New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 offshore refugees a year never taken up

January 11, 2016 | theguardian

Refugees on Nauru plead with the NZ prime minister, John Key, to be resettled but its immigration minister says the decision is up to Australia

The Nauru detention centre from which 28 refugees have written to the NZ government seeking resettlement.
 The Nauru detention centre from which 28 refugees have written to the NZ government seeking resettlement.

A two-year-old offer from New Zealand to resettle 150 refugees a year from Australia’s offshore detention centres remains untouched by a reluctant Australian government, despite a public plea from people on Nauru.

The New Zealand government has since reallocated this year’s places to Syrian refugees but says the offer remains part of its official immigration policy and open to the Australian government.

Last week 28 refugees on Nauru wrote to the New Zealand prime minister, John Key, asking to be resettled in that country under the Australia-New Zealand agreement.

The refugees have been found to have a well-founded fear of persecution in their homelands but have been offered only temporary residence in Nauru.

“Australia will not accept us despite us asking them for safety,” the handwritten letter, signed and affixed with the refugees’ boat numbers, says.

“They gave us to the Nauru government and told us we were now their responsibility. Nauru has not given us, and does not have the means to give us, permanent protection and safety.

“After 30 months in mouldy tents and now in the community where we are not accepted, some of us now have travel papers which give us the freedom to leave.”

In response to the letter, New Zealand’s immigration minister, Michael Woodhouse, said it was up to Australia to resettle people from its offshore detention camps and that New Zealand remained willing to assist.

“It is for Australia to take up the offer to utilise the up to 150 places and to date they have not done so,” he said. “As such, the places are reallocated to the annual quota and most recently the places were given to Syrian refugees.”

In a deal brokered between prime ministers Key and Julia Gillard in 2013, New Zealand agreed to accept 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore processing centres each year from 2014-15.

The quota remains in New Zealand’s forward planning for humanitarian resettlement.

But when the former Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, was elected he effectively scrapped the deal at the Australian end, saying it would be called upon only “if and when it becomes necessary”.

“Our determination is to stop the boats and one of the ways that we stop the boats is by making it absolutely crystal clear that if you come to Australia illegally by boat you go not to New Zealand but to Nauru or Manus and you never ever come to Australia,” he said.

The Coalition government is loath to have refugees resettled in New Zealand as it is seen as undermining a fundamental tenet of the policy: that boat-borne asylum seekers will never be settled in Australia.

Refugees resettled in New Zealand can apply to become citizens after five years. New Zealand citizenship would give those people the right to travel and work in Australia.

The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said he believed resettlement in New Zealand would be an incentive for asylum seekers to board boats.

“I think an outcome like that could … result in creating incentives for people smugglers to get back into business,” he said.

Some refugees on Nauru have recently been granted travel documents, which would allow them to travel to another country that was willing to admit them. The visa to live in Nauru expires in five years.

Nauruan officials maintain that all refugees must ultimately be resettled in another country.

So far, 815 people have been granted refugee status on the island, including, it is understood, about 80 children. They are living in the detention centre or in the Nauruan community.

A further 543 people, including 70 children, remain in the detention centre awaiting a refugee status determination.

After Nauru and Manus Island’s first iterations as Australian immigration detention facilities – under the “Pacific Solution” between 2001 and 2008 – 705 people from those centres were resettled in Australia and 401 in New Zealand. Far smaller numbers were resettled in Sweden, Canada, Denmark and Norway.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/jan/11/new-zealands-offer-to-take-150-offshore-refugees-a-year-never-taken-up

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Asylum seeker children on Nauru abused, sexually harassed at school: former teacher

January 08, 2016 | smh

A five-year-old asylum seeker was urinated on by a group of Nauruan boys and asylum seeker girls have been sexually harassed at school, a former teacher says, saying many parents are too scared to send their children to school in 2016.

The claims are backed by asylum seeker children who report that Nauruan students threaten them with knives and teachers routinely swear at them. One Iranian boy reported his female Nauruan classmates offered sex for money.

I will not go to school because… the education is really bad, the teachers swear at us and the students hate us

In one alarming allegation, outlined in an official incident report sighted by Fairfax Media, a group of children were hit with a wooden ruler for being late to an exam.

The Nauru detention centre, as pictured in 2012.The Nauru detention centre, as pictured in 2012. Photo: Angela Wylie

 

It has been six months since the Australian government closed the detention centre school and forced child asylum seekers into Nauruan schools, where classes are taught in the Nauruan language and teachers are frequently absent.

A former teacher contracted by the Australian government to teach at the detention centre said that since the change, bullying by students and teachers had become rife, teacher training was poor and the special education needs of asylum seeker and refugee children were not being met.

It meant school attendance among about 70 children languishing at Nauru was low, and not expected to improve this year.

The Badawi family, including eldest sons Ahmed (left) and Mohammad (second from right).The Badawi family, including eldest sons Ahmed (left) and Mohammad (second from right). Photo: Supplied

 

“A lot of the Rohingyan girls stopped going because they were constantly being sexually harassed. These are girls that wear hijabs,” said the teacher, who remains in close contact with asylum seekers and refugees on the island.

“One little five-year-old boy was surrounded by Nauruan kids and they all urinated on him. There were no consequences, that kind of behaviour was tacitly condoned – that’s why [parents] pulled their kids out. Because they felt their kids weren’t protected or safe.”

Iranian Mohammad Badawi, 14, who has been in detention for more than two years, said he wanted an education but did not attend school because it was “dangerous”.

Ahmed and Ali Altabarawi. Their mother did not wish to be identified.

Ahmed and Ali Altabarawi. Their mother did not wish to be identified. Photo: Supplied

“I will not go to school because … the education is really bad, the teachers swear at us and the students hate us,” he said in a recording made this week, obtained by Fairfax Media.

In a separate recording made in October last year, Mohammad said he stopped going to school after female students offered him sex.

“One day the Nauruan girls come and told me bad things, like one-dollar-one-hour [for sex]. When I told [a teacher] the [teacher] say ‘why didn’t you go with them?’,” he said.

Other students “bring knives … and they scare us”.

Mohammad said security guards at the detention centre had also threatened to hurt him outside the facility, and he was reluctant to leave to attend school.

A young asylum seeker from Iraq, Ahmed Altabarawi, said he did not feel safe outside the detention centre and did not attend school.

“Outside the camp is not good, people are not good guys, they fight … and many dogs bite people,” he said in a recording also made in October.

“I don’t go to school – school is bad. All the guys fight the Arabic people.”

An incident report dated April 2014, sighted by Fairfax Media, details how four asylum seeker children at Nauru College were attacked by a teacher for being late to a maths test.

The report was made to Transfield Services, the Australian government contractor that runs the detention centre that has since changed its name to Broadspectrum.

The students apologised for being late and said they had been getting water. A teacher “proceeded to hit them with a wooden ruler on the shoulders”, the report said, adding two of the children began crying and the beating left red marks.

A spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said school governance arrangements were a matter for the Nauruan government and it did not have enough information to comment on the alleged incidents.

The Nauruan government did not respond to request for comment.

A Broadspectrum spokesman said it was not responsible for education services in the Nauruan community.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/asylum-seeker-children-on-nauru-abused-sexually-harassed-at-school-former-teacher-20160107-gm1mdh.html

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Afghan Kidnappers Prey on Hazaras | New York Times

November 23, 2015 | New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — A campaign of kidnappings against the Hazara ethnic group intensified on Saturday as gunmen stopped a number of buses along Afghanistan’s main highway and separated out the Hazara passengers, officials said.

By morning, between 14 and 30 Hazara passengers had been seized along a stretch of Highway 1 in Zabul Province, in the south of the country, and taken away, three security officials said, each citing a different number of kidnapped people.

There have been numerous episodes this year involving Hazara motorists and bus passengers. While some of those kidnapped have been released after negotiations, others have been killed: This month, militants affiliated with the Islamic State are believed to have beheaded seven Hazara captives, among them a 9-year-old girl.

The government’s powerlessness to stop kidnappings along the country’s main highway — or to return the captives to safety — presents a growing political crisis to the presidency of Ashraf Ghani, just over a year old. After the seven captives were killed this month, thousands of mostly Hazara protesters carried the coffins to the presidential palace, in what was the largest political demonstration in Kabul in years. Guards shot and wounded as many as 10 protesters as some of them scaled walls to enter a palace parking lot.

It was not known whether the Islamic State or the Taliban were behind the kidnappings on Saturday. Both organizations have targeted Hazaras in the past.

“Security forces are investigating the case and will find out who kidnapped them,” Assadullah Kakar, a member of Zabul’s provincial council, said on Saturday.

A driver of one of the buses that were stopped, who gave his name as Shawali, said that six or seven militants climbed aboard and began pulling Hazara passengers out of their seats.

“They were very angry and treating passengers like animals,” he said. “They were telling passengers not to talk as they eagerly looked for Hazara people.”

Just last month, the top American general in Afghanistan, John F. Campbell, testified to a House committee about the state of security in Afghanistan and claimed that Afghans “continue to have, as I said, freedom of movement on Highway 1.”

But for Hazaras, bus trips down that highway are a source of dread. This year alone, as many as 31 Hazaras were abducted in a single episode, said Hassan Raza Yusufi, a Hazara member of the provincial council in Ghazni, which sits along Highway 1. Mr. Yusufi said there had been at least five other kidnappings of Hazaras along the portion of Highway 1 between Kabul and Kandahar this year.

“We blame the government for not taking enough security measures on the highways to protect its people,” Mr. Yusufi said.

The government’s poor record of securing the release of kidnapped Hazaras is another sign of its limited — and receding — authority in parts of the country. This month, the fate of the seven beheaded Hazara victims was discovered not by government forces but by the Taliban fighters who were advancing into a part of Zabul Province held by militants loyal to the Islamic State. Taliban fighters arranged for a truck driver to take the bodies to a government hospital.

Hazaras, historically Afghanistan’s most persecuted ethnic group, account for perhaps 5 to 10 percent of the country’s population, although statistics on demographics here are often based on estimates or guesswork. Hazaras are mostly Shiite in an overwhelmingly Sunni country, and Afghans of other ethnicities have long pilloried them as outsiders, possibly descendants of the Mongol invaders who once swept through the region. They faced persecution and campaigns of murder during years of Taliban rule.

This latest wave of violence against them comes after a decade of upward mobility. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Hazaras have become well represented in the country’s universities and have obtained a degree of political power that has historically eluded them.

But the rise in kidnappings may be leading many Hazaras to question their future in Afghanistan. As Afghans have joined the migrant trail to Europe, Hazaras are said to be leaving at a disproportionate rate, although statistical evidence is nonexistent.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/world/asia/kidnappings-escalate-in-afghanistan.html?_r=1

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Asylum seeker boat reaches Christmas Island

November 20, 2015 | Sky News

An asylum seeker boat has reportedly reached Christmas Island in the early hours of this morning.

There are reports an asylum seeker boat has reached Christmas Island.

SBS are reporting that the boat made it near Flying Fish Cove before being intercepted by the Australian Navy.

Locals told SBS it is the first time a boat has been that close since January 2013.

It is believed the boat arrived within 200 metres of the cove in the early hours of Friday morning.

It is unclear if the boat was taken to the mainland or whether it would be towed back to its origin.

Source: http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2015/11/20/asylum-seeker-boat-reaches-christmas-island.html#sthash.ThUUYTjp.dpuf

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As millions march in Kabul, Australian Hazaras take action

November 12, 2015 | Media Release

Australian Hazaras will hold a peaceful demonstration in Sydney (November 14) and candlelight vigils in Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide (Friday November 13) in solidarity with a million Afghans who marched in Kabul on November 11, demanding justice for seven innocent Hazaras, beheaded in Zabul, Afghanistan.

The Hazara community in Australia stands in solidarity with tens of thousands of Afghans who protested at the presidential palace in Kabul and calls on the world leaders, including Australia, to protect Hazaras from the onslaught of the Taliban and Daesh and to pressure Afghan government to bring those perpetrators to face justice.

“Our community is in mourning today as those beheaded by terrorists were known to many of us here in Australia,” event organizer in Sydney Abdul Alizada said “A community member lost his brother and another lost his mother in this vicious and coward atrocity”

“We condemn the beheading of innocent Hazara women and children in Afghanistan and we want the murderers brought to justice, and I echo the words of the UN’s special representative, Nickolas Hayson who labelled the Zabul massacre a ‘war crime’.” said Mr Ali Khan, another organizer of the event in Perth.

“It is clear Hazaras are being targeted attacked in Afghanistan solely because of their ethnicity. The world knows it. Yet, our government in Australia has not acted to recognize the suffering of Hazaras in this country. Hundreds of Hazaras languish in camps and survive in the community with no certainty, and our people are constantly under pressure to be returned. The situation in Afghanistan is very volatile and especially for Hazaras and that is why our people seek safety and protection in Australia.”

“The protestors also call on the world leaders, the United Nations and human rights groups to stop the Taliban and Daesh slaughtering Hazaras in Afghanistan. The world should not witness another atrocity like Yazidi’s or Kobani to act, they should act immediately,’ another organizer, Rohullah Rahimi, said.

Many of the people taking part in the demonstration have fled the Taliban atrocity and some are still going through their refugee determination process.

[Editor’s edit: There are at least two Australian Hazaras whose immediate family member and relative are amongst those beheaded in Zabul, Afghanistan].

We urge the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to acknowledge the dangers Hazaras face in Afghanistan and speed up processing asylum claims of Hazara asylum seekers

Relatives of those beheaded in this latest attack that spurred the million strong protest, are available for interview.

Media contact persons: Abdul Alizada 0425350144 and Mohammad Veja 0457000566

Details of protest and candlelight vigils;

Sydney

The protest will be held on Saturday, November 14, 12pm to 2 pm at Town Hall Station, Sydney. For more information, please contact details contact Ali Ali 0403675327

Adelaide

Candlelight vigil will be held on Friday November 13 from 7 pm at Elders Park, Adelaide. For more information about this event contact Dave Gulzari on dave.gulzari@gmail.com or Rahimi 0425229391

Perth

Candlelight vigil in Langley Park, Riverside Drive, Perth from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. For more information, please contact, Ali Khan on 0432241555

Melbourne

Candlelight vigil on November 14, 5pm at Federation Square. For more information, please contact Rohullah Rahimi on 0422559117 or Ali Rahimi 0409530140

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Afghan Fighters Loyal to ISIS Beheaded 7 Hostages, Officials Say

November 09, 2015 | New York Times

The bodies of Hazara civilians, reportedly killed by Islamic State militants in Zabul, Afghanistan, were brought to their hometown in Ghazni. CreditSayed Mustafa/European Pressphoto Agency 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan militants claiming loyalty to the Islamic State were found to have beheaded seven ethnic Hazara civilians who had been abducted in the southern Afghan province of Zabul, officials said on Monday, as infighting among Taliban splinter factions intensified.

The Taliban had sent hundreds of extra fighters to the area to battle the Islamic State breakaways and another splinter group there, according to local and security officials. They said the bodies of the Hazaras were found on Saturday after the Taliban had pushed back the Islamic State militants and a group of allied former Taliban dissidents.

Rather than illustrating any major weakening of the Taliban, however, security officials say the splinter groups’ expansion has mostly raised the danger for Afghan civilians and pointed out the increased weakness of the Afghan government and its security forces. Even as the insurgent infighting has intensified, the main Taliban group has seized new territory from the government, particularly in the country’s north and south.

The beheaded Hazara hostages belonged to one of several groups of travelers captured by Islamic State militants more than a month ago and were being held in the Arghandab district in Zabul Province. After their bodies were discovered by the Taliban, local elders helped mediate their transfer to a hospital in government territory on Sunday, the officials said.

Two children were among the seven beheaded hostages, local officials said.

“Their throats had been cut with metal wire,” said Hajji Atta Jan, the head of the Zabul provincial council.

Afghanistan’s Hazara minority has long faced persecution, especially by the Taliban, and there has been an upswing in abductions and violence against them this year. At least 19 more Hazaras are thought to still be held by militants in Zabul, said Abdul Qayoum Sajjadi, a lawmaker who recently traveled to the province to try to broker the Hazaras’ release.

President Ashraf Ghani, describing the beheadings as “heartless killing of innocent individuals,” ordered his security officials to pursue the attackers. But it was clear that the order meant little on the ground; Afghan forces were nowhere in the vicinity of the district where the beheadings happened, officials said.

Family members of the victims, who were all from neighboring Ghazni Province and were abducted while they were traveling, said they planned to bring the bodies to Kabul to protest what they saw as the government’s lack of response to a problem that was becoming chronic.

Officials in Zabul Province said the local cell of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had recently allied with another breakaway Taliban faction that is challenging the Taliban’s new supreme leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour.

Just last week, the breakaway Taliban faction formally announced in a gathering in Farah Province that it did not accept Mullah Mansour as the successor to Mullah Muhammad Omar, whose death two years ago was revealed in July.

The group said it was rallying around a new leader, Mullah Muhammad Rasool, a former member of the Taliban movement’s ruling council. His deputy, Mullah Mansour Dadullah, has been operating out of the Khak-e-Afghan district in Zabul.

“The reason we split from Mansour’s self-proclaimed kingdom was that he is the real murderer of Mullah Omar and some high-ranking Taliban during the 14 years of struggle,” Mullah Rasool said in a phone interview. His faction believes that Mullah Omar did not die a natural death, as the group announced, but was killed by Mullah Mansour. “We will bring Mansour before justice soon.”

In response, Mullah Mansour sent as many as 450 fighters to crush the dissident Mullah Dadullah as well as the Islamic State elements in Zabul, according to Afghan security officials and local officials.

“Fighting between Mullah Mansour and Mullah Dadullah is ongoing in three districts of Zabul,” said Hajji Momand Nasratyar, the district governor of Arghandab. “Mansour is beating Dadullah and I.S. very hard — around 86 of I.S. and Dadullah’s men have been killed, and 26 of Mansour’s.”

The Taliban were also reported to have killed several of the Islamic State militants said to be responsible for the beheadings, according to a local official, though that account could not be confirmed more broadly.

Hajji Atta Jan, the Zabul provincial council chief, said the offensive by Mullah Mansour’s fighters was so intense that by late Monday at least three Islamic State commanders, all of them ethnic Uzbeks, had surrendered and were asking their fighters to do the same. The condition the Uzbek commanders had agreed on with Mullah Mansour, according to Mr. Jan, was that they would not be handed over to Pakistan, where they had been based before Pakistani military operations pushed them into Afghan territory.

Despite Mullah Mansour’s swift action against dissent, the announcement of the breakaway faction seems to have rekindled doubts over his leadership that most thought had been quelled by his delivering the Taliban their biggest victory in 14 years, the capture of the northern city of Kunduz in September.

Still, the dissent has not deterred Taliban fighters from making deep inroads against the government in the south as well, where intense fighting has continued in Helmand Province. The Taliban have made gains in the districts of Nad Ali and Greshk, according to Muhammad Karim Attal, the head of the Helmand provincial council.

The Taliban have also overrun police and army bases in the Marja district, one of the centers of President Obama’s 2010 troop surge, and were closing in on the district governor’s compound. Airstrikes had to be called in on Saturday to break the siege of security forces there, officials said.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/10/world/asia/afghan-fighters-loyal-to-isis-beheaded-7-hostages-officials-say.html?ref=world

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Two Hazaras shot dead in Quetta

November 08, 2015 | DAWN

QUETTA: Armed assailants on Saturday evening killed two members of the Hazara community in the provincial capital.

“Armed assailants opened fire at a vehicle on Spini road and killed two members of the Hazara community,” said a police official.

The police official added that one person died at the spot of the attack while the other succumbed to his injuries while undergoing treatment.

“The two individuals belonged to the Hazara community and were residents of Hazara Town,” stated the police official.

The unknown assailants managed to flee the spot of the incident.

A contingent of police and Frontier Corps (FC) personnel reached the site of the incident and commenced initial investigation.

“It was act of target killing,” stated the police official.

There was no claim of responsibility for the incident.

In a separate incident, two bodies were recovered from Khuzdar district in the province.

“The dead bodies were found in Naal tehsil of Khuzdar district,” said a Levies official.

He added that the identity of the victims could not be immediately ascertained and both had received multiple bullet injuries.

Balochistan has been experiencing incident violence and targeted killings since more than a decade. The largest province of the country by area, is home to a low-level insurgency by ethnic Baloch separatists. Al Qaeda-linked militants also operate in the region.

The province shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran.

Source: http://www.dawn.com/news/1218131/two-hazaras-shot-dead-in-quetta-two-bodies-recovered-in-khuzdar

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