Monthly Archives: February 2014

Australians apologise to asylum seekers with photographic campaign

February 25, 2014

AUSTRALIANS have taken apologies into their own hands after the Federal Government’s blunderous approach to incidents involving asylum seekers.

And now a website is offering ordinary Australians the opportunity to say what the government hasn’t following the tragic death of 23-year-old Iranian detainee Reza Berati at Manus Island detention centre last week,

Sorryasylumseekers.com allows Australians to post a picture alongside their apologies… and the trend is quickly spreading across the web.

 

A photo of Reza Berati, who died during riots on Manus Island last week.

A photo of Reza Berati, who died during riots on Manus Island last week. Source: Supplied

 

According to the website’s creator Ryan Sheales, the movement is “based on a philosophy that Australia’s asylum seeker policy debate — while worthy and necessary — should take place on a bedrock of humanity.

“Whatever your views on the Pacific, Malaysia or PNG solutions, surely we can all agree that basic human decency is a worthy objective?”

The website, says Sheales, is about saying sorry for harsh or inhumane treatment, which is entirely avoidable.

 

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr Source: Supplied

 

 

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr Source:Supplied

 

 

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr Source:Supplied

 

 

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr Source: Supplied

 

 

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr Source: Supplied

 

 

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr Source: Supplied

 

 

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr Source: Supplied

 

 

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr Source: Supplied

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr Source:Supplied

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr Source:Supplied

 

 

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr

Picture: sorryasylumseekers.com/Tumblr Source: Supplied

Source: http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/australians-apologise-to-asylum-seekers-with-photographic-campaign/story-fnjwmwrh-1226837570585

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Australians commemorate slain asylum seeker Reza Berati

February 23, 2014

Crying out for change: Hundreds take part in the candle light vigil at Sydney's Town Hall.  Crying out for change: Hundreds take part in the candlelight vigil at Sydney’s Town Hall. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

More than 4000 people gathered at Sydney’s Town Hall on Sunday night for a candlelight vigil to remember slain Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati.

The crowd was addressed by The Chaser’s Chris Taylor, and actress Imogen Bailey spoke about her experience on the SBS televison documentary series Go Back To Where You Came From.

Activist group GetUp said about 15,000 people attended at least 600 snap protests across Australia on Sunday, from Queensland cattle stations to Melbourne’s Federation Square.

Reza Berati.Died on Manus Island: Reza Berati.

The protests come days after Mr Berati, 23, was killed and 62 other asylum seekers were injured in violent scenes at the Australian-run immigration detention centre on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

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“Many thousands of Australians tonight cried out for change,” said GetUp’s national director Sam Mclean.

“The truth is we just don’t know what’s happening in these places, the Government’s shut off the lights, taking censorship to an unprecedented level.”

“We need a truly independent inquiry into this tragedy and proper public scrutiny of these places.”

In Melbourne, more than 1000 people heard from speakers including Tim Costello and Father Bob Maguire.

“Australians tonight have demonstrated that we are a compassionate and welcoming people,” said Mr Costello.

“We know asylum policy is complex – but what isn’t complex is that a human being who came to us for protection instead died in terrible circumstances.”

Vigils were held in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, Brisbane and regional towns including Devonport, Darwin, Wollongong, Geelong, Whyalla, Albany, Alice Springs, Coodanup and Caloundra.

With AAP

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/australians-commemorate-slain-asylum-seeker-reza-berati-20140223-33apz.html#ixzz2u9mMcrm7

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Voices from Manus: ‘We are in danger. Somebody please help us’

February 18, 2014

Asylum seekers claim they were attacked inside the compound, contradicting government accounts of two bloody days.

A conflicting picture of violence at the Manus detention centre is emerging.

A conflicting picture of violence at the Manus detention centre is emerging. Photograph: EPA

 At 10.29pm local time on Monday, an asylum seeker inside Manus Island detention centre sent this message to Guardian Australia: “We are in danger. They attacked us again. Somebody please help us. They cut off the electricity and attacked us.”

By the end of the night one asylum seeker was dead, another shot, another in a critical condition, and dozens injured after the most severe disturbance at the controversial centre since it reopened in October 2012. The asylum seeker who sent this message has been uncontactable since.

A hazy but grim picture of events on Sunday and Monday night on Manus is starting to emerge, with both asylum seekers and contractors working on Manus offering first-hand accounts of the reported rioting.

However, some of the details are directly contradicted by official accounts from the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, and service provider G4S.

A contractor who contacted Guardian Australia described scenes on Monday evening at the Hotel Bibby, the accommodation block where Manus detention centre staff live.

The contractor says that late on Monday evening, injured asylum seekers were being brought to a makeshift hospital outside the accommodation block, driven in on a ute by G4S personnel.

“They were just makeshift beds. Transferees were carried in on sheets. Blood everywhere, crying,” the contractor told Guardian Australia. “There were 30 or 40 clients down there. We had gunshot wounds, some with head injuries.”

Guardian Australia has verified that every source quoted here was on Manus.

The contractor took notes on some of the accounts given by asylum seekers. They claim that one Iranian asylum seeker told them: “I did nothing, I wasn’t involved in the protests, I was in my room, being good, trying to sleep. They came in my room … they dragged me out of my bed and beat me. They had huge rocks in their hands and they hit my head and my body with them.”

There have been different reports about who was responsible for the alleged attacks: guards, the PNG police or local residents.

A Sudanese asylum seeker reportedly told them: “We tried to hide under the containers, but they dragged us out and beat us. We couldn’t get away.”

Other asylum seekers who have spoken to refugee advocates have described similar scenes – of people entering the detention centre and attacking detainees.

Morrison says there are conflicting reports about whether PNG forces and locals entered the compound and states that the trouble was started on both nights by protesting asylum seekers.

The key point of difference between the official and asylum seekers’ accounts on both Sunday and Monday night’s disturbances appears to be about what happened in three compounds, Mike, Oscar and Foxtrot, inside the Manus centre.

According to an asylum seeker who contacted Guardian Australia on Monday evening, violence that occurred on Sunday started after the fencing between Mike compound and Foxtrot compound was broken down by asylum seekers, protesting about the status of their refugee claims and resettlement status.

The asylum seeker says that at around 8pm locally-hired G4S guards and Manus residents entered the compound through Oscar complex and “started beating the asylum seekers with swords and bats”.

Another asylum seeker who also said he witnessed the disturbance on Sunday night, told Guardian Australia: “The local people attacked us and started throwing stones.” On Monday afternoon he continued: “We are not safe here at all.”

By the end of the night one asylum seeker was dead, another shot, another in a critical condition, and dozens injured after the most severe disturbance at the controversial centre since it reopened in October 2012. The asylum seeker who sent this message has been uncontactable since.

A hazy but grim picture of events on Sunday and Monday night on Manus is starting to emerge, with both asylum seekers and contractors working on Manus offering first-hand accounts of the reported rioting.

However, some of the details are directly contradicted by official accounts from the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, and service provider G4S.

A contractor who contacted Guardian Australia described scenes on Monday evening at the Hotel Bibby, the accommodation block where Manus detention centre staff live.

The contractor says that late on Monday evening, injured asylum seekers were being brought to a makeshift hospital outside the accommodation block, driven in on a ute by G4S personnel.

“They were just makeshift beds. Transferees were carried in on sheets. Blood everywhere, crying,” the contractor told Guardian Australia. “There were 30 or 40 clients down there. We had gunshot wounds, some with head injuries.”

Guardian Australia has verified that every source quoted here was on Manus.

The contractor took notes on some of the accounts given by asylum seekers. They claim that one Iranian asylum seeker told them: “I did nothing, I wasn’t involved in the protests, I was in my room, being good, trying to sleep. They came in my room … they dragged me out of my bed and beat me. They had huge rocks in their hands and they hit my head and my body with them.”

There have been different reports about who was responsible for the alleged attacks: guards, the PNG police or local residents.

A Sudanese asylum seeker reportedly told them: “We tried to hide under the containers, but they dragged us out and beat us. We couldn’t get away.”

Other asylum seekers who have spoken to refugee advocates have described similar scenes – of people entering the detention centre and attacking detainees.

Morrison says there are conflicting reports about whether PNG forces and locals entered the compound and states that the trouble was started on both nights by protesting asylum seekers.

The key point of difference between the official and asylum seekers’ accounts on both Sunday and Monday night’s disturbances appears to be about what happened in three compounds, Mike, Oscar and Foxtrot, inside the Manus centre.

According to an asylum seeker who contacted Guardian Australia on Monday evening, violence that occurred on Sunday started after the fencing between Mike compound and Foxtrot compound was broken down by asylum seekers, protesting about the status of their refugee claims and resettlement status.

The asylum seeker says that at around 8pm locally-hired G4S guards and Manus residents entered the compound through Oscar complex and “started beating the asylum seekers with swords and bats”.

Another asylum seeker who also said he witnessed the disturbance on Sunday night, told Guardian Australia: “The local people attacked us and started throwing stones.” On Monday afternoon he continued: “We are not safe here at all.”

Manus Island: ‘agitated’ asylum seekers escape from detention centre

Monday 17 Feb 2014

This description is inconsistent with the official account, which states that around 35 asylum seekers escaped from Manus at 6.15pm withvideo footage of the Sunday disturbance also showing asylum seekers in what appears to be Mike compound throwing missiles at guards.

On Monday, service personnel were moved from the detention centre earlier in the day as “things were tense from the previous night”, the contractor told Guardian Australia.

From the Bibby Hotel, however, they could hear chants of “Fuck PNG” from asylum seekers inside. They say that a radio in the hotel sent a message that the fence in Mike compound had been breached at around 5.30pm and detainees were moving between Foxtrot and Mike compound They also say that locals had gathered around the perimeter at around this time.

Again, how the fence was breached, and who breached it remains unclear. Morrison says there are conflicting reports about who entered the compound on Monday night and confirmed that shots were fired twice in the evening.

On two occasions it is known that the PNG mobile squad, a special police unit funded by the Australian government, has attempted entry to the Manus camp. In May 2013 PNG police demanded payment from immigration officials at the camp, and in October 2013 a violent clash between PNG police and PNG army occurred outside the camp, with shots reportedly being fired.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/18/voices-from-manus-we-are-in-danger-somebody-please-help-us

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Manus Island unrest: one dead, 77 injured and person shot in buttock

February 18, 2014

Australian immigration minister confirms 77 people were treated for injuries and one person died of a head injury.

One person has been killed and 77 injured, one by a gunshot, in unrest at Australia’s asylum seeker detention centre on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, immigration minister Scott Morrison has confirmed.

The person died of a head injury on the way to Lorengau hospital in PNG. The gunshot victim, who was wounded in the buttock, and another person who suffered a critical head injury, were being taken to Australia.

At a press conference in Darwin the minister said 77 people had been treated for injuries. Thirteen suffered serious injuries, including the gunshot wound and the critical basal skull fracture, that resulted in the evacuations to Australia. Twenty two people suffered minor injuries.

One air ambulance was on its way to the island and another was being arranged to leave on Tuesday afternoon to help treat the remaining injured.

There have been escalating protests at the centre for several days; asylum seekers breached fences, internal and external, on Sunday and Monday nights, Morrison said.

Some refugee representatives and people within the facility have said that detainees did not start the disturbances but have been under attack by PNG police and locals from outside the centre.

Morrison described Monday’s incident as “more serious” than the one on Sunday, during which 35 detainees escaped before being recaptured.

“The news of a death is a great tragedy and our sympathies are extended to the transferee’s – that person’s – family and friends who would have been in the facility as well,” he said.

“This is a tragedy, but this was a very dangerous situation where people decided to protest in a very violent way and to take themselves outside the centre and to place themselves at great risk.”

Morrison said protesting asylum seekers broke through fences just after 11pm on Monday, but “at 3am this morning order was completely restored to the centres”, although it still was not certain that all detainees had been returned.

“At all times the G4S staff who were involved were involved in maintaining order within the centre itself,” he said.

A statement from G4S released shortly after Morrison’s press conference said the breach of the perimeter fence followed two days of demonstrations by detainees.

“A number of transferees were injured after they breached the perimeter fence and the matter became a law enforcement issue for PNG authorities,” it said.

There was a report of gunfire about 1am local time, Morrison said.

Refugee advocates and people inside the facility contradicted Morrison’s statements that asylum seekers had caused the disturbance and broken out of the centre. They said PNG police and locals entered the compounds with weapons and attacked detainees.

“As far as we know no detainees breached the perimeter unless it was in the context of fleeing the detention centre,” Ian Rintoul, spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, told Guardian Australia.

He said the fences were breached by locals and PNG police who carried out “systematic and brutal” attacks on asylum seekers.

“[The PNG police] have been inside the compound routinely over the last few weeks dealing with protests,” Rintoul said.

He said people on the island had said the groups had come through the outer perimeter fence “and systematically attacked, compound by compound”.

“People fled out of the compound.”

Sources inside the detention facility have given Guardian Australia a similar account of the first disturbance on Sunday night.

One source said Manus Island police and locals entered the compound and attacked asylum seekers with machetes and bats. “About 15 persons were wounded – cut in neck, cut in shoulder, cut in thigh, back damage, head cut, and [they] had been taken to IHMS,” said the source.

The source also alleged that when attackers could not get inside one compound they began throwing rocks instead.

Another said no detainees had attacked Australian staff and that among the injuries at least two people were stabbed.

“Local people attacked us and started throwing stones at us,” he told Guardian Australia. “We are not safe here at all,” he said.

Morrison said his information was that there were no PNG police inside the centre, and said the gunshot occurred outside the perimeter. Investigations into the shooting would be under the jurisdiction of the PNG authorities, he said.

“If you behave in an unruly and disorderly way then you subject yourself to the response of law enforcement,” he said.

“This has been a rolling series of protests orchestrated by people within the centre,” he said. “This has been of no surprise to us.”

He added that the government had been taking steps in recent weeks to step up security at the centre.

The Papua New Guinea prime minister, Peter O’Neill, sent a delegation headed by chief immigration officer Mataio Raburato to Manus Island to investigate a breakout, AAP reported.

Amnesty International called for an immediate independent investigation into the incident, and laid blame for the death at the feet of the offshore processing policy of Australia and Papua New Guinea.

“The safety and protection of asylum seekers is the joint responsibility of both Australia and Papua New Guinea under a formal agreement between the two governments,” said its spokesman, Graham Thom.

“Both must ensure that government officials and private contractors exercise caution and use force only as a last resort when dealing with asylum seekers, many who have experienced trauma and torture.”

Amnesty called for an immediate end to offshore processing.

“Until this happens, both the Australian and PNG governments need to progress resettlement plans and provide asylum seekers held at Manus Island with some certainty about their futures,” said Thom.

In Canberra, the deputy opposition leader, Tanya Plibersek, said Australians needed to hear details of the incident.

“We’ve got Australians working on Manus Island, and of course we’re concerned about any asylum seekers or locals who might have been injured or in any way in danger,” she told ABC radio.

Manus Island: ‘agitated’ asylum seekers escape from detention centre

Yesterday, 8:51am

The incident follows a similar one on Sunday after protests by asylum seekers, “agitated” by a meeting with immigration officials about their futures in PNG, began protesting and damaged parts of the facility.

Asylum seeker advocates said the protest was the culmination of daily protests against long delays and little information about the processing of their refugee claims.

Morrison confirmed 35 people had escaped but said they were caught and returned to the centre. The incident left 19 asylum seekers injured and eight on criminal charges after fences inside and outside the centre were breached.

“The department understands that during the meeting on February 16 the transferees were advised by the PNG ICSA [Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority] that those found to be refugees would be offered settlement in PNG,” Morrison said on Monday.

He also confirmed a third-country option would not be offered to asylum seekers and they would not be offered any assistance by either PNG or Australia in seeking settlement in a third country.

However, Morrison conceded it was still undecided whether people would live on Manus Island or somewhere else, once given refugee status. “All of those issues are still being worked through with the PNG government,” he said.

Processing of claims is believed to have started, but no claims have been finalised yet.

“The issue of resettlement is a further challenge. That’s why we’ve been moving so quickly to establish that accommodation on Manus that provides a place for people to be accommodated post-assessment if they are found to be refugees,” Morrison said.

The accommodation was not restricted to temporary or short-term housing, he said, adding that people being resettled there was a possibility, “but those details haven’t been confirmed”.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/18/manus-island-unrest-one-dead-dozens-injured-and-man-shot-in-buttock

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Manus Island: Local doctor reports ‘mass breakout’ of asylum seekers from detention centre

February 16, 2014

Refugee advocates and a doctor on Manus Island say asylum seekers have escaped from the Papua New Guinea detention centre.

Health workers at the Manus Island detention centre told a local doctor there has been a “mass breakout”.

They told the doctor to prepare for casualties, but Dr Otto Numan says no injured asylum seekers or guards have been brought to the hospital.

The Australian-based Refugee Action Coalition put out a statement on Sunday night saying protests at the centre had escalated earlier that day and a perimeter fence had been breached.

It is not clear how many asylum seekers have escaped.

Australia’s Immigration Department has confirmed there has been a “disturbance” at the centre and referred further questions to Minister Scott Morrison.

There are currently around 1,300 detainees on Manus Island. PNG’s foreign minister Rimbink Pato says officials have started processing refugee applications.

But the country does not have a visa category for refugees and there has been little public information about how, and where, they might be resettled.

Mr Pato told PNG’s parliament last week that he would seek the help of the Australian Government and the United Nations in deciding whether to resettle refugees within the country.

He said the option of resettling refugees in a third country would also be explored.

“So what the cabinet has decided recently is to appoint a group of eminent Papua New Guineans who will be assisted by relevant expertise from the UN, from the Australian Government, and other responsible stakeholders, to come up with relevant policy framework determining the question whether those asylum seekers will or will not be settled in PNG,” he said.

The Manus Island detention centre was first set up by the Howard government in 2001.

It was closed by the Labor government in 2008 but reopened by them in November 2012.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-16/mass-breakout-reported-from-manus-island-detention-centre/5263324

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Indonesia to raise Australian asylum seeker policy with United States

February 15, 2014

Marty Natalegawa and Julie Bishop

Marty Natalegawa and Julie Bishop

Indonesia says it will raise the Abbott Government’s asylum seeker policy with the United States during official talks next week.

Jakarta has stepped up its protest to the Coalition’s boat turn-back policy, calling in the Australian ambassador in Jakarta for a meeting with a senior official.

Indonesia’s foreign affairs minister Marty Natalegawa says a strong protest message was given to Australian ambassador Greg Moriarty over the use of lifeboats to send asylum seekers back.

Dr Natalegawa says Australia was already violating its international commitments, but the use of lifeboats to send people back is an escalation.

“What Australia has been doing is a bigger development than before,” he said.

“In the past when they have turned back the boats, or pulled the refugee boats back to Indonesia, that alone is a violation against their international commitment under the Refugee Convention.

“But this time it has escalated.”

 

Dr Natalegawa told reporters Indonesia does what it can to stop boats leaving the country and that Australia’s actions are “against the values of humanity”.

He says he will inform US secretary of state John Kerry – who will visit Jakarta next week – about Australia’s actions and let officials draw their own conclusions.

“There is no need to ask; we only need to inform it, and let America draw its own conclusion,” he said.

Dr Natalegawa says he will discuss Australia’s policy with other countries as well.

Read More: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-14/australias-ambassador-in-jakarta-summoned-by-indonesian-governm/5261466

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For Hazara, a Grim Choice of Asylum or Death

February 13, 2014

INDONESIA-AUSTRALIA-REFUGEE-IMMIGRATION

Australia’s hard-line policy on asylum seekers including bundling them into lifeboats and sending them back to Indonesia. (AFP Photo/Timur Matahari)

When Malcolm Fraser, a former Australian prime minister, criticized the country’s hard-line policies for turning genuine asylum seekers into a political punching bag, he may well have had the plight of groups like the Hazara of Afghanistan and Pakistan in mind.

Groups like this, say critics of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s pledge to “turn back the boats,” have been left dehumanized, with little attention paid to why they are desperate enough to risk their lives to reach Australian shores.

Hazaras, like asylum seeker Hamzad, not his real name, face extermination in Pakistan, their distinguishable Asiatic features allowing terrorists to pick them out for murderous attacks.

Over the last 200 years, the Hazara have fled persecution in Afghanistan to find refuge in the border town of Quetta in Pakistan, where many have established families and businesses. Since 2001 the Hazara community there has been threatened as violence against them has amplified.

Sunni terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) specifically attack Hazaras as their ethnicity points to their “heretic” Shiite religious beliefs. They are a people LeJ wants eradicated from Pakistan.

Bomb attacks against them are planned to cause maximum destruction. In one of the bloodiest attacks in Quetta on Jan. 10 last year, a suicide bomber walked into a packed billiard hall and blew himself up.

An ambulance arrived shortly after and was ushered to the site — only to be detonated as a secondary bomb.

Children have been no exception in the attacks. A February 2013 bombing ripped through a vegetable market where mothers and children were shopping for groceries. On Sept. 20, 2011, armed men boarded a bus traveling from Quetta to Iran. Twenty-six Hazara men were identified, taken off the bus, lined up and murdered.

Just three weeks earlier, 26 people, including women and children, were killed in a bus attack while on a pilgrimage. An ambulance carrying the injured was later attacked, killing three more people. LeJ claimed responsibility.

Hamzad says that for the Hazara, the future is dire. He does not believe Hazaras can find a home in Afghanistan or Pakistan if the situation persists. He believes the Hazara are becoming a landless people, without security, without hope.

Human rights researcher and Hazara spokesman Ahmad Shuja says the rise in the number of Hazara asylum seekers trying to make it to Australia is a direct result of the violence, and that changes in Australia’s immigration policy ignore the root causes of why people are seeking asylum.

“This is evident when we see that despite the toughening of asylum laws, the number of refugees has continued to increase. This is because the violence they are fleeing has intensified,” he says. “The recent amendments to Australia’s refugee law and the associated media campaign to dissuade Hazaras from coming to Australia seem to disregard the targeted violence and terrorism these refugees are fleeing. These laws are a destination-side solution to a problem that is really about the point of origin.”

Some have labeled the violence as yet another battle between Sunni and Shiite, but Shuja says this is a misconception.

“The violence in Quetta is often branded as Shiite-Sunni violence. It is not. The Shiites are not retaliating, and the broader Sunni community is not involved in the attacks against the Shiites,” he says. “The attacks are carried out by a highly sophisticated Sunni terrorist group that does effective intelligence gathering about targets and then stages complex, highly effective attacks. Their stated target is the Shiite across Pakistan, with specific emphasis on targeting the Hazara community in Quetta with the ultimate aim of ‘ridding Pakistan of their unclean presence.’”

LeJ attacks Shiites across Pakistan, but has said it wants to cause a mass displacement of Hazaras or their complete extermination.

“To that end, thousands of Hazaras have been killed, injured or maimed for life. The LeJ’s motives appear to be genocidal, regardless of whether the carnage they have inflicted so far can be technically called genocide,” Shuja says.

Despite being persecuted, Hamzad says the Hazara remain committed to peace, not retaliating with violence.

“We are not using guns because we want peace, that is why we are leaving,” he says. “We can also take guns and stand against them, but we see all humans as brothers and sisters. If they are angry, we have to be patient.”

Fighting and killing will only sustain the cycle of violence, he says.

“We don’t want killing, we don’t want anything, we just want peace. We want to live peacefully and leave others to live peacefully,” he says.

Shuja says the attacks are carried out to “paralyze daily life” for the Hazara community.

“In short, daily life is not safe for the Hazaras. Victims have been children as young as 2 and men and women as old as 70,” he says. “Nobody can go to school, work or place of worship without a genuine fear of being killed. Children cannot get an education, the poor cannot earn a living, and commodity prices have gone up.

“It is a small community of about 500,000 people. Everyone knows or is connected to someone who has been killed or injured. This carnage has been going on for more than a decade, and the [Pakistani] government has utterly failed to bring to justice anyone from the terrorist group.

“The physical, economic and psychological toll is devastating and cross-generational when you live under constant fear of violent death from relentless, unending attacks on your community.”

After two devastating attacks at the start of 2013, Pakistani forces tightened security across Quetta, but Shuja says tougher security and better intelligence is needed to fight LeJ, which runs training camps around Quetta and communicates on the public cellular networks.

Often attacks happen inside of police checkpoints, but perpetrators escape justice, leading to allegations that members of Pakistan’s security forces may be complicit in the attacks, Shuja says.

Amnesty International has also openly criticized the Pakistani government for not protecting the Hazara community and for not prosecuting those responsible.

Shuja says LeJ has political connections and is closely linked to the Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) political party, a reincarnation of the banned Sunni sectarian terrorist group Sipah-e-Sahaba.

“The ASWJ leadership consists of influential Sunni religious leaders, some of whom have been implicated in courts in connection with deadly attacks on Shias and inciting violence against them,” Shuja says.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party was in an electoral alliance with ASWJ.

“The coziness of the ruling elite with the party that gives political cover to the terrorist LeJ does not bode well for efforts to stem the murderous tide against the Hazara-Shias in Quetta,” Shuja says.

Both he and Hamzad also criticized the international community for failing to help the Hazara nation.

“The international community can do a lot to stand behind the Hazaras’ right to life, religious liberty, work and education,” Shuja says. “Despite a decade of relentless deadly attacks against them, and the Pakistani government’s lack of genuine will to stop the bloodbath, the international community has shown little to no concern. On the contrary, countries such as Australia have toughened their immigration laws as the bloodbath has intensified. European countries such as Norway and the UK are forcibly deporting asylum seekers.”

He says the international community should at the very least ensure that asylum and immigration laws protect rather than disadvantage those fleeing violence in Quetta, bring attention to the persecution on the international rights agenda, and put pressure on the Pakistani government to come down hard on LeJ.

“The Hazaras of Quetta deserve protection, not abandonment to targeted violence,” Shuja says.

Returning to Afghanistan is difficult, with ethnic tensions there leading to the violence and displacement of Hazaras. Insecurity is rife in the country, which has impacted on Hazaras, often leaving them stranded in their villages because of unsafe roads in the provinces.

The Hazara are targeted at insurgents’ arbitrary checkpoints for supporting the government and working with foreign militaries and organizations.

“The Hazaras support the government and work as interpreters for foreign troops and help international aid organizations, so they are in the crosshairs,” Shuja says.

Figures for the size of the Hazara community vary between three million and eight million worldwide, mostly concentrated in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, with sizable diaspora communities in North America, the Scandinavian countries and Australia.

It is difficult to count how many Hazaras have been killed in violence plaguing Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last three decades.

Shuja said it could be in the tens of thousands, maybe more, in Afghanistan; while in Quetta, the casualties range in the several thousands, although accurate public records are not available.

Source: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/international/for-hazaras-a-grim-choice-of-asylum-or-death/

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