Monthly Archives: April 2012

Boat carrying 164 asylum seekers arrives

April 29, 2012

A BOAT carrying an estimated 164 asylum seekers has been intercepted  by Australian authorities.

HMAS Glenelg intercepted the vessel northwest of Christmas  Island today.

“Initial indications suggest there are 164 passengers and six  crew on  board,” Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said in a  statement.

The passengers will now be transferred to Christmas Island for  security,  health and identity checks.

Read more:


Leave a comment

Filed under Boat Tragedy

Boat intercepted off WA coast

April 28, 2012

Boat intercepted off WA coast

An asylum-seeker boat, believed to be  carrying around 60 people, has been intercepted off the coast of  Western Australia.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said the HMAS Maitland, under  the control of Border Protection Command, stopped a ‘suspected  irregular entry vessel’ northwest of Ashmore Islands on Friday  night.

Around 60 passengers are believed to be on board and will be  taken to Christmas Island, he said in a statement.

It comes after another boat, carrying 50 passengers and two  crew, was intercepted off the West Australian coast on Wednesday  night.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen immediately followed the news  with a statement saying that the most recent vessel was the 23rd  asylum seeker boat intercepted since Opposition Leader Tony Abbott  said ‘No to offshore processing’.

‘We all know that turning back boats is dangerous. Nauru won’t  work to prevent boat journeys on its own, and temporary protection  visas led to more women and children risking their lives at sea,’  Mr Bowen said in a statement.

‘All the expert advice to government has said we need a genuine  deterrent – such as the Malaysia Arrangement – to stop people from  taking these dangerous boat journeys.’

On Friday, Mr Abbott delivered a major speech on border  protection, promising to call Nauru on his first day in office to  have the Howard government-era detention centre there reopened.

He also vowed to visit Indonesia in his first week as prime  minister to ‘renew’ Australia’s cooperation against  people-smuggling.

‘I would, of course, politely explain to the Indonesian  government that we take as dim a view of Indonesian boats  disgorging illegal arrivals in Australia as they take of  Australians importing drugs into Bali,’ Mr Abbott said in a speech  to the conservative Institute of Public Affairs thinktank in  Melbourne.

Mr Abbott also reaffirmed his intention to turn boats back to  Indonesia – where it is safe to do so – despite Indonesia  repeatedly warning it would oppose such a policy.

He said he would reintroduce controversial temporary protection  visas.


Leave a comment

Filed under Boat Intercepted

Tony Abbott pledges to confront Indonesia over boats in first week as PM

Asylum seekers

Tony Abbott has vowed to be as tough on ''illegal'' boats arriving from Indonesia as that country has been over the drug misdemeanours of Australians. AFP

TONY Abbott says if he becomes Prime Minister he will make his first overseas trip ”within a week” and go to Indonesia to try to stop asylum seeker boats.

Sign up  for your free 2 month trial

The Opposition Leader said just as Indonesia had been tough on Australians with drugs in Bali, he would make clear to our strategic neighbour that his government will be tough on Indonesian boats delivering ”illegal arrivals”.

Mr Abbott also said if the Senate tried to stop him re-introducing the Howard era temporary protection visas he would force a double dissolution and go to another election on border protection.

In a speech to the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne, Mr Abbott also said Labor had watered down the former government’s citizenship test but stopped short of pledging to make changes.

Mr Abbott said immigration would again be one of his key election platforms.

The surprise yesterday was his pledge to travel to Indonesia in his first days as PM – a week in which he has also promised to abolish the carbon and mining taxes and begin a commission of audit into government spending.

”Within a week of taking office, I would go to Indonesia to renew our co-operation against people smuggling,” Mr Abbott said.

”I would, of course, politely explain to the Indonesian government that we take as dim a view of Indonesian boats disgorging illegal arrivals in Australia as they take of Australians importing drugs into Bali.”

Normally overseas trips can take months of diplomatic negotiations to organise.

The date of the election has not been set so it is not possible to know if it suits Indonesia for Mr Abbott to visit on the time frame he has set out.

Mr Abbott said he had to act quickly to send the message to people smugglers that ”the game was up”.

”The next Coalition government may not be able to stop the boats instantly but we know it can be done soon and we’re keen to start work immediately,” he said.
He repeated his policy to phone the President of Nauru on his first day as PM and accept that nation’s offer to re-open its detention centre so asylum seekers coming to Australia could be sent there for processing.


1 Comment

Filed under Asylum Policy, Australian Government and Opposition

Asylum-seekers now up to 2000

April 27, 2012

Asylum seeker arrivalsALMOST 2000 asylum-seekers have arrived in Australian waters this year after the interception of another boatload of more than 50 people

.Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare confirmed yesterday the arrival of the 28th asylum-seeker vessel this year, which was carrying 50 passengers and two crew.

The boat was picked up southwest of Ashmore Reef on Wednesday night after a request for assistance from maritime authorities. This came as three witnesses to the death of an Afghan asylum-seeker at the hands of Indonesian guards said they were terrified of retribution for testifying if they remained in the same town.

Since the men were hospitalised on February 28, the morning Taki Nakoyee was found tortured and beaten to death, Indonesian authorities have not responded to requests from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to send them from Pontianak, West Kalimantan, to Jakarta.

Rec Coverage 28 Day pass

The latest boat arrival in Australian waters was the 11th this month and brought the total number of asylum-seeker arrivals this year to 1949 and 61 crew.

The figure is close to double that of the same time last year as 1056 asylum-seekers and 40 crew arrived by April 26, 2011.

News of the boat came as the government and opposition continued to blame each other for the continued arrivals.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Mr Clare said boats would keep reaching Australian waters until the Coalition was prepared to reach a compromise to reinstate offshore processing.

“Tony Abbott is standing in the way of offshore processing, standing in the way of stopping people risking their lives at sea,” Mr Bowen said.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said asylum boats kept arriving because the government was distracted by its own internal scandals.

“While Labor remains consumed and distracted by scandal and incompetence, people-smugglers continue to send illegal boats at will,” Mr Morrison said.

In Indonesia, 10 Pontianak Immigration Detention Central guards await trial on charges of persecution causing death, carrying a seven-year maximum penalty, and abuse of power to commit violence, with a maximum sentence of 5 1/2 years.

The Afghan Hazaras now recovering from severe beatings they suffered in the same cell at the same time Nakoyee died are the crucial prosecution witnesses.

They, Nakoyee and three other asylum-seekers had been recaptured after escaping from the centre.

Mark Goudkamp, from the Refugee Action Committee, said the witnesses stopped a nine-day hunger strike yesterday but were “terrified of recriminations for giving evidence against the guards”. However, Mr Goudkamp, a Sydney refugee activist, said he was “pretty sure” the men still intended to testify.


Leave a comment

Filed under Analysis, Australian Government and Opposition, Boat Intercepted

Island to get better radar

April 25, 2012

The Defence Department will install a more powerful radar system on Christmas Island in a bid to avert the asylum seeker boat disaster of 2010 that claimed almost 50 lives.

As part of the Government’s response to recommendations from the inquest into the tragedy, Defence pledged to test systems to detect asylum boats before they could get into trouble on the island’s rocky shore.

But two types of radar already tested on the island had limited success and struggled to pick up the small wooden vessels people smugglers use.

One of the WA Coroner’s main recommendations handed down this year was that the Federal Government should improve surveillance around Christmas Island.

The boat that smashed into rocks there on December 15, 2010, arrived almost without warning and in terrible weather, leaving authorities no time to prevent the catastrophe.

It is understood the two kinds of radars tested on the island by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation both had trouble spotting the small boats of asylum seekers, especially in bad weather.

The Government is now testing an “S-band radar”, which is said to be more capable of penetrating cloud and of distinguishing between small boats and waves.

A senior naval officer testified to the Coroner that he had considered installing a powerful military radar on Christmas Island before the disaster but did not because it might upset Indonesia.

In response to other recommendations, the Government has deployed more vessels and surveillance aircraft to the Christmas Island area during monsoon seasons.

The Australian Federal Police is also buying new rescue boats for the island.

The Government is considering buying jetskis for rescues in rough weather.


Leave a comment

Filed under Analysis, Australian Government and Opposition, Boat Tragedy

UN Slams Hungary for Abuse of Asylum Seekers

April 24, 2012


NYIRBATOR, Hungary April 24, 2012 (AP)
They say they came to Hungary to escape brutality, war or the threat of being put to death in their home countries. Instead, they are serving untold months behind bars without ever being convicted of a crime.Migrants who arrive from violence-ridden countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan or Somalia are spending up to a year languishing in detention centers.

In 2010, the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban adopted a policy of locking up undocumented migrants while authorities adjudicate their asylum claims. Critics, including the writers of a U.N. report released Tuesday, say the policy is unusually harsh and out of step with European norms and international law.

“No other country (in Central Europe) is taking such extreme and harsh measures as Hungary does, and in no other country do we hear so many similar reports of abuse in detention,” said Gottfried Koefner, UNHCR’s representative for Central Europe.

Inmates at a detention center in the eastern city of Nyirbator jammed up against the metal grills covering the windows at the sight of Associated Press reporters on the street below.

“I come here for asylum, not prison!” shouted one skull-capped inmate from the second floor. Another lifted up his shirt to display a wound in his chest. “No medicine! No go to hospital!” he shouted. Other prisoners yelled that they have been beaten by prison guards and receive inadequate food supplies.

In this photo taken Monday, April 23, 2012,
In this photo taken Monday, April 23, 2012, an asylum seeker looks out through the bars of his cell in one of the detention centers of the Hungarian border police in Nyirbator, 270 kilometers (167 miles) east of Budapest, Hungary. A new report released Tuesday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) criticizes Hungary for detaining asylum seekers, where according to reports, verbal and physical abuse are common against them by detention center guards. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

Several men held up a handwritten sign spelling out a stark demand: “Freedom!”

The new report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees criticizes Hungary for treating legitimate asylum seekers as if they were illegal immigrants,

“Persons who are fleeing and asking for asylum are not breaking the law,” Koefner said. “International law actually protects them from prosecution.”

Koefner confirmed that UNHCR has received “serious” reports of verbal and physical abuse by detention center guards. Police sometimes subject the asylum seekers to humiliation by escorting them to court dates in handcuffs and leashes, he added.

Moreover, Hungary rejects “a large number” of asylum claims without examining their individual merits, he said.

“Asylum seekers are, for instance, routinely returned to Serbia, which Hungary wrongly regards as a safe third country for refugees. No other EU country considers Serbia safe,” Koefner said.

In 2011, Hungary rejected the claims of some 450 asylum seekers — more than a quarter of the total — and deported most of them to Serbia, according to UNHCR data.

UNHCR’s report is the latest in a string of condemnations of the Orban government’s handling of basic rights and freedoms. Since taking power in May 2010, the administration has passed laws that critics say limit press freedoms, criminalize homelessness and water down the independence of the judiciary.

Hungary’s Interior Ministry, which deals with immigration issues, did not respond to a request for comment.

Hungary lies along a major transit route for human traffickers from Central Asia and Africa into Europe. Many of the migrants who arrive here want to reach Western Europe — but under the law, asylum seekers’ claims must be processed in the country where they first make contact with authorities, Koefner said.

While previous Hungarian governments have also been criticized for unfairly detaining asylum seekers, the numbers have increased under the current administration, Andras Kovats, director of the Menedek Association, which assists refugees, told AP.

“Before the legislative changes, it was roughly one quarter of the asylum seekers who had to wait in detention,” Kovats said. “Now, according to last year’s statistics, it is about two thirds of asylum seekers.”

Robert Miskolczi, a lawyer for the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human-rights watchdog, said in an interview that the inmates at Nyirbator often recant their claims of physical abuse when it comes to filing an actual complaint.

In this photo taken Monday, April 23, 2012,
In this photo taken Monday, April 23, 2012, an asylum seeker holds a sign reading, ‘Freedom’ through the bars of a cell in a detention center of the Hungarian border police in Nyirbator, 270 kilometers (167 miles) east of Budapest, Hungary. A new report released Tuesday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) criticizes Hungary for detaining asylum seekers, where according to reports, verbal and physical abuse are common against them by detention center guards.

Still, Hungary cannot justify its policy of locking the migrants up by citing the need to crack down on illegal immigrants, he said.

“These people are not criminals, so keeping them in prison-like conditions, which can last up to a year under the law, is simply inhuman,” he said.

A former Afghan inmate at the Nyirbator detention facility told AP that the guards reserved special punishment for asylum seekers who got unruly during their detention.

“If somebody misbehaved, that person was taken to the part of the prison that we called ‘Guantanamo,'” said a man with refugee status who identified himself only as Yusuf because he is afraid of losing his job at a Budapest restaurant. “Those refugees that did not behave in a correct way, those who were not quiet enough or those who started some kind of fight were taken there for several days and beaten up.”

1 Comment

Filed under Analysis, Asylem Seekers in Europe, UNHCR

Search on for missing asylum seekers

April 23, 2012

A SEARCH is underway for a group of asylum seekers whose boat  overturned on its way to Christmas Island.

Indonesian authorities have been searching for the boat, believed to be  carrying Afghan civilians, since it was overturned by a large wave on Friday  evening.

It was heading along the east Java coast bound for Christmas Island when the  accident occurred.

It is believed most passengers survived and made their way to shore but 10  Afghanis remain unaccounted for.

About 70 people believed to be onboard have been located by the local  authorities.

Read more:

Leave a comment

Filed under Asylum Seekers in Indonesia, Boat Tragedy