Saturday, March 31, 2012




Saturday 31.3.12.

In a shocking example of the abuse and mismanagement of Australian
detention centres, a mentally ill, Tamil refugee was bashed by Serco
guards at Villawood detention centre in the early hours of Saturday
morning, after being coaxed down from the top of a shipping container.

Around 20 Serco officers were involved in the incident, although it
seems perhaps only five or six were directly involved in the assault.

The man who has suffered torture in Sri Lanka was left severely
traumatised as well as physically injured. He was attended to by an
ambulance and taken to hospital around 1.30am, daylight saving time,
with injuries to his head, face, neck, his hand and legs. He is now at
Liverpool hospital.

The 29 year-old Tamil refugee has been in detention for two and half
years, most recently in the residential housing section of the
Villawood complex.

“Coming just one day after the Parliamentary report, this incident
shows why detention centres should be closed. It is bad enough that
detention creates and exacerbates mental illness, it is disgraceful
that a mentally ill man, should be subject to this kind of abuse, ”
said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Mandatory detention encourages an abusive attitude by guards, while
Serco’s private management gives the government a convenient excuse
for denying its responsibility for abuses in the detention system and
complete lack of accountability

“Chris Bowen should release this man from detention so he can be
properly cared for. There must be a full inquiry into this man’s
beating as well as Serco’s arbitrary system of punishments which
allows asylum seekers to be moved to punishment sections of detention
centres at a whim.

“The Parliamentary inquiry has only revealed the tip of the iceberg of
the human rights’ abuse that is Australia’s detention regime.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713



30 March 2012

DETENTION DISGRACE – Legislated time limit on detention a must.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)

Today’s Joint Select Committee Inquiry into Detention Report describes in 221 pages of evidence, an immigration detention system that is out of control and shameful.  The conclusion is unequivocal. The time for legislation is now. Only through a legislated time limit on detention can the current arbitrary indefinite detention system be brought under control.  

Policy promises made by successive governments have failed. “In May 2005, Petro Georgiou undertook to introduce legislation which would have effectively ended indefinite detention and limited detention to 90 days. It would also have ended the detention of families and children by law. Unfortunately this was scuttled by the Howard government which watered down the reforms from legislation to unenforceable policy. Senator Chris Evans also tried with the New Values in Detention in July 2008 which never made it into law. Seven years later we are facing a crisis situation. The evidence before us now is a system in crisis with seven deaths in eighteen months, people in dire distress, ‘widespread’ mental illness and a culture of neglect and denial”, says Pamela Curr of the ASRC. 

The Government cannot ignore the overwhelming and unequivocal support for legislative changes outlined in the report from agencies including, but not limited to, the UNHCR, Gilbert & Tobin Centre for Public Law, Law Council of Australia, Labor for Refugees (Vic), Forum of Australian Services for Survivors of Torture and Trauma, Migration Institute of Australia, Jesuit Refugee Service Australia, Castan Centre for Human Rights, Refugee Advice and Casework Service NSW, Liberty Victoria, International Detention Coalition, Australian Psychological Society, Uniting Church Australia, Refugee Council of Australia and the International Refugee and Migration Law Project UNSW.

These watered down reforms have proved ineffective in protecting asylum seekers from indefinite long term detention which is the cause of so much damage and harm to their mental and physical health. Ms Curr reinforces – ‘this is why we now need a legislated time limit so that indefinite detention of people seeking asylum ceases once and for all’.

A young man who received a positive refugee and security decision in August 2011 remained in detention for a further 8 months because he was charged with breaking a computer. He was flown from Melbourne to Perth to Christmas Island with guards to face Court. When he got there, charges were dropped. There was no evidence and the guard witness said that he had made a mistake in identifying the man.  He was then flown back to Melbourne where he waited a further 7 weeks for release and was only released last week with no explanation or charges.  This man spent 8 months in detention losing his mind for no reason.  He is not alone.

 The only way to uphold our obligations under the Refugee Convention and ensure detention is a last resort for the shortest time possible is to enshrine these principles in law.

For media comment please call: Pamela Curr on 0417 517 075
Jana Favero on 0438 829 651

-- Pamela Curr Campaign Coordinator Asylum Seeker Resource Centre 12 Batman st West Melbourne 3003 ph 03 9326 6066 / 0417517075 "NO ONE CHOOSES TO BE AN ASYLUM SEEKER"

Saturday, March 24, 2012


by: Paul Maley
From: The Australian
March 23, 2012 12:00AM

FORMER Labor prime minister Paul Keating has savaged the tone of the asylum-seeker debate, saying policies over boatpeople are built "on race" and are hurting Australia's standing in Asia.

In a swipe at his political successors, Mr Keating said there were "racial undertones" to the debate.

"I often used to say as prime minister, when they were handing out continents, not many people got one, but we did and there's only 20 million of us," Mr Keating told the Asia Society in Sydney on Wednesday night.

"And yet we're complaining about 6000 people coming by boat and we want to push all of them away."

Mr Keating, who is known for his bombast as well as his Asia-centric view on foreign policy, said Australians demonstrated no "generosity of spirit" when it came to asylum-seekers.

Instead, they complained about the negative social effects asylum-seekers supposedly brought with them.

This, Mr Keating said, was damaging Australia's reputation in Asia at a time when economic and military weight was shifting from the West to the East.

"Racism is a form of sickness and when a country starts building policies on race, or racial undertones, then you know you don't have much of a future, especially when you've got three billion Asians around you and we're 20 million," Mr Keating said. "You wouldn't think it was a winning policy, but some people in this country do."

It was not clear who Mr Keating had in mind when he referred to policies built on race.

Mr Keating's office declined to clarify his remarks yesterday, saying the former prime minister was away and not available for comment.

However, it was not the first time Mr Keating has weighed into the asylum debate.

In October, he accused the Howard government of abusing the system of mandatory detention established in 1992 when Mr Keating was prime minister.

Mr Keating said mandatory detention of non-citizens was conceived as a way of checking the bona fides of non-citizens and for performing basic health and security checks.

"It was sort of a way station," Mr Keating said.

"What Howard did was turn it into essentially a quasi-penal structure. This was never our intention and we never did it."

Mr Keating, who has long advocated a deeper engagement with Asia, said he favoured onshore processing of refugees.

Saturday, March 10, 2012




Tamil refugees from the boat stranded in Merak, Indonesia in 2009
after being stopped at the request of then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd,
have been told that 24 of their number have been accepted to be
resettled in Australia.

The announcement came only a couple of hours following a demonstration
(photos attached) of round 80 of the 134 recognised refugees at the
Medan UNHCR offices in protest at the long delays in their

The Merak Tamils were promised that Australia would play a role in
their resettlement when they got off the asylum boat in 2010. But late
last year they were told that Australia had rejected 40 of the
referred refugees.

UNHCR Indonesia then told them that they their names had been referred
to New Zealand, and they would have an answer by the end of January.

When no answer was forthcoming, they staged yesterday’s demonstration.
Despite being told by UNHCR officials at Medan hat they had no answers
for them, within two hours of the demonstration, the Merak Tamils has
been told 24 had been accepted by Australia.

“After two years of waiting, this is very welcome news,” said Ian
Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “but there are
still 110 people that have been waiting too long. They have been
forced to wait too long already. The Labor government needs to make
good on its promise to the Merak Tamils.”

“The treatment of the Merak Tamils makes a mockery of the government’s
claims to be concerned about asylum seekers making dangerous boat
journeys, said Rintoul, “It is the Australian government treatment of
asylum seekers and refugees that are pushing people onto boats.

“These refugees spent a year in detention in Tanjung Pinang, before
they were all found to refugees. Yet the government has until now
refused to resettle them. Some who took second boats to Australia got
visas months ago.

“The recent death of the Afghan asylum seeker in Kalimantan is just
the latest indication of the danger that asylum seekers face in
Indonesia. We hope the government now acts quickly to resettle all the
Merak Tamils. They have been pushed from pillar to post between the
UNHCR and the Australian government. But it is clear that the
responsibility lies with the Australian government.

“Unless the government acts, there are another 110 refugees who will
have to get a boat if they are going to get to safety.”

[Photos of the Merak Tamils protesting at the Medan UNHCR office on
the morning of Wednesday 7 March are attached - others available]

For more information contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713