Monthly Archives: January 2015

Australia confirms 15 boats carrying 429 asylum seekers have been turned back

January 28, 2015 | the guardian

Immigration minister announces Operation Sovereign Border figures as commander says some turnbacks were done without Indonesian cooperation.

An orange disposable lifeboat that washed up on central Java's Karangjambe beach in February. The lifeboat is part of the federal government's boat turnback policy.

An orange disposable lifeboat that washed up on central Java’s Karangjambe beach last February. The lifeboat is part of the federal government’s boat turnback policy. Photograph: El Darmawan/AAP

A total of 15 boats containing 429 asylum seekers have been turned back since the Australian government enacted its Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) policy, the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has said.

Some turnbacks to Indonesia were undertaken without the support of local authorities.

“We work with Indonesia as closely as we can, and in some circumstances, we see activities which we work with [the support of Indonesian authorities],” the operation’s commander, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell told reporters on Wednesday. “In other cases we undertake turnback operations without.”

Campbell said the boats were returned only to Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

“There are turnbacks, there are also those activities where we work with another country to return those in what you could describe as a take back. And there are some circumstances where we might assist persons in a safety of life at sea circumstance,” Campbell said.

“Only one vessel has arrived in Australia in 2014, and all of those aboard that vessel were transferred to Nauru,” Campbell said. “There were no known deaths as a result of our OSB activities in 2014.”

Dutton said the Coalition had succeeded in its election promise of stopping the boats.

“OSB and our turnback policy has restored the integrity of our borders,” Dutton said.

Then immigration minister Scott Morrison introduced the OSB policy in December 2013.

Dutton’s acknowledgement of the turnbacks is a move away from his predecessor’s policy not to discuss so-called “on the water matters”.

He refuted claims that Australia was sending asylum seekers back home to potential harm, saying Australia was still bound by international law principles.

Dutton said there were still seven children in mainland immigration detention awaiting security clearances before they could be released into the community.

Six adult refugees have been moved from the Manus Island detention centre to the refugee transit centre in nearby Lorengau, where they will be housed temporarily before being moved to another part of Papua New Guinea.

But the PNG prime minister, Peter O’Neill, has told the ABC that he believes the majority of the more than 1,000 asylum seekers in the Manus detention centre are not genuine refugees but economic opportunists who do not have legitimate claims for protection.

“I think many of them are just out there trying to have economic opportunities that Australia and other countries offer to them and that is why they’re seeking refugee status,” O’Neill said.

“I think it will be in the very small numbers [found to be legitimate refugees]. Most of the other people who are in the processing centre: we’re now talking to their governments and we will start repatriating many of them in a very short time.”

He said his government would quickly return people found not to be refugees to their countries of origin.

“We are now trying to work with some of their governments where they come from, like Iraq and Iran … we are trying to determine this as quickly as possible

Iran does not accept involuntary returns of its citizens, and Iraq, historically, has also refused to accept citizens repatriated against their will.

The United Nations has previously raised concerns about PNG’s refugee assessments, arguing there are “shortcomings in the legal framework”, no rights for review, and concerns about the efficiency and fairness of the process.

Under international law – codified in the refugees convention, to which Australia and PNG are parties – a refugee cannot be returned to “territories where his/her life or freedom would be threatened”.

And Australia retains an international legal responsibility for people moved to offshore detention centres.

If PNG were to return a person forcibly who was later found to be a refugee with a genuine fear of persecution to a place where they faced harm, Australia would be in breach of its international obligations, under “chain refoulement”, where refugees are sent to a safe third country which ultimately returns them to persecution.

In September 2014, the incoming United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, said that Australia’s asylum policies were ‘‘leading to a chain of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and possible torture following return to home countries’’.



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The real winners of Greece’s elections: refugees?

January 28, 2015 | IRIN

ATHENS, 26 January 2015 (IRIN) – Beyond all the talk of debt, austerity and welfare payments lies a less-hyped but far-reaching consequence of Greece’s election bombshell: a dramatically more welcoming policy to migrants and asylum seekers.

The left-wing Syriza party, which trounced the anti-immigration New Democracy party in yesterday’s elections and holds 149 seats in the 300-seat parliament, has pledged to open Greece’s borders and increase support for migrants already inside the country.

“Syriza takes a strong stand against the demonizing of immigrants and undemocratic measures like concentration camps and border walls,” the party’s head of migration policy, Vasiliki Katrivanou, said after the vote.

“We will take steps to improve so called “ghetto areas” in benefit of everyone living there: Greeks and immigrants,” she added. “We consider our win at the polls a victory for all Greeks and all migrants.”

Matthaios Tsimitakis, a Greek journalist and political analyst, said he expected a major shift in government policy.

“The previous government was based on the right-wing ideology that dominated politics…Syriza is moving in a different direction. Immigrants are not a threat to national security; they are victims of international wars. They need integration to become productive members of society and not a burden.”

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are currently nearly44,000 asylum-seekers in Greece, in addition to 3,500 recognized refugees. According to the Greek Council of Refugees, the total number of Syrians entering Greece surpassed 30,000 in 2014.

The influx is growing rapidly: UNHCR said 43,500 people were apprehended by Greek authorities at the Greek-Turkish borders in 2014, a 300 percent increase compared to the previous year.

The country had a 19 percent acceptance rate for asylum seekers in the final quarter of 2014, far lower than the European Union (EU) of 48 percent.

Syriza is set to immediately address the backlog of asylum cases while providing protection for the most vulnerable of asylum seekers.

Pushing back on ‘pushbacks’

The Syriza government has also vowed to curb security forces’ alleged practiceof forcing migrants and asylum seekers arriving from Turkey back across the land and marine borders.

The previous administration denied such claims, but UNHCR has recorded asylum seekers being sent back to Turkey, boats of migrants ignored by the Greek coastguard despite distress calls, and physical violence by law enforcement personnel.

A Greek tragedy
Ahmed, a refugee from Syria, has made numerous unenviable decisions since fleeing Damascus, including taking a treacherous journey by sea to Europe.

His four children, aged between four and 11, were shaped by the civil war destroying their country. “I used to pretend it was a game, when the bombs were falling, instead of crying. Soon we began to know the difference between the different types of weapons,” explains eight-year-old Rusul.

Their story is far too common – according to Save the Children, one in three Syrian children who have fled the conflict haveendured physical harm by being “hit, kicked, or shot at.”

After fleeing Syria, the family travelled to Egypt via Lebanon but found themselves unwelcome. With few options left, they fled to Libya, opting for the dangerous sea voyage to Italy. But when their boat was close to Malta, a commercial vessel discovered them stranded at sea and dropped them off in Greece. It was their third attempt at reaching Europe.

“Of course I never want[ed] to risk the life of my children. My entire struggle has been for their future. But how can I leave them behind on their own when bombs are falling?”

Having finally arrived in Greece to apply for asylum, Ahmed said he received almost no support due to tightening anti-migration policies. Stranded in Athens for over a year, he and his family live an almost invisible existence, confined to a clandestine location due to constant police raids and in a crime-riddled community of Athens that has been grappling with its own socio-economic woes.

As their six-month deportation order has expired, they are now in an even more precarious situation in terms of their rights to apply for asylum. With meagre finances, Ahmed awaits an opportunity to leave Greece through Macedonia by foot.

Tighter border controls have pushed smugglers to take ever more extreme measures. According to the International Organization for Migration, last year at least 4,077 refugees died crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe – many heading for Greece.

Syriza MPs have been at the forefront of questioning coastguard authorities alleged to be pushing back migrants at sea, with the party’s leadership publicly accusing Greek border patrol of being culpable for the boat tragedies on the Aegean Sea and frequently calling for investigations.

When asylum seekers and migrants arrive in Greece, the majority are taken to detention centers. Upon their release, the majority are given a deportation order giving them only a limited amount of time to return to their home countries.

Elektra Koutra, an immigration and human rights lawyer based in the capital Athens, has helped secure protection and asylum for such families with minors, especially from Syria in recent years. She says asylum seekers do not understand the legal repercussions of their deportation orders and often stay beyond the expiration.

“One of the children I represented saw someone die during his journey and experienced high levels of stress while on his own, yet he was given a deportation order and no support,” she explained.

Dublin trouble

One other key issue is the Dublin agreement, which Syriza has called to be renegotiated.

The agreement, signed in 1990, stipulates that asylum seekers in the EU must claim asylum in the first country they arrive in – rather than being able to travel to other European states first. As such, a disproportionate percentage of cases fall upon the shoulders of southern European countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain that are natural frontiers to migration.

Greek politicians have long claimed that the country, which has seen its economy shrink by nearly a quarter in five years, cannot cope with the asylum seekers.

“The problem with the EU system of asylum, especially the Dublin agreement, is that it is based on a flawed notion that all member states are able to provide the same level of protection to refugees,” Koutra said.

While Syriza may want to reform the Dublin agreement, there appears to be little appetite in northern Europe. As such, the party may well seek to galvanise political support in neighbouring southern European states.

Koutra warned that such changes were unlikely in the short-term. “It will require calling for special support in processing asylum cases and relocating asylum seekers to other member states based on the 2001 EU Directive on Displacement,” she said. The directive allows for the voluntary transfer of refugees between EU states.

Syriza’s task appears mammoth. With the Greek economy still in tatters, addressing the needs of thousands of refugees, while at the same garnering support from EU members who are already lending the country its economic lifeline, will certainly test the prowess of the coming government.

Yet for thousands of migrants and asylum seekers, their election might just be a chink in fortress Europe.


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Eight former Australians of the Year call for release of asylum seeker children

January 26, 2015 | the guardian

Indefinite detention of children, who are not accused of any crime, is ‘inhumane and unnecessary’, write former winners in an open letter.

nauru asylum seeker protest

A hundred and thirty-five asylum seeker children remain in detention on Nauru. Photograph: Supplied

Eight former Australians of the Year have used Australia Day to call for the immediate release of all refugee and asylum seeker children from immigration detention.

In an open letter published on Monday morning, the Australians of the Year write that the indefinite detention of children, who are not accused of any crime, is “inhumane and unnecessary”.

“We are a country of hope, with a commitment to the freedom and dignity of all people … that strives to protect the rights of the most vulnerable. Indefinite detention of children and babies is at odds with these hopes and principles.

“These children and their parents came to us in desperation, seeking our help. They came to us seeking safety, knowing of Australia’s reputation as a fair, inclusive and just society and knowing we are a people who are never afraid to lend a hand to those in need.”

The letter is signed by eight winners of the Australian of the Year Award: Prof Ian Frazer (2006), Prof Peter Doherty (1997), Ian Kiernan (1994), Prof Gustav Nossal (2000), Simon McKeon (2011), Geoffrey Rush (2012), Prof Fiona Stanley (2003), and Prof Pat McGorry (2010).

The letter, co-ordinated through Unicef, argues children are damaged when they are held in detention, often for years.

“We know that serious mental ill health is a frequent consequence of prolonged detention, especially for children. Such prolonged detention is clearly inconsistent with our hard-won reputation for humanity and fairness.

“If we continue to detain these children and their families, it would not only be inhumane but unnecessary, and diminish our reputation as a fair and mature nation.”

Currently 468 children are held in Australia’s immigration detention system. Of those, 135 remain on Nauru, while 333 are in “alternative places of detention” on the Australian mainland.

In December, then immigration minister Scott Morrison promised crossbench senators that all children and families held on Christmas Island would be released from immigration detention in exchange for the senators’ support for government legislation reintroducing temporary protection visas.

Those 94 children, and 100 family members, have been taken from Christmas Island, but they remain in detention, at Blaydin Point in Darwin. The government says they will be released from detention in “early 2015”.

Overall, the number of children in immigration detention has decreased from 1,038 to 468 over the last year, though the number of children held in detention on Nauru has increased by 19.

Fiona Stanley, the epidemiologist who was Australian of the Year in 2003, told Guardian Australia the letter was not a partisan attack, but rather a call for all Australia’s political leaders to reconsider policies that had proved ineffective, inhumane and harmful.

“People I speak to are anguished about the fact Australia is keeping children in detention. All the data, all the studies we have, show that children are seriously damaged by being held in detention, there is damage to their mental health, their physical health, their general wellbeing and chances for the future. We are causing long-term harm to these children.”

Stanley said Australia’s international reputation as a nation committed to human rights was being degraded by its holding asylum seeker children in detention.

She said Australia’s immigration detention regime for all asylum seekers should be reconsidered from a more humanitarian perspective, but that children should be released from detention immediately.

“As a mother and a grandmother, I feel anguished. No developed country, no country like Australia, with its respect for human rights, should have children, who have committed no crime, held behind wire. That should stop immediately.”


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NSW Premier Mike Baird tells Prime Minister Tony Abbott: ‘do more’ to help refugees

January 23, 2015 | smh

Friendly fire: NSW Premier Mike Baird, left, congratulated Tony Abbott on recently increasing Australia's humanitarian intake for refugees, but said he should "do more".Friendly fire: NSW Premier Mike Baird, left, congratulated Tony Abbott on recently increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake for refugees, but said he should “do more”. Photo: Getty Images

Premier Mike Baird has called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to “do more” to accept refugees, saying Australia’s economic strength means nothing unless we help the world’s vulnerable.

Mr Baird’s critique of Coalition refugee policy came as Fairfax Media established Mr Abbott has been quietly ringing backbenchers since the start of the year as he manages growing anxiety over his government’s performance.

NSW stands ready … to take more than our fair share.

Premier Mike Baird

Speaking at an Australia Day Council of NSW lunch on Friday, Mr Baird said Australia was the lucky country, and should “open our arms to those around the world who are much less fortunate than us”.

Mr Baird, a committed Christian, congratulated Mr Abbott on recently increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake for refugees, but said he should “do more”.

“[There are people] in incredibly difficult circumstances with nowhere to turn,” Mr Baird said.

Under the former federal Labor government, the humanitarian program was set at 20,000 places, however the Abbott government dropped this to 13,750 places in 2013-14.

In December the government pledged to increase the annual humanitarian intake to 18,750 over the next four years.

The federal government has also attracted the ire of refugee advocates with its controversial “stop the boats” policy of offshore detention for any arrivals by boat people.

Federal Labor’s acting immigration spokesman Matt Thistlethwaite seized on the comments, saying it was clear the Abbott government had “turned its back on refugees”.

Fairfax Media has learned Mr Abbott’s calls have been made to selected backbenchers seen as influential in the party room or whose judgment Mr Abbott respects.

Two of those involved said the talks had been both free-ranging and constructive with the Prime Minister eager to hear the unvarnished truth about voter and party-room sentiment.

The revelation comes as discontent tending towards outright anger simmers within the Liberal party room over what many MPs see as government bungling and political mismanagement.

More than 20 MPs have confirmed privately that they harbour grave concerns over their government’s botched handling of Medicare reform, higher education changes, and over unscripted “kite flying” exercises such as talk of changes to the politically toxic, goods and services tax.

“These announcements come and go with no warning and no instruction or explanation to the backbench as to how to explain them to voters,” complained one marginal seat MP.

But a source close to Mr Abbott denied the calls were an attempt to shore-up flagging support, insisting they were for information-gathering purposes and had always been part of Mr Abbott’s plan for wider prime ministerial consultation in 2015.

The insider said the Prime Minister had flagged a “reset at the end of 2014” which would inevitably involve a broader advisory structure than had been the case last year and that he planned to use the feedback to inform his political strategy to be outlined at the National Press Club in just over a week.

Mr Abbott offered a sharper defence of his leadership and of government policy on Sydney’s 2GB radio on Friday, name-checking four ministers as stand-out performers but conspicuously leaving out his top economic minister, Treasurer Joe Hockey.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work of my ministers, all of them, whether it be Scott Morrison or Julie Bishop or Malcolm Turnbull or Andrew Robb, I’m very proud of all of them,” he told 2GB’s Ben Fordham.

He said he could always do better but criticism was exaggerated.

“We haven’t jeopardised our relationship with our neighbours, we haven’t put people at risk in leaky boats on open seas, our main fault is that we haven’t been able to get legislation past the opposition-dominated Senate,” he said.

“Maybe if I’d had more dinners with the cross-benchers, maybe if I’d spoken more sweetly to Bill Shorten, this would’ve been different but in the end, this country does have to live within its means.”

Mr Baird said Australia was part of a global community and “as a lucky country we have a responsibility to play in helping others as part of that community”.

“NSW stands ready … to take more than our fair share. Yes, we have strength in our finances but my strong sense is that means nothing, unless we offer help to those who are vulnerable amongst us.”

Mr Baird’s father, Bruce, was a former federal Liberal MP who objected to the Howard government’s mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Mr Baird snr is now chair of the Refugee Resettlement Advisory Council, which advises the federal government on refugee and humanitarian settlement in Australia.

Refugee Council of Australia spokeswoman Lucy Morgan welcomed Mr Baird’s call.

“In the current global context, it’s really imperative that countries like Australia start stepping up and providing more places to people fleeing persecution,” she said.

“We are really at a point now, internationally, where needs are multiplying and there is a need for a more targeted and comprehensive response from countries like Australia, which are not at the front line of these crises and are not yet doing the heavy lifting.”

Mr Abbott’s office did not respond to request for comment.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the government was “strongly committed to a well-managed humanitarian programme and Australia remains one of the top three refugee resettlement countries in the world”.


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Arrested Manus protesters face jail conditions until refugee status decided

January 23, 2015 | the guardian

None of the 58 asylum seekers who were arrested following protests have been charged yet face living in prison for an indeterminate time.

Fifty-eight detainees forcibly removed from the Manus Island detention centre could be held in jail without charge until their refugee status determinations are made.

Video footage obtained by Guardian Australia shows dozens of asylum seekers and refugees held in a single, windowless prison cell.

There is no furniture in the cell. Almost all the men lie close together and motionless in tight lines on the floor.

A man speaking on the video – whose voice has been altered to avoid identification – alleged the men were beaten by security guards employed by Wilson and by police while in custody.

“They have beaten everyone in this camp. We are totalling 58 people, they beat the shit out of all of us,” he said.

The video shows marks on some of the men’s bodies. It ends abruptly when a noise is heard, apparently outside the cell.

The Australian immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has said previously that the protesters were arrested there was “a degree of force … that’s appropriate”, while the Papua New Guinean immigration minister, Rimbink Pato, said some agitators were restrained but there were no serious injuries.

Both governments have denied any improper use of force. Neither minister returned calls on Thursday.

Detainees on Manus Island have had an antagonistic relationship with the PNG police.

An Australian government review last year found that PNG police were the major catalyst for violence during protests in February last year, when they invaded the detention centre and attacked detainees.

Detainees have said they are regularly threatened by police and locals, while police have said detainees often racially abused them.

None of the men arrested at the detention centre this week have been charged with any offence.

Most of the asylum seekers were arrested after detention centre guards in riot gear broke through a barricade in Delta compound. Suspected protest “ringleaders” from other compounds were also arrested.

Guardian Australia has been told some of the men imprisoned were taken from the Manus centre’s secret solitary confinement cells, the Chauka isolation unit.

The National newspaper in PNG reported that some of the men would be held in Lorengau prison on Manus Island, while others would be flown to the larger Bomana prison in Port Moresby.

Australia is building a dedicated immigration prison for asylum seekers whose claims for refugee status are not successful at Bomana, but that is not yet ready.

The men moved to Port Moresby will be housed in the existing prison. A PNG government source told the Nation the asylum seekers would be moved to the capital’s prison over the next week.

“Forty or 50 asylum seekers will be flown to Port Moresby,” he said. “This has caused concern among senior management at Correctional Service because of the security of our own prisoners.”

Last month Pato signed documents declaring both the Bomana and Lorengau prisons, and the Manus police lock-up, “to be relocation centres for the temporary residence of asylum seekers pending the determination of their refugee status under Papua New Guinea law”, the government source said.

The PNG migration act allows the minister to direct where refugees and asylum seekers must live, including in prisons.

The Australian immigration department and Dutton refused to comment on the incarceration of asylum seekers.

In the Manus Island detention centre, the hunger strike that started 11 days ago continued across several of the compounds. Two Sudanese men who swallowed nail files have reportedly been taken Port Moresby for further medical treatment. A man who earlier swallowed four razor blades has already been removed from Manus Island.

Several hundred men continue to refuse food and water, and more than 200 people have been taken away to receive medical attention for severe dehydration and other complications.

Some of the men who want to eat reportedly feel pressure from other protesters to maintain the hunger strike.

Meanwhile 15 more Iranian detainees have gone on hunger strike in Darwin’s Wickham Point detention centre, protesting against their conditions and detention.

Security contractor Wilson and detention centre manager Transfield were both approached for comment and were both instructed by the Australian immigration department not to comment.


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Manus Island asylum seekers vow to continue hunger strike, more than 40 detainees jailed by PNG police

January 20, 2015 | ABC News

An asylum seeker is taken away on a stretcher after a hunger strike on Manus Island

An asylum seeker is taken away on a stretcher after a hunger strike on Manus Island.

Asylum seekers at the Manus Island detention centre have vowed to continue their hunger strike despite the temporary jailing of more than 40 men from Delta compound.

Refugee advocates who have been in contact with asylum seekers from various compounds said hundreds of men have continued their hunger strike, with many also refusing water.

A three-day blockade of Delta compound ended on Monday when civilian security guards working at the centre forced their way in through a gate and PNG’s chief migration officer negotiated an end to the protest.

The PNG government said that while some asylum seekers were restrained by guards, there were no serious injuries.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told the ABC’s 7.30 program there was a “physical confrontation” with detainees and some had “home-fashioned weapons”, but there were no serious injuries.

“What happened in Delta, it really scared us but we are not going to stop our hunger strike, it will continue,” an asylum seeker from Foxtrot compound told the ABC.

PNG police said more than 40 asylum seekers were detained in the provincial prison and another four were being held in the police cells.

However asylum seekers said a higher number of men were arrested.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

AUDIO: Asylum seekers at Manus Island detention centre to continue hunger strike (PM)

“Right now we are 58 people inside the PNG jail and PNG police squad they beat [us] … they are torturing us in here and they put us here without any judge warrant,” said a man who said he was among those detained.

Neither the claims from asylum seekers or government officials could be independently verified because media access is forbidden at the Australian-run centre.

The jailed asylum seekers have not been charged but have been isolated while PNG police carry out a search of their compound, looking for weapons, mobile phones and other contraband.

Conflicting reports on level of force used dealing with detainees

There were conflicting reports about the level of force used by guards to break up the blockade at Delta compound on Monday afternoon.

PNG’s immigration minister Rimbink Pato said the stand-off at Delta compound was brought under control using “minimal force”.

“We did not want to escalate the situation further by forcing entry into this compound, but we knew that there were people inside who needed to get out,” Mr Pato said in a statement.

“The unlawful behaviour included damaging property, throwing of rocks and furniture over the fence and prevention of entrance by the lawful authorities [and] had to be brought under control.

If they want to negotiate with us we will accept their negotiation but there’s one option… they have to take us out of PNG… otherwise we will not accept any negotiation.

Manus Island detainee

Mr Dutton said physical force was neccessary to quell the disturbance, because some protesters were armed.

Were not talking about firearms, for example we’re talking about homemade or home-fashioned weapons,” he told 7.30, declining to go into further detail.

Mr Pato said the actions of the most vocal asylum seekers do not necessarily reflect the views of all those detained on Manus Island.

“Most asylum seekers are peaceable people who simply want their refugee claims processed as quickly as possible so they can start rebuilding their lives in PNG,” he said.

“They have fled situations of conflict and do not want to be part of the aggressive behaviour that agitators have shown.”

However, asylum seekers and their advocates continued to reject the idea of a peaceful intervention to the stand-off at Delta compound.

An asylum seeker from the Foxtrot compound told the ABC that he witnessed police enter a back gate of Delta compound, while the security guards were focused on another entrance.

“When the guys are really busy with the guards, the police start attack them from behind, they start beating them,” the asylum seeker said.

“They beat them very seriously actually, we have seen many, many people really bleeding. I have seen 15 guys they carried on a stretcher.”

The PNG government confirmed police were in attendance but said they were not needed and stayed back.

Detainees being processed as quickly as possible: Peter Dutton

Australian-based refugee advocate group Humanitarian Research Partners wrote to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs for Torture, Human Rights and the Rights of Migrants about Monday’s incident.

Australian security guards were among those who went into Delta compound and the private contractor that operates the centre received praise from Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

One asylum seeker responded directly to the Immigration Minister’s words.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

VIDEO: Peter Dutton says the Government is processing detainees as quickly as possible. (7.30)

“Today we have read what the Minister said to the media but that will not stop us and we will never ever stop our hunger strike,” the detainee said.

“If they want to negotiate with us we will accept their negotiation but there’s one option … they have to take us out of PNG… otherwise we will not accept any negotiation.”

An independent review of last February’s riots at the centre by the former head of the Attorney-General’s Department, Robert Cornwell, found frustration at being denied access to Australia, uncertainty about being resettled in PNG and anxiety over delays in processing claims was the catalyst for the unrest.

Mr Dutton denied those factors were still in play at the centre and could lead to further violent riots.

“We are processing applications, we’re relying on ASIO and intelligence agencies to conduct security assessments of people, where people are deemed to be refugees they can settle in Papua New Guinea,” he told 7.30.

“Where people are deemed not to be refugees we want to make sure that we can return those people as quickly as possible to their country of origin.

“We are working through that as quickly as we can.”

The Immigration Minister refused to say whether the Government had resettled anyone in PNG.


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Baby Ferouz and his asylum seeking family released from Darwin detention

January 20, 2015 | ABC News

Ferouz and Latifar

Ferouz and Latifar

An asylum seeker couple and their Brisbane-born son, Ferouz, have been released from detention in Darwin.

The Myuddin family, who have been detention for 14 months, have been involved in a long-running legal battle with the Federal Government arguing the boy deserved a protection visa as he was born in Australia.

Last month the Coalition announced Ferouz and 30 other babies, born to illegal maritime arrivals, would be allowed to apply for short-term visas while their families’ refugee claims were assessed.

Ferouz was born in Brisbane’s Mater Hospital in November 2013 after his mother, Latifar, was transferred from the detention centre on Nauru due to concerns about her pregnancy.

The family including his father and two siblings arrived on Christmas Island from Myanmar three months before Ferouz’s birth in September 2013.

They were fleeing persecution as minority Rohingyas in Myanmar.

Before the Immigration Department’s short-term visa announcement, lawyers for the family had tried unsuccessfully in the courts to challenge the department’s decision to deny him a protection visa.

The family’s lawyer Murray Watt said the family’s release from detention in Darwin was the next step in a long fight.

“These families are now released from detention and they will have the right to apply for a three-year refugee visa,” Mr Watt said.

“They’ll still have to go through the process. They’ll still have to show they genuinely fear persecution if they’re returned to their home country but at least they now have that opportunity.

“This is a really good step forward, that at last the Government have come to it’s senses and recognised, at least for these children, continuing to keep them in detention is not the proper thing to do.

“It does give these families the first step towards potentially staying in Australia on a more long-term basis.”

Mr Watt also said the Myuddins’ release was “a long time coming”.

“Ferouz has spent every night since leaving hospital living in detention and now finally, after more than a year he has been released, along with his parents and siblings, to join relatives living in Melbourne,” he said.

“For Ferouz’s parents in particular this is very special, they have never stopped fighting for a fair go for their children in seeking a better life and they are now finally able to start making that a reality.”


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