru – 18/12/2014

25 detained babies born in Australia-and their families (Making up 44 children) are to be deported to the Nauru camp as per the recent passing of the Migration Bill by the Australian Senate.

OPEN LETTER:

What is our crime?

What have we done to be punished like this?

We know we came by “illegal” way’ but then we didn’t’t have any choice. If I could have stayed in my country I would never have left my family. I left my country for safety and thought I could make my family safe later.

I came by boat but my child did not. She was born in this country and every child deserves to be protected by the country she or he is born in.

I want to be able to go back but I cannot take my child to that terrible life.

Some people say to me that it is luck that has meant some people were able to stay on Christmas Island and we sent to Nauru. I don’t believe in luck. I just believe in justice.

We are human beings and we deserve a safe life like other human beings.

When I came to this country immigration sent me and others to Nauru. But now I am in this country because there is no medical care for people in Nauru. The Minister said that people who came after the 19th of July will never come to Australia but I am here and my baby was born here.

Why do we have to suffer like this?

Sometimes death is better than life.

I only live for this child here.

What do we have to pay for this painful life we live every day, not knowing what will happen to us and our children?

This country has made me more afraid even than the sea. Every minute I am scared. Believe me, I have never been scared like this even in the sea. If I only had a country to go back to I would have gone.

When they knocked on my door at Christmas Island at 5am and threw a garbage bag in and told me to pack I asked them, ‘where are you taking me?’ No-one would answer me. Then when we were all put in the one room and searched and waiting until 6pm that day finally they said ‘you are going to Nauru’. I said: ‘why are you taking me to Nauru? I am pregnant.’ No-one answered me. When they forced us in the bus to go to the airport we had to walk into the airport between 2 lines of security officers both sides of us. Did they think we would escape? Where would we run?

What was our crime?

It was 9 hour flight to Nauru, most of us did not eat for 2 days. There was 2 of us asylum seekers and 1 security guard in each of the rows of 3 seats.

I didn’t’t cry in the sea but I cried when they took me to Nauru.

When we reached there, you can’t imagine the heat. You can’t imagine the tents. I was sick all the time. I was dizzy all the time. Many people were sick. You can’t imagine the heat. You can’t imagine not having enough water. You can’t imagine that when you need a nappy or some food for your child or anything at all you have to ask an officer, you have to line up, it is so hot. We can’t do anything for ourselves. Not shower, not wash the babies clothes.

You can’t imagine.

I grew up in a Refugee Camp but I have never seen it like that one.

Now each night I am waiting for them to knock on my door and throw in the bag to pack.

I am so scared.

What is our crime?

‘L’.

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RISE Exclusive media release-Migration Bill/TPVs – 05/12/2014

RISE : Refugees, Survivors and Ex-detainees, condemns the passing of the Australian Liberal/National coalition government’s migration and maritime powers legislation amendment bill (resolving the asylum legacy caseload) 2014 against refugees arriving by boat, passed by the Senate yesterday.

Not only does it concern us that the bill gives the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison more powers than any other Australian minister in government, but we are also concerned about the excessive secrecy and non-transparency of these discretionary powers over one of the most oppressed and persecuted communities.

Even before the current bill was introduced, a number of refugee boats have gone missing or been pushed backed by the government and involuntary mass deportations to danger have occurred.  The new legislative powers are an open invitation to Scott Morrison by the Australian Senate to treat asylum seekers coming by boats even more inhumanely.  The xenophobic, anti-humanitarian legacy, of John Howard who said, ”We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” is perfected in this bill.

Ramesh Fernandez, CEO and founder of RISE, ex-detainee and former Temporary protection visa (TPV) holder said:

“After I was released from indefinite, administrative detention, I was on TPVs for three years, constantly under surveillance, unable to do further study, not allowed to travel and see my family, and uncertain of my future. This was added trauma inflicted on my life and the lives of other asylum seekers by the government, and many of us have still not healed from this process yet.

When the TPV was ceased I was again required to go through the ordeal of another interview to apply for permanent residence. It felt like undergoing torture once again or I will call it the ‘cycle of oppression’, forcing me to go back to square one, where I left off.

Now, I can see that even greater trauma and uncertainty will be inflicted on my community, with the current bill not just re-introducing TPVs but actually removing legal protection from deportation to danger”

There are 50 million displaced refugees around the world.  Many are languishing without proper protection in interim camps. Australia’s discriminatory, human rights violating “offshore” processing system for asylum seekers who arrive by boat adds tally to the interim camps and keeps refugees in isolation.  Deterrence measures may lower the number of asylum seekers in Australia, but it is not a just and humanitarian solution for people trying to cross borders by boat, or any other form of transport, desperately seeking a place where they can be safe.

We urgently request the public to resist Australia’s xenophobic government policies by demanding greater transparency, fairness and humanity in the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees who are human beings seeking protection from persecution and harm – not “cases” or “caseloads” to be “processed”.

To lobby for international action, please email your concerns :

  1. UNHCR Genevahttp://www.unhcr.org/pages/4a324fcc6.html
  1. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: infoDesk@ohchr.org, nationalinstitutions@ohchr.org
  1. UN New Yorkhttp://www.un.org/en/contactus/

For our international supporters – please contact the Australian embassy

RISE : End of the year Appeal – ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’

Dear Friends,

RISE prides itself on being a registered, not-for-profit organization, working tirelessly to improve non-government and government policies in relation to refugees/asylum seekers and to generate a positive social change for our community. RISE is managed, developed and run by people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds. Those who have first-hand experience of settling in Australia are giving back to the community by working to support new arrivals as well as people who have been struggling in the community for some time. Our member base has grown from 280 in October 2012, to over 2000 members at the start of November 2014. The significant growth in our membership is partly due to the changes to Bridging Visas, whereby people falling within this category were stripped of their right to work or study. Many face poverty due to the lack of support services. Many are forced to live below the poverty line, being left with a mere $7 a day to cover transport, food and clothing costs. Those ineligible to access services are “left behind”, hindering their social development and adversely impacting their health and self-esteem. As a result of this increase there has been greater demand from people on Bridging Visas requesting our Support Services; including

  • Advocacy support services
  • Settlement support services
  • Job seeker support services
  • A daily drop-in service operating from 9.30am to 7pm
  • Driving lessons to attain ‘L’ and ‘P’ plates
  • ESL classes and Educational programs
  • Emergency material aid
  • Computer programs
  • Food bank
  • RISE resource library
  • Free Internet access
  • Music and arts projects for youth
  • Recreational activities and Events

In order to be able to assist members with any of the above services, we need to increase our resource capacity in these areas. We are appealing for your support to help us raise $50000 to cover the costs required to increase our resource capacity. The extra funds will allow us to help the new members coming to us who are in desperate need of assistance.

How to Donate to RISE:
RISE is a tax-deductible organization and your financial support will enable us to assist refugees and asylum seekers in building their new lives in Australia. Your donation will assist our dedicated volunteers to provide services directly to children, adults and entire families in the refugee and asylum seeker communities.

Your donation will go directly towards supporting the following services currently provided by RISE: We urge you to lend us your support by making a tax-deductible donation. With your help, we can build a better and stronger future for all.

To donate, please click here : http://www.givenow.com.au/riserefugee

Read more: “For the community, by the community – what does this mean for RISE and our members?”  http://riserefugee.org/post/49329027310/for-the-community-by-the-community-what-does-this

– See more at: http://riserefugee.org/donate/#sthash.LBGeOvfr.dpuf

Press release: West Papua ‘19 days of freedom’ : 30/11/2014

On the 1st December 1961 the New Guinea Raad Council – West Papuan parliament under Dutch colonial rule – raised the Morning Star flag for the first time, signalling the recognition by the Dutch of West Papua’s national symbols and statehood. By the 19th of December, Indonesian security forces had begun their invasion of the region and have controlled the territory with brutality ever since. On 1 December every year flag-raisings and protests against Indonesian rule take place in West Papua and around the world.

This December 1st Papuans and friends in Melbourne will celebrate the 53rd anniversary at Melbourne’s Federation Square with a creative offering of documentaries, music videos and animations telling stories about and from West Papua with ’19 Days of Freedom’, as a community media and screen project beginning on 1st December 2014.

The Victoria West Papua Association, secretary, Ronny Kareni embraces the continued level of community engagement with Federation Square. In mid 2014 the West Papuan community were a key part of the Light in Winter festival.

“Showcasing these films (at Fed Square) helps to highlight our stories and enriches us with hope and strength in the pursuit of our self-determination struggle, Mr Kareni said.

As most Papuans in Melbourne came as refugees and are far from home, community and culture are vitally important to maintain.

“We value the opportunity to contribute to the diverse community in Melbourne that has welcomed us here and to keep our stories and culture alive by sharing in this most public of community spaces.

“We aim to amplify our voice, for freedom, human rights and for our cultural stories and connection to Melbourne, our current home,” he added.

The West Papuan Community in Melbourne is hopeful that this community initiative will be a two-year project with screenings of more film content next year in December.

Event:

1st December, Monday: 53rd Anniversary Celebration and screening of ISOLATED film, 11:30am til – 1pm, FED SQUARE – BIG SCREEN!

19th December, Friday: Special screening of award winning feature documentary, STRANGE BIRDS IN PARADISE – A West Papuan Story. At 7pm, The ATRIUM, FED SQUARE. Special musical appearance by Black Orchid Stringband – on the night!

1st -19th: 30 minutes package compilation of music videos, animations and shorts, FED SQUARE – BIG SCREEN!

For interviews and media enquiries:

Ronny Kareni – 0401 222 177 ronnykareni@gmail.com

RISE : End of the year Appeal – ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’

image

Dear Friends,

RISE prides itself on being a registered, not-for-profit organization, working tirelessly to improve non-government and government policies in relation to refugees/asylum seekers and to generate a positive social change for our community. RISE is managed, developed and run by people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds. Those who have first-hand experience of settling in Australia are giving back to the community by working to support new arrivals as well as people who have been struggling in the community for some time. Our member base has grown from 280 in October 2012, to over 2000 members at the start of November 2014. The significant growth in our membership is partly due to the changes to Bridging Visas, whereby people falling within this category were stripped of their right to work or study. Many face poverty due to the lack of support services. Many are forced to live below the poverty line, being left with a mere $7 a day to cover transport, food and clothing costs. Those ineligible to access services are “left behind”, hindering their social development and adversely impacting their health and self-esteem. As a result of this increase there has been greater demand from people on Bridging Visas requesting our Support Services; including

  • Advocacy support services
  • Settlement support services
  • Job seeker support services
  • A daily drop-in service operating from 9.30am to 7pm
  • Driving lessons to attain ‘L’ and ‘P’ plates
  • ESL classes and Educational programs
  • Emergency material aid
  • Computer programs
  • Food bank
  • RISE resource library
  • Free Internet access
  • Music and arts projects for youth
  • Recreational activities and Events

In order to be able to assist members with any of the above services, we need to increase our resource capacity in these areas. We are appealing for your support to help us raise $50000 to cover the costs required to increase our resource capacity. The extra funds will allow us to help the new members coming to us who are in desperate need of assistance.

How to Donate to RISE:

RISE is a tax-deductible organization and your financial support will enable us to assist refugees and asylum seekers in building their new lives in Australia. Your donation will assist our dedicated volunteers to provide services directly to children, adults and entire families in the refugee and asylum seeker communities.

Your donation will go directly towards supporting the following services currently provided by RISE:

We urge you to lend us your support by making a tax-deductible donation. With your help, we can build a better and stronger future for all.

To donate, please click here http://www.givenow.com.au/riserefugee

Read more: “For the community, by the community – what does this mean for RISE and our members?”  http://riserefugee.org/post/49329027310/for-the-community-by-the-community-what-does-this

RISE endorses joint statement on counter-terrorism legislation – 16/10/2014

RISE: Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees joins with over 40 community organisations and academics calling on the Commonwealth Parliament not to rush through changes to Australian counter-terrorism legislation.

RISE believes there is a real possibility that the new laws will unduly restrict the basic rights and freedoms enjoyed by all members of the community in Australia. Because of this, it is vital that the Parliament carefully scrutinises the legislation and undertakes a proper community consultation about the appropriateness and proportionality of the proposed laws.

RISE has concerns about the effect on refugees whose personal circumstances – such as serious illness of close family members – may compel them to return temporarily to their countries of origin. Our members are already at a serious risk of harm from state and non-state actors in these countries of origin. The proposed legislation in Australia, the country which has given them refuge, would create an additional threat to their safety. It allows Australian authorities to detain and charge them for going to such places, and then forces them to prove to a court that they had a legitimate reason for being there.

Finally, the proposed legislation goes well beyond targeting the problem of “foreign fighters”. It gives ASIO and other law enforcement agencies far-reaching powers and discretions to curtail people’s rights and freedoms. We need rigorous debate and consultation about these changes, not a knee-jerk response.

Read the Full statement here : Joint Statement on Foreign Fighters Bill – 2014 

Proposed reintroduction of TPV (Temporary protection VISA) – for refugees in Australia: RISE Media Release 12/09/2014

RISE highly condemns the proposed reintroduction of Temporary protection Visas (TPVs) for refugees by Australia’s Liberal/National coalition government yesterday. TPVs create greater discrimination of refugees who happened to use boats as a mode of transport to Australia to seek asylum and prevents them from receiving basic entitlements under the UN refugee convention. How can TPVs provide a permanent humanitarian solution for people fleeing trauma and persecution? TPVs prevent family reunion or even overseas travel to visit family. TPVs increase the sense of uncertainty and violate the principal of non-refoulement by placing pressure on refugees to self-deport. At RISE we believe this policy reinforces the inequality faced by asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat.

There are over 50 million displaced refugees around the world, many languishing without proper protection in interim camps around the world. The offshore processing system will add tally to the interim camps and keeps refugees in isolation.

At RISE many of our members and founding members were on TPVs during the Howard regime and many are still on permanent resident visas without citizenship status.  We are aware of individuals from this group who are now Australian citizens are unable to reunite with their immediate family members.

Irrespective of how people arrive to Australia, asylum seekers should not be punished for asking to be safe and protected.  They should be treated with dignity and respect without being isolated behind barbed wire in remote deserts and islands or released into the community to face a life of deprivation and uncertainty due to punitive and discriminatory refugee policies.

Deterrence measures may lower the number of asylum seekers in Australia, but it is not a just and humanitarian solution for asylum seekers and it will not put a stop to people coming to this country by boat. The Australian government’s claim that deterrence saves deaths at sea is misleading. There is evidence that deterrence policies force refugees into more extreme danger. People fleeing persecution will always keep trying to reach a more secure location for themselves and their families, whether there is a policy to stop them or not. 

We urgently request the Australian Government and the public to show understanding towards asylum seekers who reach Australia to seek protection, to take all steps to have fair processing of asylum claims in Australia and ensure ALL refugees are granted permanent protection but not TPVs.

Get involved and stop the proposed reintroduction of TPV (Temporary protection VISA) by the Australian Government:

To lobby for international actions, click on the following links and alert your concern:

UNHCR Geneva http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4a324fcc6.html
UN New York http://www.un.org/en/contactus/
World Human Rights Watch hrwpress@hrw.org,   http://www.hrw.org/contact/new-york  
High Commissioner for Human Rights nationalinstitutions@ohchr.org , infoDesk@ohchr.org

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

http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members

Follow us on twitter : https://twitter.com/riserefugee

RISE exclusive media release (24 July 2014) : RISE WITHDRAWS FROM NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK’S SERVICES

RISE: Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees has withdrawn from the use of National Australia Bank’s banking services because of its involvement in Australia’s inhumane, unlawful and unconscionable offshore detention industry.

We have been a National Australia Bank (NAB) customer since our founding in 2009. However, concerning information about NAB’s investment activities was brought to our attention in the last few months.

As recently as May, NAB was a substantial holder of shares in Transfield Services Limited. Transfield operates the Australian government’s offshore internment camps on Nauru and Manus Island. It stands at the heart of this country’s immigration detention–industrial complex. During the extended period that NAB held a substantial stake in the company, Transfield announced that it had reached an agreement with the Australian government to take over the Manus Island facility, on top of its existing contract to run the Nauru camp.

RISE’s governance structure includes refugees who are ex-detainees, and many of our members have also directly experienced and continue to experience the cruelty of Australia’s immigration detention system. After NAB’s investments in Transfield were brought to our attention, we were compelled to review our position as a NAB customer.

We sent a letter to NAB asking for an explanation. NAB responded that it had not directly invested in Transfield for its own benefit. It said that investment divisions within the group had traded in Transfield shares for the benefit of investors. It said that the decisions to invest in Transfield were not taken by NAB itself, but rather by investment managers who were bound to act solely based on financial considerations.

We have carefully considered this justification, but have indicated to NAB that we are not satisfied with it. It ignores the fact that NAB provides investment services as part of commercial activities from which it derives profit. It also ignores the fact that NAB created the investment products whose terms allegedly require the investment managers to invest unethically.

We have reached the view that it is untenable to stay with a bank that cultivates an “ethical” image but involves itself financially with policies that degrade the mental and physical well-being of persecuted people. We have therefore ended our own involvement with NAB.

We note that the Ethisphere Institute recently rated NAB as one of the “world’s most ethical companies”. We urge Ethisphere to review its decision in light of the serious concerns that we have raised.

Finally, we call on all refugee advocacy and welfare organisations to audit their activities to ensure that they are not implicated with the dirty profits of the immigration detention industry.

Federal republic of West Papua executives released from prison – 18 July 2014

The Indonesian government has claimed it is releasing the President and Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of West Papua (FRWP) on Monday 21 July 2014.  President Forkorus Yaboisembut and Prime Minister Edison Waromi were convicted of treason, along with Selfius Bobbi, Agus Kraar, and Domiinikus Sorabut, after the 3rd Papua Congress established the independent state of West Papua on 19 October 2011.

Jacob Rumbiak, FRWP Minister for Foreign Affairs, believes President Yudhoyono should use the final months of his office to negotiate with the FRWP executives he has just released.  “Edison and Forkorus were elected by the West Papuan people to negotiate our status as an independent state, and the president should be talking with them under the formal auspice of a UN Security Council member like Australia.  Otherwise his country will humiliate itself again, as it did in East Timor in 1999”.    

Rumbiak believes President Yudhoyono is obliged to release all the other Papuan political prisoners.  “There are another seventy-six West Papuan political prisoners illegally incarcerated on convictions of treason; President Yudhoyono needs to release them before his second term finishes in October”.

Minister Rumbiak said Waromi and Yaboisembut are being released on the same day that the new president of Indonesia is being announced.  “General Prabowo’s brother, the influential businessman who funded the general’s election campaign, warned (former American president) Clinton not to visit Jakarta next week.  ”He would be safe in West Papua” said Rumbiak, “because the FRWP has eight-thousand West Papuan police well capable of protecting him, as well as the Indonesian citizens who live with us”.   

Minister Rumbiak, speaking from the Federal Republic of West Papua’s new five-star-energy office in Docklands (Melbourne), wants Greg Moriarty, the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta, to visit Waromi and Yaboisembut in West Papua next week.  “As Indonesia’s key financial sponsor, with a seat on the UN Security Council, Australia has a duty to protect our heads of state” he said.   

INQUIRIES

West Papua
Jack Wanggai, Spokesperson for Prime Minister Waromi; +62 813 4458 9878
Agus Ayamiseba, FRWP Spokesperson in Pidgin;   +62 821 9757 2939

Australia    
Ronny Kareni, Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, 0401 222 177
Melkias Okoka, Media Liaison, 0403 588 796

Urgent request to the international community to investigate disappearance of 153 Asylum seekers : 04/07/2014

RISE has sent a second communication in the early hours of the morning to the UN High Commissioner for Human rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment requesting an urgent investigation into the disappearance of the asylum seekers who are reported to have arrived in Australian waters last week.

It is extremely important the International community make every effort to act now because as reported in The Australian on 3 July 2014, Sri Lankan Human rights lawyer Lakshan Dias said:

“…if the handover happened in international waters and no one was there to witness it, both governments could claim the asylum-seekers were rescued after experiencing boat trouble.

“The violation is by the Australian government which is blocking the legal movement of people in international waters,” he said.

“You can’t blame the Sri Lankan government. Australia is Sri Lanka’s best friend at the moment. They support them in international forums, they have donated coastguard boats, and so if your friend asks you for a favour you try to help. Australia won’t want to come into a Sri Lankan port to hand over these people because it would tarnish their image…”

A copy our communication to the UN Human rights commissioner is as follows:

Urgent Request for investigation into whereabouts of Missing Tamil asylum seekers-reports they are being pushed back by Australia to International waters & handed to Sri Lankan Navy.

This is an urgent communication from RISE: Refugees, survivors and ex-detainees in Melbourne.

On 1 July 2014 we sent you an email urgently asking for assistance regarding the disappearance of 153 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers, men, women and children on a 21m long boat who were last in contact with Refugee advocates in Australia on 28 June 2014 after it arrived in Australian waters as well as the possibility of another boat load of 50 whose whereabouts are also unknown.

To date the Australian Minister of Immigration and Border protection, Mr. Scott Morrison, and the Prime Minister Tony Abbott have refused to reveal what has happened to these asylum seekers.

However since Tuesday 1 July 2014 there are disturbing reports that the Australian government has loaded them onto an Australian customs vessel and is planning to handover the asylum seekers mid-ocean to the Sri Lankan Navy, directly into the hands of their persecutors.  The Australian government still refuses to confirm to NGOs and the media if this has happened.

Looking at the number of calendar days since the news was first reported, it is likely that the asylum seekers would now be in international waters.  In fact a news report yesterday (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/ocean-transfers-of-asylumseekers-expected-today/story-fn9hm1gu-1226975765268) also says they are likely to have been transferred to the Sri Lankan navy on international waters by now.

Once the detained asylum seekers are on international waters it is the UN that has the competence to investigate the fate of these detainees and we therefore ask for an urgent investigation into the whereabouts of these prisoners and confirm if they are now in the hands of those they are seeking asylum from.

We have also made a similar request to other UN human rights bodies as well as ICRC (International committee of the Red Cross).

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