Tag Archives: iranian asylum seekers

Killer of asylum-seeker in Manus Island riot still not identified

March 03, 2014

SCOTT Morrison says he is developing “a clearer picture” of what occurred during the Manus Island riot, although he still does not know who killed asylum-seeker Reza Berati.

The Immigration Minister and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have announced plans for monthly meetings with their Papua New Guinea counterparts to “directly oversee’’ the implementation of refugee resettlement in the country, and $420 million in special aid projects linked to the deal.

At the meeting the two countries agreed to “synthesise’’ the various inquiries into the February 17 riot at the Manus asylum-seeker camp, including an arms-length Australian review and local police and coronial investigations.

Asked if the government was any closer to knowing what happened the night of the violence, Mr Morrison today told ABC Radio: “We are getting a clearer picture.’’

But the minister said he did not know who killed Mr Berati, a 23-year-old Iranian asylum-seeker, nor who fired shots during the disturbance that wounded another man in the buttocks.

“I’m hopeful and confident that we will be able to determine what happened on that night,’’ Mr Morrison said.

“All of these questions are matters for the review, and I’m going to let the review do its job.’’

A post-mortem found Mr Berati was killed by repeated blows to the head, likely caused by a piece of wood.

It has also emerged that the violence that led to his death likely occurred inside the perimeter of the centre.

Asked if he could ensure the safety of asylum-seekers on Manus, Mr Morrison said: “If they are going to cooperate with those who are looking after them and not engage in riotous behaviour, then obviously the risk that present significantly diminish.”

The ministerial forum is designed to “directly oversee” the Regional Resettlement Arrangement between the two countries, under which asylum-seekers recognised as genuine refugees will be resettled within PNG.

Although the resettlement policy was announced by then prime minister Kevin Rudd in July last year, none of the approximately 1330 refugees transferred to Manus Island have yet been processed.

Mr Morrison said processing had already begun at the facility, and there were a large number of cases “almost decision-ready’’.

“It could take months. I don’t think it will take (a year). Over the next few months I think we’re going to make real progress,’’ he said.

Greens senators are today expected to instigate a parliamentary inquiry into the violence that killed Mr Berati and injured 62 others last month.

Without government support, a Senate inquiry would require the support of Labor senators, who were last night undecided about whether to support the move.

Mr Morrison avoided questions about how he could in good conscience send asylum-seekers to Manus in the wake of the violence.

No boats had arrived in more than 70 days, he said.

“And when there are no boats coming I don’t have to send anyone,’’ he said.

With AAP

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/killer-of-asylumseeker-in-manus-island-riot-still-not-identified/story-fn9hm1gu-1226843426085


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Filed under Detention Centers, PNG/Pacific Solution, Torturing and Health Issues

Iranian refugee firefighter giving back to a sunburnt country

October 24, 2013

Iranian refugee Iman Shirinia of Lyons has just returned to Canberra after helping fight bushfires in NSW.Iranian refugee Iman Shirinia of Lyons has just returned to Canberra after helping fight bushfires in NSW. Photo: Melissa Adams

Iman Shirinia is just one of many firefighters who have travelled across state borders to lend a hand at the NSW fire front, taking risks to help protect the lives and property of others.

But the story of how he got there spans years, crosses oceans and features hardships of his own.

Mr Shirinia fled his native Iran in 2010 as a refugee and travelled to Indonesia before boarding a boat for the treacherous journey to Australia – an act that would have had him labelled an “illegal arrival” under the Abbott government’s new terminology.

Iranian refugee Iman Shirinia of Lyons has just returned to Canberra after helping fight bushfires in NSW.Iranian refugee Iman Shirinia of Lyons has just returned to Canberra after helping fight bushfires in NSW. Photo: Melissa Adams

After being intercepted by Australian authorities, he spent about 20 months in detention centres where he struggled with depression and anxiety. He was admitted to hospital several times before being released into community detention in Canberra for about nine months.


The Lyons man smiles widely as he recalls when a caseworker called him to say he had been granted residency. ”I can’t describe it because after a long time, it was about 29 months of waiting, finally I found that I am free, I can do whatever I like. It was very good,” he said.

Mr Shirinia had worked in agriculture in Iran and wanted an outdoors job. After work experience within the ACT government, he was employed about three months ago on a seasonal basis at ACT Parks and Conservation.

He trained as a firefighter and left Canberra on Friday afternoon to help with back burning and directly attack the fires, working around Penrith, Mt Wilson and Mt Victoria.

Mr Shirinia said he was working with an experienced and supportive crew, so while he was sometimes fearful, he never felt his life was in danger. He has put his hand up to return to the fires this Friday. ”I really wanted to do something to help other people. I know life is a very short period and one of the things that gives meaning to our lives is helping each other,” he said.

”When we are doing a job and when we finish the job, I feel very satisfied about what I did because I can see the difference that my job and my work can do for the community and for other people.”

Fire services manager Neil Cooper said Mr Shirinia was a joy to work with and was one of the first staff members to volunteer to go to the fires in NSW. ”That’s pretty amazing. He’s actually in another country, his adopted country, in effect putting his life on the line to protect other people’s property,” he said.

ACT Parks and Conservation has 150 trained firefighters, with 24 expected to travel to the NSW fires on Friday.

Source: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/iranian-refugee-firefighter-giving-back-to-a-sunburnt-country-20131023-2w235.html#ixzz2idl4kd5E

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Filed under Life after detention, Public Reaction/Perception Towards Asylum Seekers, Torturing and Health Issues

Iranians decide to go home as policy bites

August 17, 2013

Kevin Rudd’s Papua New Guinea solution is working to stop Iranians, the previously largest single group of asylum seekers, from getting on boats to Australia.

As dozens of Iranian individuals or families either return to their home country or bunker down in Indonesia hoping for official resettlement through United Nations processes, one people smuggler has told customers he is trying to find passengers for ”one last boat”.

SMH SAT - Iranian refugees Binai Abdu Samad (husband), Samira Ghanavati (wife) and five year old twins Poja (boy) and Pona (girl) sit in their rented house in Cisarua, south of Jakarta, and talk about returning to Iran. They also know about a new proposal by people smugglers to fly people to Australia.Still waiting: Binai Abdu Samad, his wife Samira Ghanavati, and their children, in Indonesia.

Anecdotally, the policy has also affected the more desperate Afghan asylum seekers.


”I have a neighbour who is an Afghan smuggler, and people call him from Afghanistan and he tells them: ‘Don’t come [to Indonesia], just wait, one month, two months, because now the policy is against Iranian and Afghan people’,” says Hoshang, an asylum seeker in Cisarua, West Java.

The hardline policies across the Australian political landscape are the only topic of conversation in the hilltop Indonesian town where thousands have lived while waiting for a boat. They know an election is in the offing, but do not have a clear idea of the political details, and some are still waiting in hope that change of government means Australia will abandon its resolve to send people to Papua New Guinea.

According to the government, the ambivalence is reflected in the numbers: Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said on Friday only 300 had arrived by boat in the past week, down from 1000 after the policy was announced.

But Denis Nihill, the Indonesian country head of the International Organisation for Migration, said he had ”not seen any increase at all in applications of people returning to their home countries”. The usual figure was 40 to 60 a month, which remained steady, he said.

Iranian asylum seeker Binai Abdu Samad, who will soon take his family and leave, said: ”With Iranians, the first pressure and people go home. I think going back to Iran is the best way.”

Hoshang has wasted $US20,000 trying to get his family to Australia, but has almost decided to return. He has already sent back his wife and two children, aged five and nine. ”They called me from the airport and they are safe,” he said.

But he left Iran after fighting with policemen and being jailed, and still fears what might happen if he returns. So he is waiting a little longer to make sure Australia will not alter course.

People smugglers are making it harder, pressuring people to continue by boat and failing to return their money. Hoshang said he was waiting for a refund. ”He tells me ‘Next week, next week,’ and I am still waiting.”

Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2013/iranians-decide-to-go-home-as-policy-bites-20130816-2s2cp.html#ixzz2cIVDnHMp

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Filed under Asylum Policy, Asylum Seekers in Indonesia, Deportation, People Smugglers

The tides of political change leave asylum couple worlds apart

August 04, 2013

Plea for help: Behrad holds up his identity card for the media to see before being driven away to detention on Manus Island while his wife waits in Brisbane.Plea for help: Behrad holds up his identity card for the media to see before being driven away to detention on Manus Island while his wife waits in Brisbane. Photo: Kate Geraghty

First the people smugglers separated husband and wife. Now Kevin Rudd’s Papua New Guinea solution has made it final.

More than 3000 kilometres lies between Gita* in Brisbane and her husband Behrad* on Manus Island. (*Not their real names.)

Behrad was among boat people who landed on Christmas Island 13 days ago, four months behind his wife and two days after the Rudd government’s July 19 cut-off for asylum seekers hoping to settle in Australia. On Friday morning the 36-year-old arrived at the detention centre on Manus Island in PNG, the country he may have to call home for the rest of his life. The Iranian couple have little prospect of being reunited.

”We are confused,” 30-year-old Gita told Fairfax Media from her new home in Brisbane, where she has been living for the past 40 days, awaiting news on her application for refugee status in Australia. ”We don’t know what to do.”


Immigration Minister Tony Burke was quick to clear up any confusion. ”There are thousands of people in Australia applying for spouse visas and there are thousands of genuinely worthy cases,” he said in response to the couple’s case. ”I’m not going to prioritise somebody because they have dealt with a people smuggler.”

In Indonesia, Gita said, the first people smuggler they dealt with – a man called Nabi Yusuf – stole their $10,000 and broke his promise to put them on a boat to Australia. A diabetic, she became gravely ill when she ran out of insulin after three months in Indonesia.

Her husband pleaded with a second smuggler, who took sympathy on her and gave her free passage on a boat to Christmas Island.

But there was no place on the boat for Behrad, who would wait until July for his own voyage – and the news, on arrival, that nobody on his vessel would ever be allowed to live in Australia.

At Manus Island’s tiny airport on Friday, Behrad and other asylum seekers emerged from the rear door of a 737. Two Australian security guards escorted him and other asylum seekers to buses. Behrad stared blankly out the window towards a circle of security guards, local police and immigration officials ringing the tarmac.

As the bus began to fill, Fairfax Media tried to communicate with the new arrivals. Now Behrad came alive. He gave a thumbs-up, as if to say ”I’m all right”, then turned his thumb down. To a hollered question as to whether any of them have family in Australia, Behrad yelled back: ”Brisbane, Brisbane.”

He held up his identity badge to show his name, date of birth and the codename of the boat he arrived on, SIEV 798.

Through a fellow asylum seeker who spoke some English, he realised we wanted a phone contact. He held up fingers to communicate a mobile phone number.

The woman answering the call told us she was his wife. Gita talked to us through her Egyptian housemate as they spoke not in Farsi but in broken Arabic. Behrad, she said, had been forced to flee Iran because men at the petrol company where he worked had tortured him and threatened to kill him.

Behrad had expressed no concerns about himself, Gita said. ”He is only concerned about my health.”

If he could never come to Australia, might she move to Papua New Guinea? ”My health makes that difficult.” Her husband had told her she needed the modern hospitals and medical support in Brisbane. Moving her to PNG would put her in peril.

On Manus, Behrad’s fellow asylum seekers followed his lead and began holding up their identity cards. The G4S guards told them to sit down and stop speaking. After almost an hour, buses took them to their temporary detention centre, out of sight.

From there, unsupervised communication with the outside world will be an unlikely privilege. Gita did not know when Behrad might next call.

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Indonesia to change visa requirements for Iranians entering the country

July 18, 2013

The Indonesian justice minister has signed a letter that will make it harder for people from Iran to enter the country, a move which could slow the flow of people on their way to seeking asylum in Australia.

Indonesia’s justice and human rights department has confirmed the signing of what is in effect a ministerial decree that will stop people from Iran obtaining a visa on arrival.

The minister, Amir Syamsuddin, has told the ABC the changes follow a request from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last week.

A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd says the Prime Minister specifically mentioned Iranian arrivals during his recent discussions with Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

She says any action to tighten the arrangements is welcome.

Indonesia’s visa system allows citizens from more than 60 countries to arrive in the country, pay a fee, and receive a visa for 30 days.

It is not yet known when the restriction on Iranians will take effect.

Indonesia is a transit destination for people on their way to Australia to seek asylum, with thousands taking the risky boat ride.

At the end of June, 12 per cent of people registered with the UN’s refugee agency in Indonesia were from Iran.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr has said a large number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia, particularly those from Iran, are “economic migrants” rather than genuine refugees.

Closer look at visa regimes

Earlier this month Mr Yudhoyono and Mr Rudd announced a regional conference to discuss people smuggling.

At a later address to the National Press Club, Mr Rudd said one of the advantages to be achieved through such a conference was to examine regional visa regimes.

“That is, visas and regimes which allow too easy access to various countries in the region,” he said.

The Prime Minister has said he wants to tighten refugee processing laws and has flagged that he may seek changes to the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention.

On Wednesday night the Australian Navy rescued another 120 asylum seekers after their boat got into trouble near Christmas Island.

Just a day earlier four people drowned when their boat capsized in rough seas.

An international policy expert says Mr Rudd’s chances of changing the refugee convention are slim to none.

Professor William Maley, director of the Asia Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National University, says Mr Rudd has very limited scope to change the text of the document.

Read more: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-18/indonesia-to-change-visa-requirements-for-iranians/4829434

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We are fleeing death, not an economy, says refugee

July 03, 2013

Babak.‘If I go back, the government of Iran hasn’t changed … I fear [for] my life.’ Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

An Iranian refugee has described as shameful a federal government push to return failed asylum seekers to their home country.

Babak, 38, said moves by the new Rudd leadership to deter boat arrivals and to talk to Iran and the UNHCR about repatriation are using persecuted people for political ends.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr told the ABC on Monday that some Iranian boat people were middle-class economic migrants.

But Babak (not his real name), said that like himself, 99 per cent of Iranian boat people are fleeing political persecution.

He said it was ”shameful” for leaders to preach human rights internationally then consider ”stopping the boats” to solve their problems of processing asylum seekers with Indonesia and to try to win votes at home.

He would like Mr Rudd to live in Iran – ”a tyrannic country without democracy” – for a month. Such a trip would be without Babak, who believes he would be jailed or hurt because he is a dissenter.

Babak, who is from Iran’s Kurdish minority, flew out on false papers in late 2009 after being clubbed in the back and filmed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s soldiers while taking part in a pro-democracy demonstration in Tehran.

Babak evaded arrest, but having been identified on film, he hid at friends’ homes for three months. After the demonstration ”some people were arrested, some people were killed; some people even now they are in jail”.

Babak fled to Indonesia and, in January 2010, sailed from the island of Flores to Ashmore Reef where he was picked up by Australian authorities.

Babak spent two years in detention on Christmas Island and at Villawood in Sydney, then lived in community detention in Perth, Adelaide and Sydney but was unable to find permanent work.

He is currently on a one-month bridging visa and fears, with the new federal government line-up’s apparently less generous mood towards asylum seekers, that he won’t be allowed to stay much longer. ”If I go back, the government of Iran hasn’t changed. The Supreme Leader of Iran is Khamenei, and I protested against them, and I [am from the] Kurdish minority. I fear [for] my life.”

Not qualified for social security, he is being fed by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in West Melbourne and staying with a volunteer.

He had no reason to leave Iran for economic reasons; he had a respectable retail job in western Iran and has a large, loving family.

”I’ve never met two nieces and a nephew that have been born since I left,” he says. ”If I didn’t have any problem in Iran, I’d be really desperate to go back to meet them.”

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/national/we-are-fleeing-death-not-an-economy-says-refugee-20130702-2pa4v.html#ixzz2Y03G0HJr

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Asylum seekers vanish after seeking help for sinking boat

May 18, 2013

Iranian asylum seekers.Stranded at sea : Asylum seekers Farhad, Benyamin, Maryam and Narges in Indonesia after their rescue. Photo: Michael Bachelard

Two more would-be asylum seekers have died at sea trying to get to Australia, while their 46 shipmates survived a boat journey that comprised equal parts tragedy and luck.

The survivors, among them five children under six, endured 10 days without power, food or fresh water before they were spotted by an Australian Maritime Safety Authority plane and rescued by a cargo ship.

They risked their life because of us, looking for the help.

But two days before the rescue, two men, Sajad and Meisam, had decided to paddle away to look for help.

They constructed a raft from empty fuel containers and spare wood, and used a length of timber from the boat as a paddle.


They were never seen again.

”They had family in Iran,” Benyamin Saber, one of the survivors, said as his wife, Maryam, sobbed. ”They are family to my friends and the family has called already and asked if they are OK, but we don’t know. They risked their life because of us, looking for the help.”

The 46 who survived – 29 men, 12 women and five children, all Iranians – now face an uncertain future in Indonesia’s overcrowded immigration detention system.

Mr Saber said the group paid $US5000 ($5120) each to an Indonesian people smuggler he knew as Reza, and set off from Java’s eastern capital Surabaya about April 27. But 30 hours later, the engine on the wooden fishing boat stopped, rendering the pumps useless.

There was no navigation or communication system and no life jackets. Those on the boat had to bail out water by hand. After two more days the crew abandoned ship, swimming to other fishing boats in the area, which refused to help the Iranians. ”We waved our hands and they ignored us … We don’t go on ships in Iran. Nobody had any idea [what to do].

”We were full of distress, pressure … didn’t know anything about the ship, the sea …

”There was no sleep, just sailing, and the women screaming and the children crying. Believe me, we experienced a harmful condition,” Mr Saber said.

They boiled salt water and captured the steam to drink but there was not enough, and the noodles packed by the crew ran out in the first two days.

”Most of us were crying, most have the sunburn, vomiting and low glucose, most ill.”

On the 10th day, May 7, they saw an Australian surveillance aircraft, and about two hours later the cargo ship Aeolos arrived.

Dan Posadas, the chief officer in charge of the rescue on the Aeolos, said the refugees’ wooden boat was ”submerged dangerously because of flooding water”.

The crew plucked them off in a 200-litre plastic drum, ”heaving up one by one – the safest way because of the sea condition, and because most of them were tired, weak, dizzy, nervous,” Mr Posadas said.

The maritime safety authority said the group was picked up 110 nautical miles north of Christmas Island.

However, the Aeolos was sailing to Indonesia, so that is where the group went. They are now in a hotel in the port of Merak under lock and key all day, with only brief respite while their rooms are cleaned.

One of the women, Narges, said they had fled Iran to find a place ”with human rights”.

”They never let us as women speak or be free,” she said. ”There are no rights for women … every place when women want to speak and defend herself, immediately they say you shouldn’t; let your husband speak about it.”

Australia may not want them, but their awful story affected one man at least.

Mr Posadas, the man in charge of rescuing them, signed off one communication with Fairfax Media saying: ”I wish all your efforts and your goodness in the near future to read in the newspaper [that] these people reach their dreams come true.”

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/asylum-seekers-vanish-after-seeking-help-for-sinking-boat-20130517-2jrz4.html

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