Author Archives: riserefugee

Our views on offshore processing

RISE is extremely concerned about the continued raising of an asylum seeker deal between regional and Australian governments, recently rehashed by Independent MP, Rob Oakeshott.

Minister for Immigration and Labor MP, Chris Bowen has recently announced his support for Oakshott’s dangerous proposal to reinstate offshore processing. This decision to punish asylum seekers and refugees coming to Australia is neither an ethical solution to the problem nor a deterrent for those of us arriving by boat.

If the majority of the Senate go ahead with the decision to support Oakeshott’s bill, it will be further evidence of Australia’s shocking discrimination against people fleeing from war and persecution. Offshore processing to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia or Nauru will only serve to make Australia’s notorious immigration detention system even less transparent due to geographic and bureaucratic isolation from Australia itself, but it will also put refugees and asylum seekers in great danger by trapping them in countries that are not signatories to the UN Refugee Convention.

In Malaysia, for example, it is very clear that there are many existing problems in the country’s existing refugee camps that the UNHCR has failed to address or solve. It is also well known that Malaysia has not upheld the basic human rights of refugees in the past and is under no legal obligation to do so. Why then does the UNHCR condone Australia sending asylum seekers and refugees there?

Further, as of March 2008, there were 39,000 individuals registered with UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) in Malaysian refugee camps. 33,000 are from Myanmar and there are refugees and asylum seekers from other countries, including: 1,300 Sri Lankans and 600 Iraqis. Camps are crowded and lack adequate sanitation. Many refugees have poor health because of this. Refugees and asylum seekers there also have no work rights; their children have no study rights. They are incredibly vulnerable to exploitation and poverty. Malaysia and Indonesia are both known to imprison asylum seekers and refugees in jails. This means that families, including children, whose only “crime” has been to flee their countries of origin are being incarcerated.

The rhetoric that Australian politicians espouse on asylum seeker issues is callous: hard-line solutions, temporary protection visas, Pacific and other offshore solutions, indefinite detention, forceful deportation, and now, a possible continuous Malaysian refugee and asylum seeker trade. The past has shown us that treating asylum seekers and refugees harshly does not work. It does not stop them coming, but it does tarnish Australia’s reputation and leads to the decline of mental health of already vulnerable people. The deal should stop immediately and Rob Oakeshott needs to open his eyes before he further disfranchise our community.

Protests are democratic actions

Both Liberal and Labour parties have cited last year’s protests as “criminal actions”, but Australian detention centres are being used as crypts to bury the voices and narratives of oppressed men, women and children who are seeking freedom. What democratic options do such people have?

When asylum seekers try to have peaceful “non-violent” protests, they are constantly ignored, denied and rendered invisible. Today most of the asylum seekers involved in the protests have obtained protection in Australia. Where is the media discussion of this reality?

As Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison demand an audit of the damage to buildings and property in Christmas Island and Villawood detention centres, RISE asks if they would have the courage to be equally strident in appealing for an audit of lives lost and damage caused by mandatory and indefinite detention?

We also ask Chris Bowen to stop asking for extra ministerial powers to deport a small group of refugees and asylum seekers who are being used as scapegoats for the repeated breakdown of an inherently flawed system.

Rather than using coercive power to silence detainee dissent, the Gillard government should address the legitimate concerns raised by detainees during their acts of protest and resistance. We ask Senator Bowen and the Gillard government to consider the critical issues raised by non-governmental humanitarian organisations, independent monitors, legal and health experts, and most importantly, the refugee community itself, to create a more humane system to deal with those seeking asylum.

Submitted by Ramesh Fernandez

Xenophobia or racial discrimination?

Is this a form of xenophobia or racial discrimination? Seeking asylum is not a crime and it is a right that is upheld by the laws of this land as well as the UN Refugee Convention that our country has pledged to support.

Yet in recent times, successive Australian governments have begun to fundamentally disregard this pledge. People imprisoned in detention centers as a consequence of seeking asylum in Australia include children. Australia only receives 0.1% from the world refugee population of 11,400,000.

Refugee with psychiatric illness bashed by drunken men

A refugee with a psychiatric illness who was granted a protection visa more than a year ago has still not been assisted by government subcontracted settlement service providers to apply for a carer visa to bring a family member over to be with him.

He wandered into a restaurant after 12 midnight because he was hungry and wanted a burger, but didn’t have more than $2 on him, got beaten up by two drunk men and was admitted to hospital. He came into our drop in centre with a bruised and swollen face and broken tooth. It is likely that even if the visa application was lodged this week, it would take another 2 years to bring down his family to help look after him.

Asylum seekers at Scherger detention centre

Two asylum seekers from Scherger detention centre in QLD have to go to court this week without a lawyer and are likely to lose their case because of this.

Immigration detention is supposed to be for “administrative purposes”-does this mean “doing everything unfair to slow down or stop the visa process”? There are only about 20 computers in Curtin detention centre, in a remote desert, 2700 km from perth and very few phones that work, so how do people get legal help or do research for their cases?

To fax a document from Scherger Immigration detention centre located in the remote mining town in Wiepa Queensland, a request has to be made a day in advance. Lawyers who have gone to Curtin have said it is difficult to locate their clients. When a detainee is transferred to another detention centre, DIAC does not inform close family, friends or legal representatives.

Lawyers who have gone to Curtin have said it is difficult to locate their clients. When a detainee is transferred to another detention centre, DIAC does not inform close family, friends or legal representatives.

Even in Maribyrnong IDC and Melbourne Transit accomodation, audio recordings of immigration interviews on CDs cannot be listend to because there are no CD drives on the computers or CD players for people to listen to the recordings in privacy.

ALERT from Curtin IDC

Asylum seeker (wife and two preschool aged children living in conflict zone) detained 1 year and 11 months, attempted to hang himself on Friday. He has been discharged from hospital today and back taken back to Curtin. He slept in a tent for 9 months when he was in Christmas Island IDC. The RISE Advocacy team and his psychologist had already registered their concerns to DIAC about his mental health months ago.

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