Monthly Archives: October 2014

Activists attempt to prevent Hazara man deportation at Perth airport

October 30, 2014 | ABC News

Refugee activist Sally Thompson

Refugee activist Sally Thompson

Activists have been campaigning at Perth International Airport to try to prevent a man from the minority Hazara community in Afghanistan being deported.

The Refugee Rights Action Network said the 20-year-old man, who has been held at a detention centre in Northam for two years, has been moved to a facility near the airport.

The network said the refugee tribunal found the man to be in genuine danger of persecution if he returned to Afghanistan, but had still been ordered to leave Australia.

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection would not confirm if the man was being deported but released a statement .

It said: “People who have exhausted all outstanding avenues to remain in Australia and have no lawful basis to remain are expected to depart”.

Activist Sally Thompson said the tribunal found the man would be in danger if he returned to his home district but not if he was sent to Kabul.

“The last Hazara who was sent back was tortured in September,” she said.

“He was sent back by the Australian Government in August.

“He’s from the same area in Afghanistan and within a month of his arrival back there he was captured by the Taliban and tortured.”

Activists and about 40 members of Perth’s Hazara community confronted passengers at the airport and handed out about 600 leaflets in an attempt to prevent the man being deported.

Ms Thompson said they hoped to raise awareness of his plight.

“A hopefulness that someone on the plane may actually take action in a passive way by keeping their seatbelt undone and explaining why or standing up on the plane and saying why,” she said.

“Under law that means the plane can’t take off.”

The statement from the immigration Minister said: “People who do not hold a valid visa and are unwilling to voluntarily depart may be subject to detention and removal from Australia.

“Australia does not return people to their country of origin where this would contravene our obligations under international human rights instruments that Australia is party to, including the Refugee Convention.”



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We will f*****g kill you: Beaten Nauru refugees fear for their lives

October 29, 2014 | SBS

Child refugees on Nauru say they fear for their lives after claiming to have been beaten and threatened with death in recent days.
Child refugees on Nauru have told SBS they fear for their lives after claiming to have been beaten and threatened with death in recent days.

A 16-year-old boy said he was attacked by a group of five Nauruan locals on motorbikes.

He said he was knocked unconscious and needed overnight hospitalisation, while others have also been attacked, suffering head, nose and eye injuries.

“One of them coming down and told me ‘do you have lighter for cigarettes?'” he said.

“I told him ‘no brother, I don’t have lighter, I don’t smoking’, and he say ‘why you don’t have lighter f*****g refugee?’

“And then he started to punch me and kick me, and then another guy coming down four or five of them, they come and punch me very hard… I didn’t do anything, I just fall down and all of them kick me and punch me.”

The 16-year-old said refugees are now living in fear for their lives.

“What if Nauruans come to put matches to my house?” he said.

“What I can do? I come here for safety, I come here for respect, I’m coming out of fear because no one can save me there (his home country) and now I am here (Nauru) no one can save me, so where I can go?”

The boy said there are 29 unaccompanied minors who have been placed in three houses in the community. He said they’ve received deaths threats from locals.

“Because the house in the jungle, we don’t have any address also, and then Nauruan people are … going there and telling them ‘don’t come outside – if you come outside we kill you. We will kill all of you’,” he said.

“And they warning me three times now, Nauruan people warning me three times, they tell me ‘we will f*****g kill you’.”

A 17-year-old boy who is on Nauru with family claimed refugee children have been threatened with violence while at school.

He said although some schools received visits from welfare organisation Save The Children, his school doesn’t and that parents are talking about withdrawing their children from education for their safety.

Although the children are now living in Nauru under that country’s laws, refugee advocate Dianne Hiles from ChilOut argued the Immigration Minister must bear responsibility for their welfare.

“I’m sure they’re going to say it’s nothing to do with them, they weren’t there,” she said.

“But obviously the buck should stop with them, because they’re the ones financing the whole situation and setting it up and it’s their harebrained idea that Nauru is able to handle an influx of people – it can hardly educate or look after the health of its own population and yet it’s expected to take care of Australia’s responsibilities.”

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has not responded to SBS’s request for information, however he has been reported elsewhere saying that “any attack on a person settled on Nauru was a matter for Nauru.”

Welfare agency Save The Children has been contracted to provide support services for the children, but are not their guardians or protectors.

A Save the Children spokesperson said the organisation is appalled by any instance of assault on refugee children in Nauru, who deserve every protection that can be offered.

They said Save the Children is working “flat out” to provide the best possible support to the children in their care, however, they maintain that Nauru is not a sustainable solution for refugee children, particularly those without family present.


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Teenage refugees resettled on Nauru allegedly assaulted by locals

October 28, 2014 | ABC News

Photo of the beaten teenage Refugee

Photo of the beaten teenage Refugee

A 16-year-old Afghan boy on Nauru says four locals beat him so badly he ended up in hospital over the weekend.

The boy sought asylum in Australia before being sent to the detention camp on Nauru.

He said he was recognised as a genuine refugee and has been living in the local community as an unaccompanied minor for the past month.

The teenager said he went for a swim with three other boys on Sunday and they were walking back home when they were attacked.

He said four local men turned up on motorbikes and started swearing at the boys before hitting them.

“They slapped me and kicked me and did the same thing to the rest of the boys and when we run away they threaten us to kill,” he said.

He said the attack was so violent the boys’ shirts were torn.

They tried to hide behind a rock but the boy said he blacked out before waking up in hospital.

“I do not know what happened to me. I blacked out and … I found myself in hospital,” he said.

The 16-year-old said there were 29 unaccompanied minors on Nauru who had been given refugee status and were living in the community.

He said he was not the only unaccompanied teenager who was beaten by locals at the weekend.

Another refugee teenager in alleged attack

The boy alleged another teenage boy, also a former asylum seeker, ended up in hospital after being beaten up at his house by five locals.

He said the other teenager was standing outside his house when a local asked the boy if he had a lighter.

The boy answered “no”, and the teenager said that was when the locals started to beat the former asylum seeker.

I was very scared and we left our country because it was hard and now we are living in a country where the local people are hurting us and threatening the kill us.

16-year-old Afghan boy

“Five people started hitting the 16-year-old boy and then he was beaten and he came to the same hospital beside me,” he said.

The teenager said a local had visited him and told him the locals would just hit the boys but they would not kill them.

But the boy is not convinced – he is frightened that someone is going to kill one of the unaccompanied minors.

“Please do something. We are about to lose. Some of us, we have been targeted. We are pretty sure the next one will die,” he said.

The boys have sent the ABC photos of themselves in hospital beds, and other photos of them in ripped clothes with red marks on their bodies.

The 16-year-old said the boys were feeling so unsafe on Nauru they had stopped going to school.

“I was very scared and we left our country because it was hard and now we are living in a country where the local people are hurting us and threatening to kill us,” he said.

Incident wholly a matter for Nauru: Morrison

In a statement to the ABC, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said any attack on a person settled on Nauru was a matter for Nauru.

“People found to be refugees and settled on Nauru are no longer accommodated at the offshore processing centre,” he said.

“This incident is wholly a matter for Nauru.”

But the director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, David Manne, disagreed.

He said Australia had a legal and moral obligation to protect refugees.

“I don’t want to speculate on precisely what has occurred, but these are very serious and disturbing allegations and they must be fully and properly investigated by independent bodies and authorities,” he said.

“If any offences have been committed, those responsible must be brought to justice. They must face the full force of the law.

“But if people who seek protection here in Australia are subject to these sorts of conditions in another country, Australia retains fundamental legal and moral responsibility for the welfare and the fate of refugees who sought out protection and were sent, against their will, to Nauru.”

In a statement, the Nauru government said it could confirm what it described as “a general police incident” on the island at the weekend:

We can confirm there was a general police incident on the island over the weekend, and it was handled as per usual police procedures.

Sadly, incidents of crime occur on Nauru sometimes, just as they do in Australia, and our police force works hard to ensure perpetrators are prosecuted.

We can confirm that all refugees who live within the Nauruan community are safe, and we continue to work with refugees to assist them to assimilate and to find employment.

It should be noted that refugees have the freedom to travel anywhere on the island and that Nauru is a safe environment for them.


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Teen Asylum Seekers Fear For Their Lives After Weekend Violence On Nauru

October 28, 2014 | new matilda

As asylum seekers are released into the community on Nauru, tensions have begun spilling over, with four boys hospitalised over the weekend. Max Chalmers reports.

Unaccompanied minors released from detention centres on Nauru and living among the community are today fearing for their lives after a series of violent attacks over the weekend which saw at least four young teens hospitalised, as tensions between islanders and asylum seekers escalate.

New Matilda has learned four underage asylum seekers were hospitalised on Sunday night after being attacked while returning to their accommodation from a day at the beach.

Asylum seekers involved in the incident, aged between 15 and 17, told New Matilda a group of Naruan men pulled up to them on two motorbikes as they made the two hour walk back to their housing.

The men are believed to have been intoxicated and began ridiculing the boys.

“They were swearing; fuck Afghanistan, fuck your religion, fuck refugees,” one of the boys told New Matilda.

According to the boys involved, the men stole and destroyed several phones, before attacking them.

“They punch me, they slap me – I was wearing a singlet, they broke my singlet,” one boy said.

“They gave us warning say ‘we will kill you’, and that time I felt very scared, no one can help us, and I don’t have a phone.”

“Everywhere was dark, they were big, big men.”

Multiple death threats were made.

A young unaccompanied minor on Nauru was one of four boys assaulted by Naruan men and hospitalised over the weekend.

A young unaccompanied minor on Nauru was one of four boys assaulted by Naruan men and hospitalised over the weekend.

“They [said] that Save the Children [an NGO working on Nauru] and Immigration are not able to protect you from us. This is our country and we can do what we want,” another boy interviewed by New Matilda said.

The violence forced two of the boys to flee to the beach, while the remaining two escaped to a separate location.

New Matilda understands the boys were eventually able to contact Save the Children employees. They were located by staffers, before being contacted by Australian Immigration officials and local police, and then taken to hospital.

One boy’s injuries were serious enough to result in an overnight stay.

Before being found, the boys hid behind a large rock on the beach.

“Same as Afghanistan, it’s not safe here. I was very scared,” one said.

“We came from Afghanistan for peace, not for fighting, not for beating.”

Dianne Hiles, Chair of asylum seeker advocacy group ChilOut, criticised Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison for sending children to Nauru.

“We’ve had concerns all along about the conditions in which people are being held on Nauru,” Ms Hiles said.

“The whole ethical responsibility for the state and wellbeing of these young people rests with our government. They’re financing the situation; they’ve set it up.

“Whatever the reason for the attack, these boys have been injured and there has been a huge failure in protecting them. Whoever the guardian is has not been able to keep these boys safe.”

Morrison is the legal guardian of all unaccompanied minors in Australian immigration detention, but abrogates that duty once children are moved to Nauru, as is standard practice under Australia’s current policy of offshore detention and processing.

New Matilda understands it has now been exactly one month since all unaccompanied minors held in detention on Nauru, numbering just under 30, were released from closed detention into the community.

They are being housed in three separate areas spread across the island.

One of the unaccompanied minors assaulted recently on Nauru.

One of the unaccompanied minors assaulted recently on Nauru.

Initially overjoyed to be free after a lengthy period of detention on Christmas Island and then Nauru, the group’s morale has collapsed after realising the inadequacies of settlement on the tiny island nation.

The unaccompanied minors have been provided with a small allowance on which to live each week, but say it is inadequate.

Travel around the island is hampered by a lack of buses. Water shortages are frequent, forcing minors to replenish toilets with seawater.

Their release has also increased tensions with locals and asylum seekers are reporting frequent abuse and threats, including during shopping visits and travel around the island.

“The young people, the old people, when they are driving and we are walking they are showing the middle finger to us,” one asylum seeker said.

“We need to escape and ignore… it’s very, very painful. Someone is doing something very bad and you’re not able to do anything.”

A group of locals has been established to assist the asylum seekers settle, and provide a point of contact.

Tensions inside the detention centre have also been high in recent weeks with reports of self-harm surfacing after it was announced asylum seekers on Christmas Island may be eligible for Temporary Protection Visas in Australia, while those already transferred to Nauru will not.

The new settlement deal with Cambodia has also inflamed the situation.

Like all asylum seekers settled on the island, the unaccompanied minors will eventually be moved on as Australia’s deal with Nauru only guarantees them a place on the island for five years.

There are reports of separate incidents of unprovoked violence against unaccompanied minors on the island, but New Matilda has not been able to independently verify them at this stage.

Afraid for their immediate safety, young asylums seekers say they remain very frightened, and are pessimistic about their future.

“Now we don’t know where we should go. We came from Afghanistan to save our life, now we don’t know where to go from Nauru to save our life,” one said.

The teenager made a plea to all Australians.

“Please, you can’t play with our future, you can’t play with our lives. [The Australian government] are playing now. I want to feel safe, just, I want to see my future bright, not like here.”

Hiles said the situation was an indictment on Scott Morrison.

“Young Hazara boys in particular are at huge risk in Afghanistan. Apart from being a persecuted minority, they are actively sought out and killed and they’ve usually lost family members,” she said.

“They come here, they generally qualify for protection, but we continue to choose to make life as harsh as possible for them.

“We should not be treating young boys like this.”

Save the Children provided the following statment a short time after deadline:

Save the Children is appalled by any instance of assault on refugee children in Nauru. Unaccompanied child refugees are some of the most vulnerable – far from home, family and friends, many already witness to horrors no child should go through. These children deserve every protection that can be offered.

Save the Children is working flat out to provide the best possible support to the children in our care. However, Nauru is a small and remote island nation with a small population and limited resources, and Save the Children maintains it is not a sustainable solution for refugee children, particularly those unaccompanied by any family.

New Matilda is seeking comment from Minister Morrison’s office.


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Manus Island asylum seeker writes to UN in bid to access healthcare

October 27, 2014 | the guardian

Asylum seeker says he will lose an eye injured in detention centre unrest and is being kept from specialist care.

Gillian Triggs
The president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, says delayed medical treatment is a “persistent complaint” among asylum seekers.Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

An asylum seeker who had an eye gouged and lost several teeth duringunrest at Manus Island detention centre in February has written to the United Nations in a desperate plea to receive proper medical care.

There are growing concerns from human rights experts about the lengthy delays for medical treatment asylum seekers held in offshore processing centres face, even when suffering from serious conditions.

In the letter sent on Monday, the asylum seeker described how he could no longer concentrate or sleep at night because of his pain.

The asylum seeker, who is from Iraq, wrote that after he was injured inthe protests he was taken to Port Moresby, where a consultant ophthalmologist referred him to a specialist on the Australian mainland because she did not have the equipment needed to assess him.

The specialist said his right eye was irreparable and would need to be removed. “He told me to see him again after 20 days,” the asylum seeker wrote. “Before I saw him again I was taken by force and brought back to Manus Island. Right now, I cannot attend any class, cannot sleep at all during [the] day and night and I cannot see anything with my right eye because I lost sight completely.”

The asylum seeker wrote that he wants to go back to the specialist to have his treatment completed, nearly nine months after he was first injured. He also suffers from diabetes and relies on painkillers to get by.

He described how he was injured, writing he had been in his room and was not taking part in the protests when Papua New Guinean police and officers from the security firm G4S stormed his room.

“I was taken from under my bed and was beaten severely,” he wrote.

“As a result I lost my sight because they hit [a] big wooden stick on my right eye and … on my mouth and I lost two teeth.”

Prof Gillian Triggs, president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, said delayed medical treatment was a “persistent complaint” among those held in Australia’s offshore processing centres.

“We have to be careful about these allegations until proven true, but there were many incidents we found where the facts stood up to scrutiny,” she said.

“There was one case where a baby had a huge lump under its chin and if that occurred in suburban Australia, that baby would have been rushed to hospital immediately. This baby didn’t get attention for 10 days, and only because a medical officer travelling with me made an issue out of it, as did I.”

The Australian government had an especially high duty of care to those in offshore detention, Triggs said.

“The point we make is when you put people on islands hours away from medical care, you have an even higher duty of care to them than elsewhere because you’ve put them in harm’s way, and that harm almost inevitably happens.”

Hamid Kehazaei, a detainee at Manus island detention centre who diedafter waiting weeks for medical treatment for a foot infection, was not scheduled to be seen by a doctor until three weeks after his death.

In August, Kehazaei, an Iranian, asked to see a doctor on the offshore processing centre after cutting his foot and experiencing extreme pain.

But he did not immediately get an appointment and weeks later, he was evacuated to a Brisbane hospital suffering from severe septicaemia. On 5 September he was declared brain dead and his life support was switched off.

A schedule of doctor appointments at the detention centre revealed to Guardian Australia shows Kehazaei was to be seen on September 27 at 9.45am, almost two months after first requesting an appointment.

Ben Pynt, director of Human Rights Advocacy, said denying people medical treatment amounted to torture under international humanitarian law.

“We’re seeing hundreds of people whose medical treatment has been delayed or denied,” Pynt said. “Sometimes when we alert the Department of Immigration about such cases they do take action, which suggests they don’t know what’s going on or have been unwilling to find out.” Guardian Australia has contacted the department for comment.

Pynt said asylum seekers needing urgent medical care should immediately be brought to Australia for treatment.

“There is no other option because treatment on Manus is insufficient,” he said. “Most asylum seekers are left waiting days or weeks before they can see a doctor, and on Manus 87 people are on the specialist treatment waiting list. This is just so common.” There were also 150 people on the dental waiting list at Manus, Pynt said.

In another letter sent in early October, an asylum seeker, also detained on Manus Island, wrote he had been waiting 14 months to see a dentist.

“There’s no remedy available for us,” the letter said. “Only Panadol and water. We are waiting for dentist during last year. I have toothache too. I lost [two] teeth.”

In August, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian Medical Association called for the establishment of an independent medical advisory body to audit the treatment of asylum seekers in detention.

A spokeswoman from International Health and Medical Services, contracted by the Australian government to manage healthcare on offshore processing centres, said a triage system was used to assess patients, the same as would be used for treating patients in a hospital environment.

“There is no impediment to transferees seeking immediate medical attention for any matter from the 24/7 services that are available, either via a medical request form or by an unscheduled visit,” she said.

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Calls for moratorium on deportation of asylum seekers to Afghanistan after abduction, torture claims

October 27, 2014 | ABC News

Zainullah Naseri during a police interrogation

Zainullah Naseri during a police interrogation

Refugee advocates are calling for a moratorium on the deportation of failed asylum seekers to Afghanistan as the Australian Government prepares to forcibly return a 20-year-old Hazara man to Kabul.

The first man to be returned involuntarily to Afghanistan, Zainullah Naseri, has claimed he was abducted and tortured by the Taliban when he tried to make his way to his home district outside Kabul last month.

A video of an Afghan police interrogation obtained by Lateline showed police firing shots as Mr Naseri walked towards them. The police officers told the ABC they feared he was an insurgent trying to attack their post.

Covered in dirt with a ripped shirt, Mr Naseri was led inside the police post, where he told the officer he had just escaped from the Taliban who captured him as he tried to return to his home province from the capital, Kabul.

The police later released Mr Naseri and he returned to Kabul, where he is staying in a guesthouse.

“I don’t have anything really,” he told Lateline.

“My money is almost finished and I’ll have no other choice but to sleep outside under the bridge.”

Man could suffer persecution from Taliban

The 20-year-old man who is due to be deported tomorrow arrived in Australia in May 2012 and claims to be from the same district as Mr Naseri.

In April 2013 the Refugee Review Tribunal found there was a real chance the applicant could suffer persecution at the hands of the Taliban if he return to his home district, but not if he stayed in Kabul, where he has an uncle.

The tribunal rejected the man’s claim that before fleeing to Australia he was working as a truck driver and was attacked several times by the Taliban.

The ABC has seen a copy of the deportation letter, which stated that the man will be returned to Kabul on October 28.

The letter stated the man must pay $25,000 to the Australian Government to cover the cost of his deportation.

Refugee groups have said eight other Hazara men have been re-detained in Australia and could soon be deported.

“If we are really interested in the sanctity and protection of human lives, then we shouldn’t be taking a risk with these peoples lives,” Phil Glendenning from the Refugee Council of Australia said.

“There needs to be a moratorium on these deportations.”

‘Any kidnapping was opportunistic’

In Kabul, Mr Naseri told Lateline he was on medication to treat depression and was too scared to make another attempt to reach his home district.

He said he believed his life was in more danger now than ever before.

“The Taliban took all my documents,” he said.

“They may even print my photos and place them everywhere and they might try to capture me again. Even in Kabul I feel paranoid when others see me, including the police.”

Mr Naseri said he was called to the Australian Embassy in Kabul several weeks ago to give a statement about his abduction claim.

In a written statement to the ABC, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison said his enquiries into Mr Naseri’s claims were ongoing.

Mr Morrison said at this stage reports suggested “that any kidnapping was opportunistic and is not therefore related to a fear of persecution that would have otherwise given rise to a protection obligation”.

The statement said Australia does not return people to their country of origin where “this would contravene our obligations under international human rights instruments that Australia is party to, including the Refugee Convention”.


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Alleged rape on Nauru: Greens accuse Federal Government for trying to cover-up asylum seeker claim

October 26, 2014 | ABC News

The Federal Government has been accused of trying to cover-up the alleged rape of an asylum seeker on Nauru.

The ABC understands an Iranian woman was allegedly raped several months ago by a fellow detainee and is now pregnant.

It was also understood she complained to officials with the Immigration Department, who referred the matter to local police.

The ABC has been told they responded by telling the woman it would be a year before they could investigate her allegation.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the Department of Immigration and Border Protection had already referred these allegations to the Moss Review.

The Greens’ immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young wanted the matter handed over to Australian Federal Police (AFP).

She has also accused Mr Morrison of a cover-up after he failed to respond to requests for more information.

A woman alleged she’s been raped and now she can’t even get the appropriate investigation that she would if she was living freely in the Australian community.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

“What it really highlights is just how toxic the environment is inside the Nauru detention centre,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“It’s been described to me numerous times and I saw it for my own eyes that there is a total sense of lawlessness.

“What we’d consider to be normal in terms of process, in terms of how people behave and treat each other… all of that is eroded because of the way the centre is run and the culture of desperation that has developed.”

Senator Hanson-Young said she wrote to the Minister over the issue but had yet to hear back.

“A woman alleged she’s been raped and now she can’t even get the appropriate investigation that she would if she was living freely in the Australian community,” she said.

Mr Morrison said the findings of the Moss Review would be made available to law enforcement and investigative authorities.

“Any allegations of criminal behaviour are referred to the Nauruan Police,” he said.

“If the government of Nauru seeks assistance the [Australian] Government would be happy to provide it.”

The ABC has also been told a counsellor who offered to help the woman was ordered off Nauru.

‘There’s no proper judicial arrangements on Nauru’

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said nothing has happened with similar cases referred to local police.

“They know when it goes to the Nauruan police it effectively just disappears,” he said.

“There is no proper judicial arrangements on Nauru, there’s no way for these complaints actually to be followed up.

“There’s no indication that they’re even recorded for follow up and we’ve found that in previous instances where there’ve been similar kinds of allegations of sexual abuse on Nauru.”

Mr Rintoul said Mr Morrison needed to bring the woman to Australia for medical treatment and counselling.

“The Minister has shown contempt really for the welfare of women and children on the island by the way in which he’s pointed the finger at Save the Children, the very people he’s contracted to provide the kind of support and services women and children need.

“The Minister’s been more concerned to distract attention.”


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