Monthly Archives: February 2013

Border Protection Command intercepts vessel

February 28, 2013

Media Release:

HMAS Launceston, operating under the control of Border Protection Command, intercepted a suspected irregular entry vessel north-north-west of Darwin this morning.

Initial indications suggest there are 33 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.

For operational and safety reasons Border Protection Command will now make arrangements for the people to be transferred to Australian government authorities in Darwin 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.




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Asylum seekers intercepted near Ashmore Islands on 25th boat of 2013

February 26, 2013

A BOAT carrying 68 people was intercepted off the north-west coast on the weekend.

The vessel was discovered to the north-east of Ashmore Islands on Saturday night and HMAS Maitland, under the control of the Border Protection Command was called to assist.

It is the 25th boat arrival for the year with more than 3000 people arriving by boat since December 1.

As a result of safety concerns due to poor weather conditions the 68 asylum seekers were embarked in HMAS Maitland under the coordination of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC Australia).

A statement from the office of the Minister for Home Affairs Jason Clare said the people would be transferred to Darwin to undergo initial health, security and identity checks.

The vessel was first detected by a Customs and Border Protection Dash-8 surveillance aircraft.

Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Scott Morrison and Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection, Michael Keenan said it was an “all time record summer of illegal boat arrivals”, with more than 1000 extra people arriving this summer than last summer.

“Disturbingly not even the treacherous conditions of the monsoon season, with reports of a cyclone continuing to develop off our north-west coast this evening, are dissuading people smugglers,” Mr Morrison said.

“Labor’s border protection crisis is reaching new levels of failure and still they have no answer to stopping the boats.”


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O’Connor visits ‘adequate’ Manus Island centre

February 26, 2013

Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor has visited the Manus Island processing centre in Papua New Guinea and says the living conditions there are “adequate”.

Mr O’Connor spent several hours at the processing centre yesterday and spoke with service providers and asylum seekers.

The detainees, including more than 30 children, are living in tents and dongas.

Critics have described the conditions as harsh and oppressive, but Mr O’Connor disagrees.

“People are treated well, people are fed well, people are accommodated in what are temporary facilities,” he said.

Mr O’Connor says the asylum seekers are more concerned about their claims for refugee status than their living conditions.

The responsibility for processing the claims has been given to the PNG government but it is still developing a legal framework to deal with them.


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February 26, 2013 · 5:09 pm

Australia urged to pressure Pakistan over Hazara killings

February 26, 2013

Refugee advocates are calling on the Australian Government to pressure Pakistan to stop the escalating violence against the Hazara community.

Around 200 Hazaras have died in violent attacks in Pakistan in recent months, including last week’s bombing in Quetta which killed more than 80 people.

The chief executive of the Refugee Council of Australia, Paul Power, says Pakistan has played a role as a refuge for Afghans fleeing violence in their home country.

He says Australia should be lobbying the Pakistan Government to provide a safer environment for the Hazara people.

“The concern of Hazara people in Pakistan is that terrorist activities are occurring and there is no justice,” Mr Power said.

“At a bilateral level the Australian Government must be raising with the government of Pakistan the importance of investigating these terrorist attacks and ensuring that the perpetrators are being brought to justice.”

He says the increasing violence suffered by Hazara refugees in Pakistan is a factor in them seeking asylum in Australia.

Protests were held in the Australian capital Canberra and cities of Melbourne and Brisbane on Monday to highlight the plight of the Hazaras in Pakistan.


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Hazaras plead for sanctuary

February 25, 2013

Hazara protestors in front of the United Nations office in CanberraHazara protestors in front of the United Nations office in Canberra Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax

The Gillard Government has been urged reassess the claims for refugee status of scores of asylum seekers from the Hazara ethnic minority in the light of escalating violence in Pakistan.

Many of those who attended protests in Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane on Monday were mourning the deaths of friends and relatives in the most recent attack, in which more than 100 Hazaras, mainly women and children, died on the outskirks of Quetta last week.

Among them were several whose bridging visas have either expired, or are about to expire, and face deportation after their claims for refugee status were rejected.

Nadir, whose wife and five children are living less than 800 metres from the last week’s attack, says his youngest children need counselling for the trauma they have witnessed. ‘‘Apart from massacre and blood, there is nothing there for them. All the see and hear is blood, screams and explosions.’’


After fleeing from a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan, Nadir, whose full name is withheld, says he cannot understand why his application for protection was rejected. Nadir spent two years in detention and his temporary bridging visa expired a few days ago.

Another of the asylum seekers at the Melbourne protest, Ataullah, says his visa expires on March 4 and that he is overcome with worry about his wife, who is still in Afghanistan.

Pamela Curr, of the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, says there are around 100 Hazaras whose claims were rejected when the success rate of Afghan applications plummeted from around 90 per cent to around 30 per cent.

‘‘Their cases are the same as those who were successful – people whose fathers and brothers were killed, who were driven off their land by the Taliban because they were Hazara,’’ she said.

Another of the Hazaras at the Melbourne protest, Hassan Nasiri, has refugee status but has so far been unable to bring his immediate family to Australia. His son was among more than 200 who were injured in Quetta last week.

‘‘There is no security for our people over there – the United Nations admits and the government of Pakistan is either unable or unwilling to provide it,’’ says Nadir. Hazaras are overwhelmingly Shiite Muslims and comprise around nine per cent of Afghanistan’s population of about three million. More than half a million Hazaras reside in neighbouring Pakistan, and a similar number in Iran, many of them having fled from Afghanistan.

One of the organisers of yesterday’s Melbourne protest, Ali Rahimi, said their aim was to raise awareness of the plight of the Hazaras, who were being targeted because of their support for democracy in Afghanistan. ‘‘We want the international community to know there is a genocide happening and they have an obligation to do something.’’

The chief executive of the Refugee Council of Australia, Paul Power, said Australia, as a United Nations Security Council member, was in a position to focus international pressure on Pakistan to provide a safer environment for Hazara people.

“If the Australian Government is concerned about the movement of Hazara asylum seekers to Australia, it must be active in addressing the key factors that force people to move on from places where they have originally sought refugee protection.”

Mr Power urged the government to review the claims of all of those who faced the prospect of forced return to Afghanistan and Pakistan.



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More detainees join Nauru hunger strike

February 25, 2013

Refugee advocates say nine asylum seekers on Nauru have sewn their lips together as part of a hunger strike over the conditions on the Pacific island.

It is understood one of the protesters is being transported to the Australian city of Brisbane on Monday for specialist care.

The asylum seekers are protesting against conditions in the camp and the wait for immigration processing to begin in the regional processing centre.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the asylum seekers are getting mental health support, but she says the protest is not going to help their cause.

“The first point to make is it doesn’t get you anywhere,” she said.

“Unfortunately, people sometimes take that step, but I do want to be very clear: having a hunger strike or anything like that it does not change people’s outcomes.

“The one thing that happens for people in our asylum seeker facilities is there is a proper assessment of whether they are a genuine refugee.”

Last week the Refugee Action Coalition said more than a dozen detainees on Nauru had joined a hunger strike, with four stitching their lips together.

The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship confirmed that four detainees were involved in an act of self-harm at the facility, but refused to divulge details.

The government reopened detention centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island last year to process asylum seekers arriving by boat to Australia.


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Cricketers discourage asylum seekers from sea journeys

February 24, 2013

Three wickets ... Lasith Malinga sends down a delivery

Photo: Sri Lankan cricketer Lasith Malinga will appear in the Australian Government’s anti-people smuggling ad campaign. (Getty Images)

Sri Lankan cricketers are fronting an advertising campaign by the Australian Government to discourage asylum seekers from taking boat journeys to Australia.

Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan have signed on to the campaign, which targets ethnic communities in Australia to tell their relatives not to risk their lives.

Australia’s Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor says it is an important part of the government’s strategy to stop people smuggling.

“This is actually communicating directly to diaspora communities,” he said.

“Sending the message that not only is it too dangerous to take these perilous journeys, but also to communicate to them we have new laws since August last year that will give them no advantage.”

The ‘Don’t be sorry’ campaign comes in the wake of the deaths of 98 Burmese asylum seekers at sea earlier this week.

Thirty-two people were picked up by the Sri Lankan Navy after surviving for two months drifting at sea.

The bodies of those who died of starvation and dehydration during the voyage were reportedly thrown overboard.


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