Red News Readers,
Australia needs to be careful what we wish for. In our apparent desperation to keep refugee and asylum seekers away from our shores to please the narrow minded in domestic politics, we are helping to create a human rights monster throughout South East Asia.
And just a reminder to K Rudd and his Ministry - ALP policy as decided by successive national conference permits mandatory detention, but only in limited circumstances.
It is generally agreed that processing should take no longer than 90 days. So what is the hold up - are the Canberra bureaucrats on holidays.
Refugee deals start Asia 'virus'
JONATHAN PEARLMAN AND ARI SHARP, SMH.
January 7, 2010
AUSTRALIA'S deals to deter asylum seekers have triggered an Asia-wide virus of ''xenophobia and amnesia'' over refugee rights, a human rights group says.
The refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch, Bill Frelick, has criticised recent moves across Asia to prevent the resettlement of refugees, which he says began with the agreement in October between the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to prevent a boatload of Sri Lankan asylum seekers from entering Australian waters.
''The willingness to flout international refugee law and to ignore the entreaties of refugees not to be sent back to their home countries has become the mark of chummy bilateral relations between Asian states,'' Mr Frelick writes in the International Herald Tribune.
''A virus is sweeping Asia. The symptoms are heightened xenophobia and amnesia about fundamental refugee rights. Australia and Indonesia succumbed first, in October, when they stopped boats carrying Sri Lankans … Granting asylum is a humanitarian act that should be entirely divorced from political relations between states.''
More than 200 ethnic Tamils remain on a wooden boat in the Indonesian port of Merak after their vessel was intercepted by the Indonesian Navy on its way to Australia, following a request by phone from Mr Rudd to Dr Yudhoyono.
Another group of Tamils in an Australian detention centre on Christmas Island will today meet immigration officials after a three-day boycott of facilities.
Mr Frelick said the Merak deal was followed by violent and illegal forced repatriations by Cambodia of 20 Chinese Uighurs, who were deported two weeks ago and have not been heard from since, and then by Thailand, which last week deported 4000 Hmong asylum seekers to Laos.
The lack of a regional deal on refugees - which Australia is seeking to rectify - had led to a particularly flagrant approach to refugees in Asia, he said.
The Rudd Government ended the Howard government's policy of transferring asylum seekers to Pacific states but has continued to detain would-be migrants offshore, at Christmas Island.
The Tamils on Christmas Island say they are facing excessive waiting times to be processed, with 78 being held for more than six months. They have also expressed frustration that members of the Hazara ethnic minority from Afghanistan, who arrived after some Tamils, have already had their claims assessed.
Since Sunday more than 400 Tamils have boycotted the library, internet and gym facilities at the centre and yesterday refused to use the canteen.
''There is no good reason that it is taking so long for Tamil asylum applications to be processed,'' said a spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul.
Despite criticism of Australia's efforts to prevent the arrival of Sri Lankans, Mr Frelick notes that Australia was one of several countries to offer asylum to some of the Hmong, who had been recognised by the United Nations as refugees. Thailand persisted with the deportation, prompting international condemnation.