Monthly Archives: January 2013

Border Protection Command intercepts asylum boat (vessel)

January 30, 2013

HMAS Pirie, operating under the control of Border Protection Command, intercepted a suspected irregular entry vessel north east of Ashmore Islands yesterday.

Initial indications suggest there are 58 people on board.

The vessel was initially detected by a Customs and Border Protection Dash 8 surveillance aircraft, operating under the control of Border Protection Command.

Border Protection Command will now make arrangements for the passengers to be transferred to Australian authorities, where they will undergo initial security, health and identity checks and their reasons for travel will be established.

People arriving by boat without a visa after 13 August 2012 run the risk of transfer to a regional processing country.



Leave a comment

Filed under Boat Intercepted

Asylum seekers ‘aware’ of deterrence value

January 30, 2013

Bianca Hall

Bianca Hall

Bianca Hall is immigration correspondent

Follow Bianca on Twitter

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has criticised Labor's immigration policy in light of the damning internal review of the Immigration Department.Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says conditions at the Manus Island detention centre are ”the worst” she has seen. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Asylum seekers on Manus Island are ”acutely aware” they are being used as examples in the Gillard government’s deterrence policy, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said on Wednesday.

Senator Hanson-Young condemned the conditions for asylum seekers on Manus Island as the ”worst” that she has seen.

Senator Hanson-Young is visiting the PNG island and told ABC radio that the living conditions for asylum seekers, including 34 children, were ”primitive” and ”oppressive”.

”It’s not just that they’re primitive, of course, they’re also quite oppressive and I can’t see why the government decided to move families – we’ve got to remember there’s children involved in this, there’s 34 children here – up to this detention centre. It is not ready, by any stretch of the imagination.


”These are the worst living conditions in a detention centre that I have seen,” she said.

Her comments come a day after it was reported that at least two Sri Lankan asylum seekers had drowned and a third was missing after their boat smashed into rocks and broke apart off the coast of Java as they made their way to Australia.

Twenty-two Sri Lankans on the boat were rescued by Indonesian authorities and taken back to Indonesia.

On Tuesday, HMAS Pirie, operating under the control of Border Protection Command, intercepted a suspected asylum seeker north-east of Ashmore Islands with 58 people on board.

But boat arrivals have slowed since November  because of the monsoon season and it remains to be seen whether the offshore detention measures will work once sailing conditions improve.

Under strict new rules introduced last year, anyone who arrived by boat after August 13 is eligible for removal to offshore processing centres in Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, or Nauru.

There are now 235 asylum seekers Manus Island, and 415 on Nauru. Meanwhile, with the onshore detention centre under pressure, many others have been released into the community on bridging visas.

Those on Manus Island, Senator Hanson-Young said, were asking ”why are they the ones who are chosen to come to Manus Island, when thousands of others who arrived after August 13 have been left in Australia, some even put on bridging visas”.

”These people here are acutely aware that they are being used as an example . . .  this seems like persecution all over again.”

Senator Hanson-Young said the asylum seekers on Manus Island were housed in tents or ”rundown” dongas, some of which had only had doors put on them in recent days.

”The heat is really getting to people,” Senator Hanson-Young said. ”They have got no air-conditioning, they’ve got very, very little privacy.”

She praised the work of NGOs Save the Children and the Salvation Army, saying the agencies were doing their ”utmost” to help the detainees.

But she said she had real concerns about the prevalence of malaria, with reports a 10-year-old girl had contracted the disease despite malaria tablets being given to asylum seekers every day.

The department of immigration says there have been no cases of malaria at the Manus Island processing centre.

When asked whether these conditions were no worse than those for PNG residents, Senator Hanson-Young said: ”The problem is that these people (asylum seekers) are prisoners. They have no freedom of movement. Every moment of their day is dictated by guards.”

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the government was committed to implementing the recommendations of the Expert Panel, led by Angus Houston, to stop people losing their lives at sea.

”It’s no secret that Senator Hanson-Young is opposed to offshore processing,” the spokeswoman said.

”Conditions on Manus Island are appropriate. Detainees, including children, have access to health, education and recreational services.

”Temporary accommodation is in place while alternative arrangements are considered for a more permanent processing facility.”

Meanwhile, opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop and customs spokesman Michael Keenan are visiting Sri Lanka to investigate measures to combat people smuggling operations.

Leave a comment

Filed under Human Rights and Refugee Activists, PNG/Pacific Solution, Torturing and Health Issues

Two die as asylum-seeker boat smashes on rocks after setting off for Australia

January 29, 2013

AT least two Sri Lankan asylum-seekers have drowned and a third is missing after their boat smashed into rocks and broke apart off the coast of Java as they headed for Australia.

Twenty survivors, including a four-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, are on the island of Nusa Kambangan near the coastal town of Cilacap after being rescued by fishermen.

Two of the asylum-seekers have been taken to a hospital in Cilacap for treatment.

The group had been making their way to Australia when the boat’s engine broke down yesterday.

The vessel drifted for hours before it foundered on rocks near Nusa Kambangan.

The island, known as the Alcatraz of Indonesia, is home to a number of maximum security prisons and was where some of the 2002 Bali bombers were incarcerated and later executed.

Fisherman started picking up survivors about 7pm last night.

Digital Pass $1 for first 28 Days

The head of the Cilacap immigration office, Syamsul Bahri, said the survivors had confirmed they had left Sri Lanka and made their way to Indonesian waters ahead of the final leg to Christmas Island.

“They’re saying that they’re … heading to Australia,” he said.

He said the survivors would be moved to an immigration detention centre in Semarang.



Leave a comment

Filed under Asylum Seekers in Indonesia, Boat Tragedy

Syria’s Afghan Refugees Trapped in a Double Crisis

January 29, 2013

Ahmad Shuja – He tweets at @AhmadShuja.

There are around 2,000 Afghans living in Syria. Most are Shiites and belong to the Hazara ethnic group. Their migration to Syria occurred in several small waves, with most fleeing Afghanistan to escape ethno-religious persecution and a few settling in the country after their pilgrimage to the holy Shiite sites in the country. Most Afghan refugees and settlers in Syria are based in and around the capital Damascus.

As the armed conflict has been raging in Syria for about two years, these refugees have suffered violence, threats and forced displacement. The ordeal began in July last year when violence spread to the Syeda Zainab area around Damascus. The Afghan refugees were evicted from the area by force, and they live in makeshift shelters facing dire conditions now, according to the refugees.

The Syrian conflict’s broad Alawite vs. non-Alawite dimension means the rebels identify the Afghan Shiites as being close to the Alawites — and therefore close to the Assad regime. But the Afghan refugees are claiming neutrality, which not only denies them the protection of the Alawite government but also makes the Alawite population suspicious and hostile towards them. They are caught in a trap. And, to make matters worse, the Afghan refugees are easily identifiable by their Asiatic features and foreign accents, making them easy targets for attacks by all sides.

As the violence in Syria drags on while the international community puzzles over a viable solution, these Afghan refugees in Syria are calling for help. UN Dispatch received a letter from the Afghan-Syrian community detailing violence and discrimination motivated by religious, racial and political differences. The letter warns of a disaster if the situation goes unaddressed.

We withhold the identity of the correspondent of the letter for safety reasons, but publish excepts from it. The writer is not a native english speaker, but the urgency of his or her pleas come through quite clearly.

With all due respect,

We, the Afghan Refugees [in Syria], hope to […] solve part of our problems and critical conditions by sharing it with you as fellow-creatures and those who care about humanity and oppressed people all over the world via this open letter.

The letter details incidents of torture, religious persecution and other violence, including deaths and injuries from mortar shells.

[T]he current situation of Afghan Refugees in the time of the conflict in Syria is a serious an exceptional condition. Afghan Refugees are victimized of torture and they have been threatened just because they are different and they believe in a religion as called “Shiite”. Still one Afghan Refugee has been shouted as she was in a serious condition at hospital, several Afghan Refugees has been captured just because they are “Shiite”! three days ago on 5/1/2013 two young Afghan refugees who was 17 and 18 years old they killed by mortar and 7 others where seriously injured.

The refugees forcefully evicted from the Syeda Zainab area face dire conditions:

Now it is about for 6 months we are staying at Hotels and buildings, some Refugees houses has been stolen and some of them burned and destroyed. Till now some Refugees who trying to take some their stuff from their houses they have been captured and some of them have been threatened.

Some have tried to flee Syria into Turkey, but their fate remains uncertain:

Some Refugees because of well[-founded] fear and feeling unsafe they have been to independently smuggle themselves illegally toward of Turkey till now no one knows what happened to them, they left Syria without of any value document only they had the UNHCR Refugee certificate.

Therefore, still several times we have contacted the UNHCR office in Damascus but unfortunately still we are living in the same situation….UNHCR office always declares that they are not able to help regarding the residency documents and they cannot offer any assistance to solve this problem at all…

The letter warns of a humanitarian crisis if the community’s concerns aren’t heeded:

even it is possible [that] if…our serious condition [is not solved], it will happen a serious disaster and also most other Refugees will chose to independently smuggle themselves out of Syria while itself it can be a serious human disaster because they will trying to go out without of passport, visa and any other valuable document

Most Afghan refugees don’t have the proper travel documents, so they face serious challenges as they attempt to flee the country,  including arrests by authorities who are increasingly suspicious of undocumented outsiders:

as most Afghan Refugees they entered Syria illegally and they are lack of Syrian residence permit . As a result, still some Refugees have been arrested in the way between Damascus and Aleppo toward of Turkey.

Most Afghan refugees in Syria have attempted to smuggle themselves out, but the ones who remain have nowhere to go because the UNHCR cannot assist them and the authorities are cracking down. The letter says women and children are most vulnerable and warns that a potential humanitarian disaster might occur if the situation is not resolved:

Now, from a large number of Afghan Refugees only remaining those who are that even they are not able to fled, they are just waiting for the assistance of UNHCR, or they will be the sacrifice of torture just because they are the oppressed people and they don’t have any other shelter in order to be survive!

we are living in a serious bad conditions such as illegal status problems, security, and the unknown future.

But our main problems is the security problem as we are not able to protect of our children and women who are fall under a serious condition.

It has become unbearable for us to continue living in Syria. And most of the afghan Refugees are illegal in Syria…and in current situation we face serious legal problems and other kinds of problems because of not having legal residency…and with having this problem we are not able to continue living safely at all, especially in the current unrest situation where the security forces has become very strict in looking for the illegal residents and arrest them and then deport them. As still several cases happened.

Best regards,
Afghan Refugees, Damascus Syria


Leave a comment

Filed under Analysis, Other

Plight of Hazaras is a major failing

January 29, 2013

Photo Credit: Eltaf Hussain (Hazaragi Wallpapers)

Photo Credit: Eltaf Hussain (Hazaragi Wallpapers)

IN recent days, Western media and politicians have been glued to the spectacle of Mali falling into the hands of Islamists, but they have paid scant attention to the Sunni extremist group in Pakistan that is systematically killing Hazaras, which could well pose an equal risk to global stability.

In recent years, Pakistan has been plagued by sectarian violence and extremism. Hazaras in Quetta have faced most terrorist attacks because of their distinct looks. The deadliest assault was on January 10, when a double bomb attack on a club killed 100 Hazaras and injured nearly 200. Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, a franchise group of al-Qa’ida, carried out the attack; it has been responsible for killing about 1000 Hazaras and injuring 2000 in the past 10 years.

The massacre in Quetta shows a complete lack of will on the part of the Pakistan government to protect the Hazara community.

There is also a shameful silence in the West and on the part of the UN about the systematic ethnic cleansing of Hazaras.

Digital Pass $1 for first 28 Days

In the wake of the massacre, their frustration having turned to rage and desperation, Hazaras staged a remarkable protest in Quetta in freezing temperatures. They refused to bury their loved ones but stayed with the bodies out on the street for four days and nights until Pakistan’s Prime Minister finally yielded to their demands and dismissed the provincial government.

Pakistan’s government is not only apathetic, it has also been accused of collaborating with the attackers, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission.

All LEJ leaders have been released from prison, giving them free rein to attack Hazaras.

The Hazaras, who number about 500,000, live in constant fear of terrorist attacks.

They are besieged in their own homes in the two main Hazara districts, and have closed down all businesses in Quetta city and in non-Hazara areas.

LEJ is an ally of the Taliban as both belong to the same orthodox, puritanical Deobandi tradition of Islam. Their alliance could destabilise the region and the world.

LEJ has also targeted Westerners in Pakistan, including US journalist Daniel Pearl and French engineers.


Hazaras have very few choices. Some, who saved enough money, have made the risky journey to Australia, but instead of giving them protection, the government has indefinitely detained them on Nauru and Manus Island.

The Hazaras stand non-violently against zealotry and extremism. They demand an end to the genocide in Quetta. The international community and the Australian government must put pressure on the Pakistan government to stop this senseless killing.

Abdul Karim Hekmat is a Hazara human rights advocate and freelance writer based in Sydney


1 Comment

Filed under Hazara Persecution

It’s time we recognised the plight of a people facing genocide in Pakistan

January 28, 2013

Deadly bomb blast in Quetta, Pakistan

Pakistani police officers and local residents gather at the site of a bomb blast that targeted paramilitary soldiers in a commercial area in Quetta, Pakistan, killing at least 12 people and wounding more than 40 others earlier this month. Picture: Arshad Butt/AP Source: AP

LEADERS of Australia’s Hazara community are increasingly distressed and despondent over the fate of their relatives and friends.

These people are facing poverty, hunger and massacre in the besieged ghettoes of Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

They say the city’s 500,000-strong Hazara population is being targeted by Sunni Muslim extremists andAustralia’s refugee policies are making it harder to get people out. They are right and we will hear more about this in 2013.

Spokesmen, such as Hassan Ghulam of the Australian Hazara Federation, say the situation is worsening, both in Quetta and in neighbouring Afghanistan, where the extremist Sunni Muslim Taliban is regaining control.

Taliban leaders despise the Hazara, a largely Shi’ite Muslim ethnic group with origins in central Asia, and slaughtered thousands of them in the 1990s.

As Western forces leave, a genocidal catastrophe looms, but it is Quetta that has made world headlines this month.

Assassins from the Sunni Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) group detonated bombs at a snooker hall in the Hazara enclave of Alamdar Rd on January 10, killing 92 people, including at least one Australian citizen.

The attack followed years of harassment and murder, with Shi’ites routinely pulled off buses and slaughtered or gunned down.

More than 800 people have been killed since 1999 and now the extremists, who have links with Pakistani security forces and operate with impunity, have vowed to finish the job.

The LeJ has vowed to kill all Hazaras who do not flee the city this year.

The Pakistani Government has sacked the regional government and sent in the paramilitary police into Quetta, but Hazara leaders expect the attacks to continue.

Hazaras in Australia have staged rallies urging Canberra to recognise the plight of their ethnic brethren and to make it easier for people here to get their relatives out of Pakistan.

This is their main concern. Like other refugee groups, Hazaras do not like the re-opening of detention centres in Nauru and PNG or the “no-advantage” rule which means asylum seekers are placed on bridging visas prohibiting work or study.

What really hurts is knowing close family members in Quetta are in grave danger.

Hassan Ghulam says Australian Hazaras have lodged 25,000 applications to bring family members here under this country’s Special Humanitarian Program.

It is possible, he adds, that as many as 50,000 people in Quetta are waiting for these applications to be processed. Some died in the January 10 blast, including the two younger brothers of Melbourne-based student Mokhtar Amini.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has ruled out any one-off evacuation of pending reunion applicants from the city.

New immigration rules exclude people arriving by boat since August 2012 from applying to have relatives join them in Australia.

Australia cannot solve the Hazara situation on its own. Our refugee intake of 20,000 a year would be swamped by a large emergency intake from Quetta.

But the special circumstances of the Hazara warrants attention. They are a friendless minority at extreme risk in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This has been the case since the late 19th century when Abdur Rahman Khan, the ethnic Pashtun emir of Afghanistan, crushed Hazara revolts, forcing many to flee.

As such, they are almost 100 per cent certain to be genuine refugees, not economic migrants. Canberra should consider expediting some family reunion applications involving Hazara trapped in Quetta.

And it should review efforts by the Australian Federal Police working with the Pakistani Federal Investigative Agency to track down people smugglers in Quetta.

It is no crime to help individuals escape a siege.


Leave a comment

Filed under Hazara Persecution

Shining light

January 28, 2013

Greater Dandenong volunteers are a dedicated and talented bunch, as this year’s Australia Day award recipients demonstrate, Rachel Flaherty reports

In seven years, Sahema Saberi has gone from refugee to advocate and volunteer, co-founding the Australian Hazara Students Group and using her five languages to help support migrant families. The 21-year-old is this year’s Greater Dandenong Young Achiever of the Year. VOLUNTEERS HAILED IN AUSTRALIA DAY HONOURS

Picture: RICHARD SERONG N31OS300 VOLUNTEERS who have dedicated years of work and sacrifice to help the Greater Dandenong community were proudly recognised on Saturday.

Mayor Angela Long said the Australia Day awards honoured residents who had made exceptional contributions to make a stronger, fairer and more connected society.

Noble Park’s Craig Hancock won Citizen of the Year f or his work with Parkmore Junior Football Club and as a volunteer with Noble Park Scout Club for more than 10 years.

‘‘ I’m gobsmacked. This award has caught me left of field. Never expected it,’’ Mr Hancock said.

‘‘I’m only a cog in a big wheel of many people who work hard behind the scenes to keep them going.’’

Young Achiever of the Year was awarded to Sahema Saberi, who arrived in Australia seven years ago as a refugee from Afghanistan and spoke little English at the time.

Since then, the 21-year-old has become deeply involved in the community and uses her five languages to help and support migrant families in need. Ms Saberi cof ounded t he Australian Hazara Students’ Group.

She has volunteered at Dandenong Hospital’s emergency department and earned a place in the Foundation f or Young Australians’ Young and Extraordinary Changemakers.

Dawn Vernon won the Good Neighbour of the Year award for her tireless work as the president of t he Greater Dandenong Neighbourhood Watch group and as a member of the council’s community safety advisory committee.

Graham Don was awarded Non-Resident of the Year for his passion for education as president of Springvale’s Learning and Activities Centre for more than 30 years.

Mr Don also volunteers with local groups, including Glencare, Keysborough Kindergarten, the Naval Association of Australia and the Springvale RSL.

The judges gave the Highly Commended award to Guillaume Nyakaboyi.

Dandenong North resident Peter Jabbour, 24, was awarded the prestigious Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the community through multicultural and charitable organisations, including the Australian Arab Multicultural Association and South Eastern Region Migrant Resource Centre.

Source: Dandenong Leader Community Newspaper

Leave a comment

Filed under Talented Asylum Seekers