Tag Archives: asylum seekers in australia

Canberra stops Australian Rights boss from off-shore detention centres

March 06, 2013

Human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

The Australian government’s top legal adviser has told the Australian Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs she cannot visit Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea

Professor Triggs wanted to assess and act on complaints from asylum seekers about conditions on the islands.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that she was told by the Solicitor-General that she had no jurisdictional power on Manus Island and Nauru to hear the complaints.

Professor Triggs’ office says it is still seeking further information about the implications of the legal advice.

The camps have been set up by Canberra in a bid to deter boatpeople from Asia trying to reach Australia.

The conditions in the camps have been stronly criticised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Source: http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=74438

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Asylum seeker work rules to be relaxed

November 26, 2012

Paris AristotleThe Gillard government’s new asylum seeker regime is inconsistent with Australia’s international treaty obligations … Paris Aristotle. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

NEW rules denying asylum seekers the right to work for up to five years will be relaxed after a backlash from Labor MPs and one of the principal architect’s of the Gillard government’s policy to stem the number of boat arrivals.

In comments on Monday, the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said he wanted ”over time” to work out how people arriving by boat had ”appropriate support and care, and where appropriate they have some mechanism in place to be able to support themselves”.

Mr Bowen announced last Wednesday those people who have arrived in Australia by boat since offshore processing resumed in August and could not be sent to Nauru or Manus Island would be released into the community with ”no work rights”.

Asylum seekersWorking it out … Chris Bowen wants to see that asylum seekers have “some mechanism in place to support themselves”.

Under the ”no advantage” test, Mr Bowen said they would have to survive on a meagre payment of about $220 per week for up to five years, the same period it would take them to be resettled if they stayed in a refugee camp elsewhere in Asia. The move was forced by a surge of almost 8000 asylum seekers since the offshore processing regime was put in place on August 13 and provoked criticism that it would create a new refugee underclass.

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Paris Aristotle, a member of the expert panel headed by former defence chief Angus Houston, has described the new regime as inconsistent with the policy’s controversial ”no advantage” test, punitive and in breach of Australia’s international treaty obligations.

After representations from Mr Aristotle and others, Mr Bowen asserted on Monday that the new rules were ”not actually linked to the no-advantage principle as such”, and were more about the surge in numbers from Sri Lanka and the belief that many were ”economic migrants” and not refugees.

He also vowed to work with those in the refugee sector to work out ”how we will deal” with those found to be refugees under the new system, where asylum seekers whose claims are upheld must wait for as long as they would have waited to be resettled if they had stayed in a transit country – a period Mr Bowen concedes could be five years.

Writing exclusively for Fairfax Media, Mr Aristotle argues the correct response to concerns about economic migration from Sri Lanka is to ”properly and quickly” establish if this is the case by processing applications. ”Those that are refugees should be protected and those who are not can be returned,” he writes.

”The announcements last week to disallow asylum seekers work rights and timely access to family reunion, even after they have been found to be a refugee, were not recommendations of the panel,” Mr Aristotle says.

”The measures are highly problematic because they are a punitive form of deterrence in response to a specific and new phenomenon in people smuggling from Sri Lanka which the government believes is for economic reasons as opposed to refugee protection.”

Mr Aristotle also expresses dismay at the opposition’s proposal to slash the humanitarian quota back to 13,750 places and reintroduce temporary protection visas, saying it makes little sense.

Lamenting that debate on asylum seekers issues continues to be on a ”destructive and combative course”, he appeals to all sides to show leadership to end ”this destructive cycle”.
Source: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/asylum-seeker-work-rules-to-be-relaxed-20121126-2a3ng.html

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Orphaned by Taliban murderers, Hussain finds better life

Asylum seeker Hussain

Asylum seeker Hussain who’s story reduced greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young from to tears in parliament today. Source: The Daily Telegraph

HE is 17, learning English and dreams of becoming an electrician – and yesterday Hussain’s struggle brought a federal politician to tears.

During the debate on the asylum seeker bill in the senate, the Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Youngbroke down as she spoke about the teenager’s plight.

Ms Hanson-Young revealed that when Hussain was just five years old, the Taliban raided his village in Afghanistan – killing his parents, sister and brother.

Hussain survived, as did an older sister and younger brother.

Hussain hid with his brother and an uncle in Pakistan. But it wasn’t safe, so his sister worked on a plan to help in any way she could.

She got married and moved to Iran – “her gateway to safety”, Ms Hanson-Young said, before crying as she revealed the sister sold everything she had, including her jewellery, so she could pay for Hussain to find a better life.

Hussain flew to China, then Thailand and then Malaysia, but none of those countries would accept him as a refugee.

And so in Malaysia he boarded a small and crowded fishing boat and came to Australia. “He was one of the 500 people that we detained for up to three months last year while we debated the ‘Malaysia Solution’,” Ms Hanson-Young said.

“He was terrified as a 15-year-old on his own — without his family, his parents had been killed, he was an orphan — locked up for three months on Christmas Island with the threat that he would be sent back to Malaysia.”

After the Malaysia people-swap deal was scuttled by the High Court, Hussain was settled on the mainland, and is now living in Brisbane, where he works as a fruit picker and studies at TAFE. He now has a protection visa, and is working to bring his younger brother to Australia.

The teenager said he was emotional while watching the speech on TV.

He said he wanted to stay in Australia and one day start his own family here.

“She was very kind,” he said of Ms Hanson-Young. “I like the people of Australia — they are very kind, they have been very good to me.”

Reflecting on Hussain’s boat journey, Ms Hanson-Young said: “This situation where people have to risk their lives on a boat to seek protection should not be the only option that they have.”

The story was originally published here: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/orphaned-by-taliban-murderers-hussain-finds-better-life/story-e6freuy9-1226411575904?sv=8932f083ce89bce4f355b0e37e3606c2

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$1bn to keep asylum-seekers in detention

THE Federal Government has been handed a $1 billion bill for the running of Australia’s detention centres.

Foreign-owned global security company Serco secretly renegotiated its contract with the Department of Immigration just before Christmas.

The new four-year contract to manage immigration detention centres – including Maribyrnong in Melbourne – has quadrupled from the original figure of $280 million.

The Opposition labelled the blowout a failed “stimulus program” for asylum seekers.

The number of detention centres has increased from 12 to 20 under Labor.

While the centres accommodate visa overstayers and illegal workers, the Government admits they make up a small number compared with asylum seekers.

“When Labor came to office there were just four people in detention who had arrived illegally by boat,” Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said.

“After four years of policy failures on our borders, this grew to more than 5600.”

The variation to the contract with Serco – from 2009 to 2014 – was made on December 2 last year.

It had been revalued in July last year to $712 million, meaning the cost blowout in the past nine months is almost $400 million.

“The original contract did not cover the number of sites we have now expanded to,” Immigration Department spokesman Sandi Logan said.

“It has been driven by a simple reason – the expansion in the number of centres in the network.”

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the new contract would not affect the Budget.

Greens senator Sarah Hansen-Young said boat people should be immediately released from detention into the community.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/national/bn-to-keep-asylum-seekers-in-detention/story-e6frfkvr-1226266204926#ixzz1lqckzvgp

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Urgent reform needed for Australia’s immigration detention system

Amnesty International has again warned that the policy of locking up asylum seekers indefinitely is unsustainable, inhumane and is causing devastating effects for the mental health of detainees.

An Amnesty International delegation is on a 12-day tour of immigration detention centres around Australia to assess conditions inside the facilities, and have so far visited centres in Curtin and Perth.

“Some men have languished for up to 3 years in the Curtin facility. We spoke with men who felt like walking ghosts. We saw grown men break down in tears because of the uncertainty. This on top of fearing for the safety of their families left behind.”

“The level of distress we have seen in these centres is a clear indicator that the policy of indefinite mandatory detention does not work,” said Dr. Graham Thom, Amnesty International’s refugee spokesman.

The organisation has also expressed concerns with the Perth Immigration Detention Centre, which is close to maximum capacity, currently holding 37 detainees.

“Although there were differences in the characteristics of conditions in Curtin and Perth, there were obvious similarities in the damaging effects of detention.

“The cramped conditions of the Perth centre show that it is unsuitable for people to spend a significant amount of time there. Yet we met men who had been there for months, living in a small dorm room with up to eight other men,” said Dr. Thom.

“It is worrying that at Perth, vulnerable asylum seekers, many of whom have been transferred to undergo serious medical or mental health treatment, are sharing this space with people who have had their visas cancelled for character reasons.

“Many asylum seekers have been damaged by the detention system and it is about time this policy is overturned. We were pleased to see a shift in policy late last year to increase the use of bridging visas, but how this is playing out remains to be fully seen.”

The delegation’s tour will continue on to Christmas Island, then the Northern and Wickham Point facilities in Darwin. A short report on the group’s findings will be released at the conclusion of the tour, 16 February, with a comprehensive report on detention centre conditions due later in the year.

Source: http://www.amnesty.org.au/news/comments/27826/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+aialatest+Amnesty+latest#When:23:48:41Z

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Lost at sea: 37 of 3237 boatpeople had passports

ASYLUM-SEEKERS are discarding their passports at soaring rates, sparking renewed calls for boatpeople to be penalised for destroying their identity documents in a bid to help their refugee claims.

Of the 3237 asylum-seekers who admitted to flying to Indonesia on a passport, 3200 did not have any travel documents when they arrived in Australia.

People-smugglers routinely advise their clients to discard their identity documents before arriving in Australia.

The refugee status assessment process operates primarily on a risk model, meaning there can be significant advantages to inventing false identities and claims of persecution.

The absence of documentation also makes it extremely hard to deport failed asylum-seekers, because receiving countries are reluctant to accept those whose nationality is not clear. But it complicates the refugee status assessment process, contributing to the length of time asylum-seekers are held in detention.

The figures showing some 3200 asylum-seekers arrived from Indonesia without documentation – revealed in Senate estimates – cover the period from July 1, 2010, to October 17 last year.

The information is based on admissions made by asylum-seekers during their initial entry interviews with officials.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the admissions raised serious questions about the validity of many asylum claims.

“It frustrates our assessment process and is done on the assumption that they will receive the benefit of the doubt,” Mr Morrison said of the practice of dumping documentation.

“A person’s document, if you are a refugee, should be the most important document you hold, because it proves your case. The destruction of those documents raises totally reasonable suspicions about those claims.”

Under Coalition policy there would be a presumption against granting refugee status in cases where it could be reasonably assumed the applicant had deliberately destroyed their identity documents.

The policy would not apply to boatpeople who lost their passports under legitimate circumstances: for instance, if they were taken by overseas authorities.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen suggested the Coalition’s policy was unworkable and defended Australia’s refugee status process as “rigorous”.

“People will only be granted protection visas after their claims have been thoroughly tested and they are found to have a genuine fear of persecution,” said a spokeswoman for Mr Bowen.

“Mr Morrison should clarify if he would send someone found to be a refugee back to their home country in breach of the Refugee Convention because they didn’t have a passport.”

The Senate estimates figures also show people-smugglers have been operating well outside Indonesia in the past three years.

Although Indonesia is still far and away favoured as the final staging point for boatpeople since late 2008, 10 vessels have sailed directly from Sri Lanka and four from Malaysia. Another two have sailed directly from the east coast of India, with one launching from Chennai and the second from Pondicherry.

Three boats have sailed from Vietnam, with one leaving directly from Saigon.

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/immigration/lost-at-sea-37-of-3237-boatpeople-had-passports/story-fn9hm1gu-1226256747251

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Escapes escalate security crisis at detention centres

January 17, 2012

THERE are no signs that the country’s porous immigration detention centres are set to become any more secure this year, after the Department of Immigration admitted two detainees had escaped from Sydney’s Villawood centre since Christmas.

A department spokesman said two men, understood to be Chinese, had jumped the fence at Villawood on January 3.

“One of the men was apprehended by Serco officers in a nearby industrial estate soon afterwards,” the spokesman said. “However, the second man has not been located.”

The escapes follow a particularly chaotic year for overloaded detention centres, which have been convulsed by riots, assaults, escapes and suicides.

The federal government has been attacked over its management of the system, and Villawood was singled out for criticism by NSW police, who told a parliamentary inquiry last year there were no clear guidelines governing who was in charge of the centre in western Sydney in the event of a major eruption of violence.

News of the latest incident was not volunteered by the Department of Immigration, which confirmed it only after questions by The Australian.

Nor could the department say yesterday how many unlawful migrants had escaped from detention centres over the past 12 months, or how many were still at large.

However, figures supplied by the department last year make it clear escapes are a growing problem. All told, 95 people escaped from detention in the 2010-11 financial year. That was in addition to at least 25 people who have escaped since July last year.

As of November, a total of 61 detention escapees had yet to be found.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the escapes made it clear “the crisis in our detention network has not broken for summer . . . There is no end in sight for the government’s problems.”

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/immigration/escapes-escalate-security-crisis-at-detention-centres/story-fn9hm1gu-1226245866753

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‘Jonah’ travels to Brisbane

January 07, 2012

ASYLUM seeker Jonah travelled to Brisbane to begin immigration proceedings.
Jonah jumped off a boat at Hay Point on December 27, seeking asylum in Australia.

YESTERDAY asylum seeker Jonah travelled to Brisbane to begin immigration proceedings.A representative for him released a statement yesterday afternoon.

“Asylum seeker ‘Jonah’ has returned to Mackay after presenting himself as required to Immigration in Brisbane yesterday,” they said.

“The matter is now being progressed in accordance with the Migration Act and departmental procedures.

“In the interests of the safety of Jonah and his family no further comment will be made at this time.”

The Immigration Department was also contacted but by law they can’t comment on individual cases.

Meanwhile, The Daily Mercury received feedback from the community about the situation.

The community was divided when it came to commenting on the issue.

A number of residents were sympathetic towards his situation while others thought he should have been more responsible for his actions.

The 33-year-old Middle-Eastern asylum seeker jumped off a ship at Hay Point last Tuesday.

He jumped off the ship he had been working on as a desperate attempt to find asylum in Australia.

He had planned to come to Australia for two years before jumping ship.

He then swam for over an hour until he reached the shore and was eventually taken to a motel in Mackay by customs officials.

Jonah was cared for by Mackay residents while he stayed in Mackay.

Jonah said he was concerned for the welfare of his wife and daughter in the Middle East.

“My country is a man’s country, not a woman’s country like this,” he said.

“I haven’t come here for money. I’m only here for freedom.

“In my country we can’t even speak freely.”

Source: http://www.dailymercury.com.au/story/2012/01/07/jonah-travels-to-brisbane/

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Julia Gillard denies tough asylum seeker punishment move

January 04, 2012

AN asylum seeker at a detention centre near Weipa has been taken to Christmas Island and put in solitary confinement under a new Immigration Department punishment regime, a refugee advocate claims.

The allegation came as Prime Minister Julia Gillard denied reports the government department and detention centre manager Serco had changed the way it rewarded and punished asylum seekers.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre spokeswoman Pamela Curr told The Cairns Post yesterday that an elderly Afghan asylum seeker was taken to Darwin from the Scherger centre at Weipa in December.

“In Darwin he was told he was going back to Scherger, but they put him on a plane and he wound up on Christmas Island where he was put in isolation,” she said.

“He had these intense panic attacks where he thought the walls were closing in on him and he was trying to get air out of the airconditioning unit.

“He has been put in an isolation cell coming up to four weeks now.”

Ms Curr alleged the incident was an example of a new approach that sent troublesome asylum seekers from the mainland to Christmas Island.

“Effectively, what they are setting up is a kind of secret prison system where extra punishment is taken out,” she said.

Ms Gillard denied the claims a new approach was in place, despite reports in southern media yesterday.

“I’ve seen these reports today and there is no new system in our detention centres,” Ms Gillard said.

“Investments we’ve made on Christmas Island are known already and they’ve been publicly announced, but the sense in today’s reports that there is a new system in operation is simply not right.

“There have always been administrative arrangements made so that asylum seekers are held in detention facilities that are most suitable for them.”

Yesterday, the first asylum seeker boats of 2012 arrived in Australia.

Australian authorities intercepted one vessel carrying 35 passengers near Ashmore Reef and another carrying 16 passengers just north of the Tiwi Islands on Monday.

The boats arrived as Indonesian officials confirmed plans to relax visa restrictions for three major asylum seeker source countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Source: http://www.cairns.com.au/article/2012/01/04/199375_local-news.html

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No deal yet on asylum seekers

December 23, 2011

The political impasse over asylum seeker boat arrivals will continue into the new year after Labor and the coalition failed to find to a compromise at a high level meeting ahead of the Christmas holidays.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd met with their opposition counterparts Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop for two and a half hours on Friday but could not come to an agreement on where Australia should process asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

Mr Bowen and opposition immigration spokesman Mr Morrison declined to reveal details of the discussions but agreed the talks were courteous and that further discussions would take place in 2012.

He said the stakes were too high to abandon the negotiations, aimed at trying to find a way to deter people smugglers which the government says are encouraging a flow of mainly Middle Eastern people to make the dangerous ocean journey from Asia to Australia’s Christmas Island in search of asylum.

“While agreement was not reached we have not shut the door on further discussion,” Mr Bowen said.

“On behalf of the government I’m committed to doing everything possible to reach a responsible and reasonable agreement for a responsible and reasonable way forward.

“There will need to be further discussions and they will need to consult with other people in their party.”

On Thursday acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan wrote to Opposition leader Tony Abbott offering a compromise to the deadlock.

He said the government would talk to Pacific island nation of Nauru about reopening the former asylum seeker processing centre set up by the coalition and closed by Labor soon after taking power in 2007.

In exchange, the coalition was asked to pass, unchanged, legislation that would allow current and future governments to implement offshore processing.

The proposed changes to the Migration Act would allow the Gillard government go ahead with its planned deal to send 800 boat arrivals to Malaysia in exchange for 4000 confirmed refugees, which was hamstrung by a High Court ruling in August.

Ahead of the Friday meeting, Mr Abbott said the opposition was ready to lend any assistance the government needed to reopen Nauru.

But it remained opposed to the Malaysia deal on humanitarian grounds.

“I make it clear we are also willing to meet but note that nothing has changed regarding our position and objections to the Malaysian people swap,” Mr Abbott wrote in his response to Mr Swan’s letter.

“If the government still wants to pursue the Malaysian people swap policy, it should enlist the support of its alliance/coalition partners, the Greens, to secure its passage through the parliament.”

The minority Greens have repeatedly said they don’t support any kind of offshore processing.

Mr Swan also ruled out granting temporary protection visas to asylum seekers, another key plank of the opposition’s immigration policy.

In his responding letter, Mr Abbott said he was disappointed by this and the visas would remain coalition policy.

Mr Abbott had requested Mr Rudd and his opposition counterpart Ms Bishop be part of any negotiations.

The elements of the deal were discussed at the Friday meeting and Mr Morrison emerged saying while the opposition was not closing any doors it believed the government who had more work to do.

“It will be a matter for the government to initiate that contact and we will look forward to hearing from them when they are ready to do so,” he told journalists.

“The government still has more work to do and a meeting will be convened.

“We haven’t closed the door to a discussion.”

Meanwhile, Indonesian police have arrested eight people in connection with an overloaded boat carrying 250 asylum seekers that capsized en route to Australia, as the confirmed death toll reached 90.

Only 47 passengers and two crew members were rescued.

Source: http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/no-deal-yet-on-asylum-seekers-20111223-1p7mm.html

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