“I think if the Australian government was sensible, it would bite the bullet and allow the people who are in Australia to stay,” Thom says, describing it as the most obvious solution – particularly in light of the halt to migration caused by Covid-19. “But given Australia has a policy of never allowing these people to stay permanently, then it has to accept other offers that are being made in good faith, like the New Zealand offer.” The home affairs department says Australia remains committed to its regional processing policy and is establishing an enduring regional processing capability in Nauru. “The Australian government’s policy remains steadfast: no one under regional processing arrangements will be settled in Australia,” it says.Lives in limbo: more than 1,500 asylum seekers still face uncertain future | Australia news | The Guardian
Offshore processing has caused extreme trauma and cost billions that could have gone towards more effective, humane alternativesAustralia’s offshore asylum centres have been a cruel disaster. They must not be replicated by the UK | Jane McAdam and Madeline Gleeson | Opinion | The Guardian
“From Alex’s point of view, he’s succeeded in a court proceeding, and yet nothing has happened, that’s a particularly hopeless situation to be in, when you win and your life doesn’t change.”Sri Lankan refugee detained by Australia for 11 years despite government ruling he’s owed protection | Australia news | The Guardian
Howard’s/Abbott’s/Morrison’s/Dutton’s SHAME (ODT)
The LNP disinformation task force has been active the whole of this century (ODT)
How can we do this to our fellow humans? Even pets are allowed sunshine and a run in the park. So much for “health” care under Medevac. These are people kept hostage to “deter boats” for over 2,524 days (almost seven years).
There have been a number of high-profile racist incidents in Australia targeting Asians during the coronavirus pandemic
Nevertheless, analysts say that China’s travel warning is the latest attempt to pressure Australia into cooperation
Incidents of xenophobia and harassment of foreigners have also been recorded in China during COVID-19
Australia’s Idiot Minister
The Eagles in their classic Hotel California – and now part of settled Australian asylum seeker law :
‘You can check out any time you like, But you can never leave!’
Fast forward to Melbourne today and we find that there are around 45 asylum seekers who had previously been detained in PNG but who had, under the Medevac Laws, been brought to Australia for urgent medical attention. The men are currently, following their medical treatment, detained on one floor of the $180-a-night Mantra on Bell in Preston, which is off-limits to other guests and patrolled by private security guards.
The difficulty facing Spud Dutton is that he cannot easily return these folk to detention in PNG as – unlike Australia – it is unconstitutional under PNG law to hold people against their will unless they have been charged and convicted of a crime and sentenced in a properly constituted court of law; always remembering that seeking asylum is not a crime. So PNG is unlikely to take them back, as to issue them with a tourist visa would be taking migration law into the realms of Monty Python.
So, in between cameo appearances on 2GB and Sky and television ads with uniformed AFP personnel, minister Dutton is pondering his next move having effectively painted himself into a corner with little room to maneuver.
When Javed Badyari was 19 years old, the prime minister at the time, Kevin Rudd, announced that no asylum-seeker who tried to reach Australia by boat would ever be allowed to settle in the country.
In the years since then, Badyari, now 26, has studied medicine, moved from Sydney down to the seaside city of Wollongong, started work as a doctor, and become engaged to medical student Hannah Clements.
While Badyari was finding his feet as a young adult, hundreds of people spent the same six years in a state of permanent uncertainty, held in detention camps on small Pacific islands.
The conservative government that unseated Rudd in 2013 built on his hardline policy, leaving hundreds of asylum-seekers in indefinite detention on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and the tiny nation of Nauru. Hundreds remain there today, unsure what their future holds and increasingly suffering ill health.
Never say Never arbitrary politics. The untrustable Minister (ODT)
How Trump treats ASYLUM SEEKERS
“This is insane. Not only can they not move, they can’t breathe, they can’t eat, they can’t do anything like this. Children have died and will continue to die if this is not stopped now.”
A not-yet released report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, reported CNN on Friday, has found “dangerous overcrowding” and unsanitary conditions at an El Paso, Texas, Border Patrol processing facility following an unannounced inspection. (Photo: Department of Homeland Security/IG Office/via CNN)
A federal immigrant detention facility in El Paso, Texas is so unsanitary and overcrowded that migrants held by the Trump administration were forced to wear “soiled clothing for days or weeks” at a time and stand on toilets to find breathing space in their cells.
Attorney General William Barr has just banned bail for migrants seeking asylum…which by the way, is not a crime..and they need somewhere to keep these people, to concentrate them if you will.
Dictionary.com defines a concentration camp as: “a guarded compound or imprisonment of aliens, members of ethnic minorities, political opponents … for the confinement and persecution of prisoners.”
Well guess what, America?!
We are now officially building and maintaining concentration camps for migrant families who have come to our borders seeking asylum. Even though the mainstream media is reporting that the Trump Administration is “considering” tent concentration camps, the truth is that they have already been erected. As The Daily Beast published just two days ago, these camps already exist in El Paso, TX. These camps are former military hospital facilities converted to prison camps. Representative Nanette Barragan (D-CA) said after visiting the camp that it was “filthy” and “heartbreaking.”
A certain literature – and to that, a good deal of ghastly celluloid – has been produced on the subject. All are, in essence, in violation of the United Nations Refugee Convention. No mention on the right to asylum is ever made; nor to the right not to be prejudiced against as an asylum seeker in terms of means of arrival. And that’s merely the start. In gazing at these amateurish compilations of self-entitled guff, one is left with the conclusion that no one involved in this process has ever consulted a human rights manual, let alone familiarised themselves with the hideous post-Second World War period. There was a time when the term Displaced Person was not entirely revolting.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the hardened advertising man of the government, has retreated into something he knows best: the shallow, bucket swilling call of the advert. This is interesting in a way: the same man condemned his opponents for doing something similar when they got on the anti-refugee video show. When Labor, then in government, introduced material to justify its “PNG solution” in July 2013, Morrison claimed that the party was “ramraiding the taxpayer’s ATM”. The then coalition opposition snortingly dismissed the effort by Labor as “propaganda”.
Shortened memories prevail. A two-minute video message is now ambling its way through 10 countries, though it will have to be translated, however accurately, on its crooked journey. “Make no mistake, if you attempt to come to Australia illegally by boat, you will not succeed.” Spare your pennies, insists Morrison. “So do not waste your money or risk your life, or anyone else’s life, for nothing.” Such is the awareness of a person who has never had to consider the throbbing, genuine feeling human rights conjures up in the breast of the oppressed.
Neither Murdoch Media nor the Government made any effort to correct the misrepresentation put out. Fake News Sure was (ODT)
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has opened the door to a potential refugee resettlement deal between Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, acknowledging it is a decision for the two sovereign states that Australia could not block.
But he warned any arrangement would be against Australia’s wishes and would run the risk of souring both countries’ diplomatic relationships with Australia – making it unlikely without Canberra’s blessing.
A year or so ago I met with a very senior official in the Turnbull government’s Border Force. We discussed the fact that the lives of 32,000 people who had sought asylum after July 2013 were slowly being destroyed despite the fact that not even one asylum seeker boat had reached our shores during the previous two years. More than 2000 people were marooned on Nauru and Manus Island. Thirty thousand or more were living in Australia, but in a permanent state of fear and existential insecurity.
My dear friends, I am writing this because I want to say … We are sorry that when you needed us, instead of helping we threw you into hell
Iran’s Foreign Minister has criticised Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, describing their living conditions as unconscionable.
Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in 2011, sues Norway for violating his human rights.
Papua New Guinea’s PM clarifies comments to Canberra’s media that he wants the Manus Island centre to eventually close.
The actual cost for Australia to have a more humane immigration policy isn’t as high as you might think.
The former prime minister needs to be told: Fortress Europe and Fortress Australia are anachronistic, unjust and odious concepts.
The Government is allowing rape, torture, assault, and in some cases murder in immigration detention centres, the public presumed today after being left with no choice but to use their imaginations.
With reports of reality now banned, citizens have been forced to assume the worst possible atrocities are being carried out in their name.
“It’s pretty horrific what’s happening there. Sexual assault, solitary confinement, torture – it’s all possible. But I don’t really know for sure,” one man said.
The Government released a statement saying, “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. And we certainly wouldn’t want nothing to fear”.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ visit to Moscow this week for talks with President Vladimir Putin has fuelled wild speculations about the real intentions of the Greek government.
The visit is taking place while bailout talks between Greece and Europe have reached a very critical juncture.
Greece is again on the verge of bankruptcy, but its euro partners insist that the government stay the course with its austerity programme and the neoliberal structural reforms before they unlock more aid.
While it is hard to say what the Greek prime minister hopes to achieve from his talks with Putin, his overtures towards Russia may represent a sincere attempt on his part to reorient the country’s strategic interests as well as reflect a sense of deep frustration with Greece’s euro partners.
And for good reason.
The financial bailouts by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have created an economic and social catastrophe of unprecedented proportions for an advanced western nation in peacetime conditions.
Greece’s GDP has sunk by 20 percent since 2010, its level of sovereign debt has risen as a share of GDP to 176 percent, the unemployment rate has exceeded the 25 percent mark, and one out of three Greeks live near or below the poverty line.
The general explanation on the part of Greece’s euro partners and in much of the western media for this dramatic situation is that Greek authorities have been slow in introducing structural reforms while hinting at the same time that the Greek people are lazy.
However, the facts on the ground tell a different story. First, major reform policies have been fully implemented across the private sector labour market, which include increasing labour market flexibility and substantially reducing wages and salaries.
Second, the number of public sector employees has been slashed by over 30 percent since 2009, with corresponding salary cuts ranging anywhere from 28 percent to 35 percent.
Third, public education, public healthcare, transportation, and social services have experienced sharp annual budget cuts since 2010 to the point that Greece may now qualify as a failed state.
|Securing a preferential trade agreement with Russia, and possibly some direct financial aid, will help the country’s beleaguered economy and may force its euro partners to adopt a more flexible approach towards an EU member state which seems to be driven directly into the arms of Moscow.|
Fourth, most state-owned assets have been privatised, and those that still remain under public ownership (certain airports for example) may soon get privatised under pressure by Greece’s main creditors.
Finally, as the ultimate proof of how misguided and culturally biased the prevailing story is about Greece’s current misfortunes, every major study shows that Greeks work more hours than anyone else in Europe.
Interestingly enough, the question of why Greece’s economy is in such a mess was pointedly answered by Peter Bofinger, a member on the German Chancellor’s Council of Economic Advisers, in a recent interview on German radio: “excessive austerity”.
In fact, in a private dinner conversation back in late November 2014, Bofinger stated to the author that Greece should have pulled out of the euro when the crisis broke out in May 2010 because he could see the disastrous effects that the bailout plan was going to have on the economy and its people.
The IMF has also admitted on various occasions in the past that it underestimated the negative impact of the austerity measures on the Greek economy, but that did not stop its officials overseeing the bailout of Greece from insisting on more and more of the same deadly medicine.
Today, Greece’s situation is exponentially more dire than it was a few years ago. Liquidity has dried up completely and the debt crisis is no longer confined to the public sector but has expanded into the private sector as well.
The new Syriza-led government has done a lot of screaming about the adverse effects of austerity since it came to power two months ago, but it has failed to convince Greece’s euro partners about the economic and moral merit of its case.
Indeed, both Europe and the IMF insist on the continuation of a failed programme that has caused massive economic damage and untold social pain.
As the eurozone’s unquestionable master, Germany has also refused to consider any talk of a Greek debt write-off, forgetting rather conveniently that its own economic recovery after the war would not have been possible if it was not for the London Debt Agreement of 1953, which cancelled a great portion of German debt.
Germany also impugns the claims of Greece about war reparations. Greece has never been repaid for the hundreds of millions of reichsmarks that the Greek National Bank was forced to give to Nazi Germany during the war or for the atrocities committed on the local population by the German forces during the occupation.
Under these circumstances, it is no wonder why Greece’s leftist government is making overtures towards Russia.
During his talks with Putin, the Greek prime minister may or may not request direct economic assistance from Moscow. He will certainly try, though, to strengthen economic ties between the two nations, especially in the area of energy.
Parallel financial system
In the meantime, the Greek government should not hesitate to introduce a parallel financial system (a “double currency”) in order to address the lack of liquidity and help to boost growth.
And, in the end, if all efforts to convince Greece’s euro partners that the social welfare of a nation’s citizens must take priority over any obligations to creditors fail, an orderly exit from the euro may be the only option left.
It could very well be then that the new Greek government’s overtures towards Russia are in anticipation of an uncertain future regarding Greece’s place in the eurozone, even though its expressed desire is for Greece to remain in the euro.
Securing a preferential trade agreement with Russia, and possibly some direct financial aid, will help the country’s beleaguered economy and may force its euro partners to adopt a more flexible approach towards an EU member state which seems to be driven directly into the arms of Moscow.
As for Russia, it might be willing to provide whatever assistance it can (and without necessarily making financial costs and benefits a priority in its decision-making process) to financially beleaguered Greece in order to have an EU member state on its side.
Greece has already expressed its disagreement over EU sanctions against Russia, and it takes only one EU member to veto sanctions.
In sum, if talks between Greece and Russia lead to a fruitful collaboration between the two countries, the EU will have a hard time keeping Russia in check and may even lose a vital political partner in its quest of a unified Europe.
C J Polychroniou is a research associate and policy fellow at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College and a contributor to Truthout.org.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
Harsher penalties for intelligence whistleblowers in Australia will deter future whistleblowers like Edward Snowden from speaking about Australia’s surveillance and intelligence gathering.’
The referral to the federal police of journalists covering asylum seeker policy raises serious questions about the freedom of the press in Australia
Journalism in Australia is not a crime. Despite this, journalists who have reported on immigration and asylum seeker issues have been referred to the Australian Federal Police for investigation in a series of attempts to prosecute confidential sources and whistleblowers.
This is a move that should alarm all citizens. It’s not an attack on any particular news outlet. It’s an attack on those who have reported on matters of significant public interest in the increasingly secretive area of asylum seeker policy.
Journalists from Guardian Australia, News.com.au and the West Australian have all had their stories sent to the AFP by customs, the immigration department and the defence department to ask the AFP to track down their sources. There may be journalists from other news outlets involved.
All journalists have confidential sources to help gather information and build their stories. Sometimes those sources speak out at great risk, and that confidentiality must be protected. The free flow of information is the bedrock of a journalist’s work.
These kind of attacks severely damage the confidence between reporters and their sources and pose a grave threat to effective and responsible journalism. When the federal police go knocking on the doors of a reporter’s sources, sources will soon dry up. People will be scared. And that is exactly the point.
Part of the problem is that the laws surrounding leaks are so broad. The Commonwealth Crimes Act criminalises essentially any disclosure of government information, regardless of the seriousness, regardless of the intent, and regardless of the public interest. Despite recommendations by the Australian Law Reform Commission to amend these laws, we have yet to see any change.
The whistleblower protection scheme introduced in 2013 under the previous Labor government provides limited protections for disclosures to the world at large, and favours protected disclosures internally or to oversight agencies instead. This means that whistleblowers who provide information to journalists can still be left with little protection from the law.
This can’t be viewed in isolation. There is a much broader series of measures at play that all point towards an increasing overreach by the federal government into legitimate reporting and public interest disclosures.
Any of the journalists that are listed in the AFP referrals could have had their phone and web records accessed. It doesn’t take a warrant, just a short one-page form. And there is no privilege or special protection for journalists, a consideration that is being debated right now in the UK. The looming mandatory data retention legislation will compound the problem by ensuring a much greater range of web data is consistently available to government agencies for up to two years.
The insertion of a new offence into the Asio Act that criminalises any form of disclosure about “special intelligence operations” could see journalists jailed for reporting on important intelligence related stories. Harsher penalties for intelligence whistleblowers in Australia will also attempt to deter future whistleblowers like Edward Snowden from speaking about Australia’s surveillance and intelligence gathering.
The Australian government has shown great concern for the awful plight of Peter Greste and his Al Jazeera colleagues who have been jailed in Egypt. They have shown great concern for freedom of the press in the wake of the terrible Charlie Hebdo attacks in France.
That concern must extend to the work of serious public interest reporting in Australia.
It is time for all Australians to recognise that stopping the boats is not the answer to the refugee problem.
The issue of refugees is a global one deserving better than the shallow policies developed by successive Australian governments. History will not be any kinder to present Australians than to those of former eras in respect of their racist policies towards Aboriginal and Asian people.
Australian attitudes are curious since most of us, with the exception of the first Australians, are descended from refugees of one sort or another.
Unfortunately, most politicians think that stopping the boats resolves the matter.
The government’s latest legislation makes superficial concessions that hide an outrageous scheme that shuts out the rule of law, confers worrying powers on the Immigration Minister, unilaterally amends the Refugee Convention and trashes Australia’s former reputation as a good international citizen. Its passage was achieved by Scott Morrison using refugee children as hostages, offering a trivial increase in the number of humanitarian refugees accepted by Australia and making minor changes while leaving most asylum seekers in limbo with temporary protection visas or so-called safe haven visas.
At the end of 2013 an estimated 52 million people around the world were displaced, representing the greatest disruption of peoples since World War II. Overall, 50 per cent of these refugees are children.
In 2013, 100,000 people crossed the Mediterranean to Europe, mainly to Italy and about 2000 drowned. This year 140,000 people have crossed from North Africa to Italy and while drownings have continued, they have been ameliorated by the magnificent rescue work of the Italian navy. At least 3 million refugees have come from Syria and more from Iraq
Many have witnessed or suffered atrocities including the targeting of women and children and their use as human shields.
Getting closer to us, there are over three million refugees in the South East Asian region, mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan who are in Malaysia/ Indonesia. Some 500,000 Rohingya are refugees from Myanmar, mainly in Thailand and Bangladesh. The latter have come by boat and many have been ransomed or killed in smuggler camps. Some have made it to Malaysia and Indonesia and a few to Christmas Island, where we continue their persecution.
Our government claims to save lives while the fact is that its policies and those of its predecessors created the situation where many other lives have been lost or damaged. The more successful we are in stopping boats and allegedly saving lives, increased numbers remain living in appalling conditions in countries where they are extremely vulnerable to disease and death or are killed attempting to escape to other places. Their conditions are bad because they are not able to work and cannot legally support themselves. They have no legal or political rights and are extremely vulnerable to exploitation.
If our government was to significantly increase its humanitarian intake and negotiate a regional solution with countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, there would be little need to stop the boats.
Since the Gillard Government’s attempted Malaysian solution nothing has been done to achieve a regional solution. Our government treats Asian countries with arrogance as is evidenced by Morrison’s recent announcement preventing further refugee applications from Indonesia. They also want solutions but to achieve them expect us to give as well as take. We must indicate a willingness to greatly increase our humanitarian intake and work with them towards compassionate and real solutions rather than attempting to fence off Australia.
The dreadful conditions in our overseas detention centres would not be tolerated in a prison in any civilised country and this is made worse in that children, some unaccompanied, are held there as well.
There are some myths about asylum seekers. Contrary to popular belief they represent a minor percentage of Australia’s overall humanitarian intake of migrants.
There is no queue to jump and never has been. Applications to UNHCR are not dealt with in the order in which they are received but applications are assessed upon the basis of the urgency of need. In fact 1.1 million people have made these applications to UNHCR in South East Asia and it will probably take two generations before these applications are assessed and longer to be successful. Most asylum seekers come from countries where it is impossible to make an application in any event.
There are few economic migrants. The fact that people risk their lives and those of their children in dangerous boats on the open ocean is a mark of their desperation rather than their wealth. They are generally the poorest of the poor escaping terrifying situations.
No horde will descend upon Australia if our policy is relaxed. Most people want to remain close to their home country, hoping to return and any increase could easily be controlled. The reason why people resort to boats is because there is no other reasonable hope left to them.
The fact that many arrive without papers is no surprise. Under many regimes an application for travel documents would be suicidal.
Australia’s position is despicable. No other country behaves as we do. We discriminate on the basis of their mode of arrival and target the poorest and most desperate.
We ignore important principles of international law and breach treaties we have ratified. We treat guiltless asylum seekers with cruelty that would be unacceptable if applied to criminals. We abuse children by depriving them of freedom, education and health care and frequently separate them from parents and relatives.
We hold them in secrecy, politicians incite prejudice against them, we send them to client states like Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia and wash our hands of them.
It is time for all Australians to recognise that we are a wealthy country that is not pulling its weight in dealing with a global problem. Otherwise our treatment of refugees and asylum seekers will be a further dark stain upon our history.
Alastair Nicholson is a former chief justice of the Family Court, a University of Melbourne law professor and chairman of Children’s Rights International
The Abbott government plans to send hundreds of refugees to Cambodia. Ironically, many poor Cambodians are displaced refugees in their own country
Like many five-year-olds in Cambodia, Samang must work for a living. He spends his days collecting drink cans from the rubbish dump that doubles as his home and then takes them to his grandmother, who crushes them with a brick. His grandmother does her best to care for him after his mother left Cambodia to find work in Thailand because there are no jobs in Phnom Penh. He is HIV positive.
I travelled to Cambodia to see what life will be like for the refugees the Abbott government plans to send there. Ironically, Cambodians like Samang have become refugees in their own country. Slum dwellers in the capital, Phnom Penh, have had their land and homes grabbed from under them by developers, and are pushed out onto the streets without any compensation.
Samang’s story is tragic, but it’s also common in a country that has been destroyed by brutal civil war, poverty and decades of endemic corruption. Human rights abuses are on the rise as the government cracks down on those who challenge the corrupt justice system and public services. Only last week, seven local mothers were jailed for a year for peacefully protesting the government’s inaction over sewage that floods their homes and children’s school on a regular basis.
Most of all, I fear for the young women and girls who Australia will send here. The sex trade is rife in Cambodia and young women are almost without protection. Orphanages in Cambodia are still full of young girls and boys, taken from poor homes with the promise of food and education, who are then exploited and sold for sex and labour. Clearly it is no place for Australia to be sending families who came to us asking for protection.
I met a young Rohingyan refugee named Tayab who has lived in Phnom Penh for several years. He has no officially recognised residency or citizenship and, therefore, none of the basic human rights that come with it. He cannot travel, get a job or own a vehicle. He survives by cooking roti every morning and selling it to passers-by on the street. Without official identification papers, it’s the best he can do.
“There is no future for me here,” he told me as we sat in in his cramped flat, “I want to leave but I can’t. Without papers, if I do leave, I will have to do it illegally.”
After a long pause, he added: “This deal, with Australia, it is very bad luck for the refugees.”
The Cambodian and Australian governments have been tight-lipped about the details of the refugee deal. At a farcical signing ceremony in September, the media snapped photos of the immigration ministers clinking champagne glasses but were ignored when they tried to ask questions about the new arrangement. What we do know, largely from Senate estimates questioning, is that refugees will be sent there by the end of the year. Australia will pay $40m plus costs for the privilege and, after a short time spent in the country’s capital, refugees will be dumped in regional Cambodia and told to get on with their lives.
Regional Cambodia’s rice fields and stunning natural beauty are interposed with scenes of stark destitution. The vast majority of Cambodians work in low paying, unstable and informal jobs – and this is especially true in the regions.
While visiting one of the villages in the rural province of Battambang, I spoke to parents at the local school. The overwhelming majority of them told me they had to travel to Thailand to work (often illegally) to earn enough money to survive. Unless you already own land and can grow rice, there are no jobs in the regional areas. What jobs will the refugees Australia sends here actually be able to perform? None, as far as I can see. There’s no work in Phnom Penh either – many are likely to take the locals’ advice and head across the border, where the wages are better.
Right now, there are 63 refugees and 21 asylum seekers in Cambodia. That’s a mere 84 potential refugees in the whole country. NGOs told me that they can’t care adequately for even that small number. There are more than 1,200 asylum seekers on Nauru, including families and children. All will be sent to Cambodia if the Australian government gets its way. The Abbott government is willing to pay to set this deal up, but the country clearly can’t cope with such a significant influx of vulnerable people.
While the politicians in Canberra might have decided to condemn the refugees on Nauru to a life of poverty and hardship, Australians deserve to know about the realities of life in Cambodia. They need to know about Tayab, poor young Samang and they need to know the truth: this dirty deal with Cambodia will condemn hundreds of families to a life of senseless and cruel destitution.
The Abbott government knows full well that it won’t be able to support the refugees that it dumps in Cambodia. Alarmingly, it doesn’t care.
- Names in this article have been changed.
Protesters in Phnom Penh hold signs during a demonstration against Cambodia’s plans to resettle intercepted refugees. Photo: Reuters
Bangkok: Cambodian authorities frequently extort money from asylum seekers living in the impoverished nation, according to an investigation that raises new concerns about Australia’s plan to send refugees there.
Asylum seekers have also told of how they are targets of discrimination in the country, often paying inflated prices for food, work equipment and basic necessities because they are not Cambodian.
“There is a foreigner price and a local price,” a refugee told Human Rights Watch investigators. “But we can’t afford the foreigner price.”
A Sri Lankan refugee said people call him a terrorist and use offensive words against him because he is an ethnic Tamil
Human Rights Watch has released a report detailing how asylum seekers and refugees living in Cambodia face hardships including difficulties obtaining employment, denial of access to education, substandard access to health services, extortion and corruption by local officials.
Refugees said fear of mistreatment by Cambodian authorities kept them from speaking out or joining organisations to bring complaints.
The report’s release follows similar claims by Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young during a visit to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh this week.
Ms Hanson-Young described sending refugees to Cambodia as “madness”, saying what she had seen in Phnom Penh’s slums had hardened her opposition to the plan, which has been condemned by human rights groups, refugee advocates and Cambodia’s opposition MPs.
The Abbott government is paying almost $40 million in additional aid over four years to Cambodia in return for the country accepting an unstated number of refugees who volunteer to resettle outside Phnom Penh.
They will be offered accommodation, training, food and loans to start small businesses over their first 12 months in the country.
Human Rights Watch called on the Australian government to press Cambodian authorities to implement key reforms to improve treatment of refugees in Cambodia before transferring any people from the tiny Pacific island of Nauru who are being encouraged to take up the Cambodian option.
“The Australian government shouldn’t make the refugees in Nauru suffer further by dumping them in a place unable to adequately resettle or reintegrate them,” said Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch’s Australian director.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 10 of 63 refugees living in Cambodia and spoke to refugee and migrant support organisations, human rights groups and United Nations agencies.
Years after arriving in Cambodia – one of Asia’s poorest nations – not one refugee had received a Cambodian residence card or citizenship, depriving them of availability to basic services.
The refugees are issued only a “parkas” proclamation by the Ministry of Interior that confirms their right to stay in Cambodia.
But the proclamation cannot be used for many official purposes.
“This piece of paper is absolutely useless,” a refugee told Human Rights Watch.
“To get a job, a driver’s licence, open a bank account, buy a motorbike or even receive a wire transfer, you need to show a passport, not this piece of paper.”
Some refugees said they are in a dire financial situation and would be unable to survive in Cambodia without support of the Jesuit Refugee Service.
Refugees told of how they rarely go outside because when they do they often face extortion, bribery and corruption.
A self-employed street bread seller said: “We have to pay bribes just to be able to sell food.”
Another refugee said the main problem in Cambodia was discrimination and mistreatment based on a person’s financial status.
“But it is also worse if you are a refugee with the wrong skin colour and not the right religion,” one said.
“Money will buy you everything, but if you haven’t got money then you can’t protect yourself and can’t protest about discrimination and mistreatment.”
One refugee had advice for refugees on Nauru: “This is a corrupt country. You will not find jobs. We have been here more than two years and we have no money and not enough to eat. It’s better to wait in Nauru. It’s a very, very bad life here in Cambodia … there is no future.”
Indonesia says Australia has burdened it with the responsibility of looking after thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, after the Federal Government decided to cut its resettlement intake.
Indonesia’s minister for law and human rights, Yasonna Laoly, said his country could only accommodate 2,000 asylum seekers and refugees.
Mr Laoly said it was a human rights issue and the decision placed a burden on Indonesia.
“It’s Australia’s right, but it becomes a burden for us,” Mr Laoly said.
On last month’s figures, there were 10,500 asylum seekers and refugees registered with the United Nations (UN) in Jakarta.
As Indonesia is not a signatory to the refugee convention, the UNHCR seeks to resettle them in countries like Australia.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will not say whether she discussed the policy with her Indonesian counterpart at last weekend’s G20 summit but said Indonesian authorities were briefed on the plan.
“I spent quite some time with the new [Indonesian] foreign minister over the weekend in Brisbane at the G20,” she said.
“We spoke about a whole range of issues including the issue of border protection and asylum seekers policy and we agreed to work closely.
“The Indonesian authorities have been briefed in detail about this.”
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison announced on Tuesday Australia would cut the number of refugees it would resettle from Indonesia and would not accept anyone who had registered in Indonesia after July 1.
Mr Morrison described the decision on Wednesday as “taking the sugar off the table”.
“We’re trying to stop people thinking that it’s OK to come into Indonesia and use that as a waiting ground to get to Australia,” he said.
Mr Morrison said Indonesia, as a transit country, was used by smugglers.
“We’ve had great success in stopping people coming to Australia by boat and for most of that time over the past year, that has seen a significant reduction of people moving into Indonesia,” Mr Morrison said.
“In recent months, we’ve seen a change to that and that’s because people think they can transit and sit in Indonesia and use that as a place to gain access to Australia.”
Indonesia’s foreign ministry said it would monitor the impact of the decision and would consider taking measures to protect Indonesia’s interests.
The ministry’s spokesman did not say what those measures might be.
Immigration minister says measure will help Indonesia, which he calls a ‘transit country’ for asylum seekers
Australia is “taking the sugar off the table” by announcing that asylum seekers registered with the UNHCR in Indonesia will no longer be eligible for resettlement, Scott Morrison has said.
The immigration minister announced on Tuesday that asylum seekers who had registered with the agency on or after 1 July would not come to Australia.
“We’re taking the sugar off the table. We’re trying to stop people thinking they can go to Indonesia and wait around till they get to Australia. Indonesia is not a refugee generating country, it’s a transit country and it’s used by smugglers,” Morrison told ABC radio.
“This is designed to stop people flowing into Indonesia. It will help Indonesia.”
The measure will not reduce Australia’s overall annual refugee intake under its humanitarian program, which currently stands at 13,750. Of those, 11,000 are resettled from overseas. Morrison said the policy would encourage people to stay in countries of first asylum.
Morrison said Australia remained committed to the UN refugee convention, but said the international treaty had been “abused” by people smugglers who picked and chose destination countries.
“The refugee convention wasn’t set up so people can go forum shopping,” he said.
Morrison would not be drawn on whether the matter was discussed when the prime minister, Tony Abbott, met the new Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, at last weekend’s G20 conference. But he acknowledged that “the Indonesian government was fully appraised of this decision prior to it being made”.
Widodo was sworn in as president last month, and warned Australia that navy incursions into Indonesian waters during boat turnbacks would not be accepted, signalling a tougher approach to issues of sovereignty.
Labor has sought an urgent briefing on the matter from the immigration minister’s office and the UNHCR.
“Regional co-operation is critical to having a long-term sustainable solution to the issue of displaced people in south-east Asia. We simply cannot shirk our regional responsibility,” the opposition’s immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, said.
“Labor believes Australia has an obligation to be a generous and humane country and we need to be working co-operatively with our neighbours to tackle people smuggling.”
Marles said Labor was committed to raising Australia’s refugee intake to 20,000.
The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said barring resettlement from the UNHCR in Indonesia was “exactly the opposite” of what Australia should be doing.
“This flies in the face of any attempt to work with our regional neighbours to find a genuine solution, a genuine approach to asylum seekers and refugees,” she said.
She warned that the move would force asylum seekers to take drastic measures.
“I am very concerned that we will now see people take dangerous boat journeys, and perhaps in fact to places like New Zealand which is an even longer and more dangerous journey.”
In Haneef Hussain’s recent article on The AIMN he told us why he and other family members fled their native Pakistan, for Australia and a better life. In Pakistan their people constantly faced torture or murder. As we also reported, they were on the first asylum seeker boat intercepted and returned to Indonesia by the Abbott Government. Hussain has written to us again with this brief yet disturbing letter about his life in Indonesia.
I never accept persecution. I now live in Jakarta, Indonesia for waiting my refugee status. Many journalists are coming here and have met with me and other asylum seekers. I explain with truth and honestly what has happened with me and the others and what forced to us to go by boat to Australia or New Zealand.
After the smugglers see the articles about us we are threatened, beaten, and our money is stolen from us. Here there is no justice and nobody wants to hear us.
Last September 28, 2014 I told the SMH about my tragedy. Now the smugglers who beat me are searching for me again.
Why is everyone who reads our story so silent?
I have made requests to all humanitarian institutions but not one has responded. Now my life is not safe in Jakarta. If the smugglers catch me I will surely meet with an ‘accident’. They will do this because they have already threatened me before. They said; “Why have you told the news about us?”
Where can I go for justice? I want peace around the world.
Because someone heard me tell the media that I don’t want to die because of human smugglers, I continue to be threatened by these people. I could not lie to the media about what I have been witnessing.
Please look at the links to my stories.
In 2012, an Afghan truckie facing a Taliban death threat was told he didn’t need a protection visa. The High Court yesterday said the decision was made in error, but with new laws on the way, that’s irrelevant, writes Michael Bradley.
The High Court yesterday dealt Scott Morrison yet another defeat in the ongoing battle over the rights of people seeking refugee status in Australia. But, again, the Minister for Immigration will lose neither sleep nor momentum as a result.
The drastic changes to our migration laws currently before Parliament will render the decision meaningless.
The unfortunate person in question, designated SZSCA, is an Afghan Hazara who had lived in Kabul. In 2011, he was employed as a truck driver on a route between Kabul and Jaghori. Mostly he transported construction materials. The Taliban targets this kind of cargo, because of its apparent connection to the Afghan government or foreign organisations.
SZSCA learned in late 2011 that the Taliban had identified him and was circulating a letter calling for him to be executed. He, understandably, fled the country. He arrived in Australia by boat in February 2012 and sought a protection visa. A delegate of then Labor minister Chris Bowen rejected his application, and this was upheld by the Refugee Review Tribunal. Following judgments in SZSCA’s favour in the Federal Circuit Court and Federal Court, the High Court found that the Tribunal’s decision was in error as it had failed to take into account the relevant considerations in determining whether SZSCA was entitled to protection under the Refugee Convention as enshrined in Australia’s Migration Act.
The Tribunal had accepted that SZSCA was justified in fearing that he’d be killed if he returned to driving a truck on his old route. However, it had concluded that he’d be safe if he stayed in Kabul and found employment there instead. Therefore, he was not at risk of persecution if he returned to Afghanistan and, consequently, he was not a refugee.
The globally adopted Convention definition of a “refugee” is that they are a person who, “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”.
The key element is the “well-founded fear” of persecution. Where that fear relates to one part of the person’s home country, but not all of it, then a test of reasonableness comes into play. It may be that a person doesn’t meet the definition of refugee because they could relocate within their country to avoid the problem, but the High Court confirmed that this is only the case where it is reasonable to expect them to do so. In SZSCA’s case, the minister and the Tribunal hadn’t considered this at all. What they’d decided was that it was practically possible for SZSCA to stay in Kabul and be safe, and that was enough. The High Court said they needed to consider all the circumstances and make a positive finding that it was reasonable to expect SZSCA to live in Kabul and not be a truckie anymore.
In a 2003 case, the High Court similarly found that the Tribunal was wrong to send a group of gay men back to Bangladesh on the basis that they wouldn’t be persecuted if they lived discreetly. The proper question was whether their fear of persecution was well-founded, not how they might avoid it.
So, good news for SZSCA, although practically it means he’s back before the Tribunal and it might well still decide that living in Kabul is good enough. More significantly, if the Migration Act is amended as the Government has proposed, then anyone in SZSCA’s position in the future will have no hope of success.
The Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 makes many fundamental changes to our immigration laws. One of them goes directly to the question of who is a “refugee”.
The Bill will remove most references to the Refugee Convention from the Migration Act. It will replace the Convention definition of a “refugee” with a uniquely Australian definition.
Most relevantly, a person in SZSCA’s situation is currently a refugee entitled to protection if their well-founded fear of persecution is localised to a particular part of their country and it would be unreasonable to expect them to relocate to another part of the country where they do not have a real chance of persecution. The Bill replaces this test with a new one: if it is found that the person can safely and legally access the alternative “safe” area, then they are not a refugee. No question of reasonableness arises.
This is extremely bad news for prospective refugees, because there isn’t likely to be a country on Earth which doesn’t contain at least one small area where it’s safe and legal to be. That might be a desert, a mountain top or a Westfield shopping centre, but as long as you’re not likely to be persecuted there then you won’t be getting a protection visa in Australia.
This is an absolute abrogation of Australia’s international human rights obligations and takes us a lot further down the road towards the status of an impenetrable xenophobic fortress. Which is precisely the Government’s intent.
Tasmania would become Australia’s asylum seeker processing centre, with newcomers living and working freely in the community, under a plan developed by local leaders and human rights activists.
The Tasmania Opportunity Leaders Summit in Launceston heard that the case for making the state an asylum seeker processing centre went beyond the natural security it afforded as an island.
Speakers, including human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC, said Tasmania offered an alternative to the Federal Government’s Sovereign Borders policy, one that was more humane, better value for the Australian taxpayer and of benefit to the local economy.
It would deliver enormous economic benefit to the state in infrastructure spending, education and training and in business opportunities,Dr David Strong
The proposal included allowing people to live and work in the community, receive Centrelink benefits and live where the Government determined their money would have the greatest benefit for the local economy.
Mr Burnside, who won this year’s Sydney Peace Prize, told the summit the Federal Government spent $5 billion a year on asylum seekers, and that Tasmania was a much more cost-effective option.
“If you can reduce that cost dramatically to one-tenth of what it is at the moment, and in the process avoid doing harm to frightened people and do some good for the Tasmanian economy, that seems a good thing all round,” he said.
Asylum seekers could boost Tasmanian economy
Mr Burnside told the summit that asylum seekers should be seen as a resource, not a threat.
“They would be bringing in to the community not only their courage and their initiative but also the income that they can earn,” he said.
He said there were some conditions that should be attached to any planned move to make Tasmania a refugee processing centre.
Asylum seekers would still be detained on arrival for one month only, for health and security screening.
Following that, Mr Burnside said further conditions needed to met under the plan.
- The asylum seekers had to stay in touch with the Immigration Department;
- They should be engaged in education, training and work; and
- They must live in a region designated by the Government – for example, Tasmania.
A summit co-ordinator, Launceston paediatrician Dr David Strong, said the plan had the potential to be “the biggest, most far-reaching project in Tasmanian history”.
“It would deliver enormous economic benefit to the state in infrastructure spending, education and training and in business opportunities,” he said.
“It would further enhance Tasmania is the eyes of the nation and the world as a welcoming place that warmly embraces those seeking a better life.”
A group of asylum seekers who took the immigration department to court over the exposure of their personal details in a major data breach have won a federal court appeal, and the immigration minister has been ordered to pay their costs.
In February the immigration department inadvertently exposed the personal details of thousands of asylum seekers in their care by disclosing their details on a file on its public website.
The breach sparked a wave of court actions from asylum seekers, but some had failed in an earlier bid in the federal circuit court to seek orders preventing their deportation and declarations that would require the data breach to be considered when their claims were being processed.
The progress of the cases has been confused because of two different federal circuit court judgments that took different views on how the cases should progress.
Appeals relating to both those matters were heard on Friday by a full bench of the federal court before justices Nye Perram, Jayne Jagot and John Griffiths.
Perram, with the agreement of Jagot and Griffiths, found that for at least two of the asylum seekers before Judge Rolf Driver the earlier decision “miscarried” and the matter sent back to the federal circuit court.
“It seems to me in these circumstances that the appeal should be allowed,” he said.
“The minister should be ordered to pay the costs of this court and the costs below.”
The immigration minister’s counsel also conceded during the hearing that there was no process in place to deal with the asylum seekers’ claims at the time a letter from the department secretary was sent out informing them of the breach.
The letter advised asylum seekers affected by the breach that the department would “assess any implications for you personally as part of its normal processes”.
Morrison’s counsel argued that a new bill before the parliament would put a clear process in place, but the bill has not been passed. On Friday Clive Palmer indicated he had some reservations about its contents.
In one of a series of sharp exchanges, Griffiths said: “So there were no normal processes in place at the time?”
The minister’s counsel responded: “They were in development.”
Griffiths observed: “They still haven’t been developed as of today.”
Perram remarked that the relevant provisions of the Migration Act and the circumstances of the case posed a number of difficulties, describing the act as “a wall of mirrors really”.
He later added: “I feel like I’m in Alice in Wonderland.”
The matter continues
Andrew Bolt abuses the Italian government for declaring asylum seekers legal. Dumb! dumb! dumb! He points to the stupidity of the Italians for allowing their Navy to rescue two thirds of these economic wasters. E4.3mill a day cost to the tax payers of Italy for no return. At least ISIS sells the women and children it takes hostage. His complaints and accusations are a serious never ending howl,why? He’s paints the picture for us and the situation is daunting without a doubt. He makes no effort to empathise with the Italians. Why they have chosen this path other than
“The policy change, driven by a perverted mix of human decency and political correctness, was pure folly: it has acted as a green light to wannabe boat people.”
Implicitly he is crowing. His blog is a look ‘at us piece’.The humanitarian government of Australia lead by the defender of the free and civilized world Tony Abbott with Scott Morrison have solved the issue why can’t you. We’ll send you Scott and show you how it’s done. Like Tony ,Scott can lead the way as we are now an honorary members of NATO and and after all Tony is a dual citizen. It doesn’t matter how far away you are you are truly in our hearts but only as tourists. Listen carefully.
- Stop the boats!
- Tow them back!
- Off shore processing & detention centers in the harshest places and worst conditions.
- Make it clear NO EU RESETTLEMENT
- Contract third world country with a money loving government to resettle them.
- Most important everything must be done in secret.
- Should there be a leak Deny Everything. Use Spin Doctors
- Read Eichman’s Final Solution. Or go see World War Z and think of us.
Bolt doesn’t really give a shit about Italy he’s scaremongering to say. The Morrison way is the only way.
Maybe it’s time the the first world did something about foreign aid not just 5% of GDP. Really do something about poverty. Really do something about Health, Housing Education,Employment and Wealth . Globalisation has done wonders for China but has it helped Africa and the Middle East all we have done there is grabbed their resources. A cheap take take take is no longer good enough.
Bolt is Scum
Quote: “WHY have the Greens — and leftists such as former prime minister Malcolm Fraser — made Sri Lanka their favourite villain? “Is it so they can now attack Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a criminal for sending back two boats with 200 [alleged] Tamils intercepted a week ago? ”
Basically Bolt is calling Christine Milne MP, Malcolm Fraser, Retired PM, Chief Justice Alister Nicholson, his mates Steven Harper Canadian PM & his security, David Cameron British PM ,MI5 and a host of other heads of state uninformed liars for condemning the Sri Lankan government’s record on Human Rights abuses.
Like the misinformed 97% of scientists of Climate Change the UN and the security services of a host of countries are in total error about the Sri Lankan government. There is no chance let alone 51% chance that current lot of asylum seekers are being handed back like “Jews to the Nazis”.
If as Bolt says they are merely “alleged” Tamils why are they being handed to Sri Lanka anyway? That alone is criminal let alone giving their navy two vessels.
Bolt has been quoted saying his heart is in Aalsmere the small village of his forebears. Infamous for it’s dark past having elected the most Nazi sympathizing council and mayor in Holland. After WW2 100’s of cases were brought to justice in the sweet little village of Aalsmere.