Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Tampering with Asylum

HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT THAT AUSTRALIA'S recent policies on asylum seekers are wrong, but don't quite have the statistics to back up your views?

Or perhaps you are just seeking some thoughtful insights into the stories of asylum seekers in order to understand their plight?

Maybe you want to understand further the Government's dilemma of how to determine who is in the most need of its protection under the Refugee Convention?

If you are interested in any of these issues, Father Brennan's book provides different perspectives and thoughtful and compassionate insights into this difficult area.

Brennan provides a significant amount of factual material to inform the debate. For example, next time someone suggests to you there is a queue for asylum seekers, consider that the Australian High Commission in Islamabad in Pakistan in 2000-2001 issued only 109 humanitarian visas to Afghans fleeing persecution. Or that in 2001, Australia received only 12,400 asylum claims in comparison to 92, 000 claims over the same period in the United Kingdom.

Some of Brennan's interesting anecdotes include his conversation with Palestinian asylum seekers.

In conversations with the Palestinian Akram Ouda Mohammad Al Masri, Brennan had informed him and other Palestinian detainees that the judge hearing his case in the Federal Court, Justice Merkel, was "Jewish with a fine reputation for upholding human rights". The first question by the other Palestinians on his return to Woomera after the successful outcome of Al Masri's case was "Do you think we could get the Jewish judge?". Brennan remarked that "in the middle of the Australian desert, some of the most complex conflicts seem resolvable.

"There is hope when persons are treated with dignity and respect under the rule of law regardless of history and politics".

Father Brennan explores Australia's policies, in particular mandatory detention, by comparing them with Europe (the UK in particular), the US and Canada. He argues that the hard line adopted by the current Government will not deter those fleeing persecution, and jeopardises the whole system of dealing with refugees, especially in a world where it is already almost impossible for a refugee to lawfully flee directly to a first world country.

Instead, many developing countries already stretched to look after their own citizens, like Pakistan, Tanzania and Chad, shoulder the burden of looking after most of the world's refugees.

Some of the other areas he explores in detail are: child protection issues in detention centres, the false idea of a 'queue' to enter Australia, the harshness of the Temporary Protection Visa system, the difference between the onshore and offshore protection system, the role of courts in determining asylum claims and examining detention, and the Government's attempts to limit judicial review.

A rational look at asylum seekers Tampering with Asylum - A Universal Humanitarian Problem By Frank Brennan, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 2003.

By KIRSTY RUDDOCK posted 20 April 05


Baxter,'akin to the time in Nazi Germany'
I went to Baxter this Easter just past, and became more aware that this time is akin to the time in Nazi Germany when the concentration camps were being set up.

Asylum seeker denied medical help, court hears
An Iranian asylum seeker was denied access to psychiatric help, despite slashing himself several times inside South Australia's Baxter detention centre, the Federal Court in Adelaide has heard.

Once You've Been to Baxter You Can't Sit on the Fence
I spent this Easter in the desert. I spent this Easter protesting at Baxter detention centre to draw the world's attention to the injustice of Australia's racist and inhumane mandatory detention system and treatment of asylum seekers.

Detention Centres, Solitary Confinement
On Friday night the NSW Council for Civil Liberties awarded Sydney solicitor John Marsden honorary life membership. Julian Burnside was invited to make the speech in Marsden's honour. In the course of his speech, Burnside referred to the unregulated use of solitary confinement in Australia's immigration detention centres, criticising it as inhumane and also as unlawful.

MP urges asylum seekers' release
A federal Coalition MP has called for the release of all asylum seekers being held in immigration detention centres.

Rau ordeal a raw deal
Ms Rau spent time in a Queensland prison and a hospital before being handed to immigration authorities who kept her in detention for another four months.

Australian held in Baxter detention centre
It has been revealed an Australian resident has been locked up in Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia for the past four months. Authorities had been unable to establish her identity since she was found wandering in far north Queensland last September.

Lawyers want Baxter detainee released for treatment !
Lawyers acting for a hunger-striking detainee inside South Australia's Baxter detention centre have asked the Federal Court to order a psychiatric assessment for the man, saying he needs to be in mental health care, not detention.

Baxter protesters 'being denied water, sleep'?
One of the three Iranian men has been on the roof of the gymnasium since Sunday last week, with two others joining him on Tuesday.

Detainees urged to abandon rooftop protest!
Kathy Verran from Rural Australians for Refugees, says one of the men has since come down and has been taken into the management unit. [solitary confinement for Xmas?]

Advocates warn of detention centre riot risk
A prominent refugee advocate warns South Australia's Baxter Detention Centre is on the brink of a major riot. A protest involving about 25 male detainees broke out at the centre on Tuesday, over a new system which is delaying the process of dispensing medication to detainees.

Villawood detainees go on hunger strike
A refugee advocacy group says up to 200 detainees at the Villawood Detention Centre, in Sydney, have begun a hunger strike to draw attention to their situation ahead of the federal election.

Afghan children lose High Court battle against detention
Lawyers have lost their constitutional challenge to the detention of four children at a South Australian immigration centre. Four siblings from Afghanistan, aged between seven and 15, have been in detention since they arrived in Australia in 2001.

Australia's "GITMO" System
Australia's "GITMO" System In June 2002 on the PM program on ABC radio, PHILIP RUDDOCK is quoted as saying: "Well, let me just say, detention centres are not prisons. They are administrative detention.

Senior cleric damns Baxter as 'disgraceful'
A senior world religious figure has called on the Federal Government to scrap its mandatory detention policy after visiting the Baxter detention centre in South Australia's north.

Detention centre media ban criticised
The Howard Government has been criticised in a report by media freedom advocate Reporters Without Borders for stopping journalists covering the conditions in refugee detention centres.

Baxter detainee continues hunger strike
A detainee at the Baxter detention centre near Port Augusta in South Australia has been on a hunger strike for a week. Sri Lankan Zeldon Daggie, 23, says he has been detained since arriving in Australia four years ago.

Democrats to keep up pressure over asylum seekers
The Australian Democrats will maintain their pressure on the next federal government over Australia's treatment of asylum seekers, if the party can retain its strength in the Senate.

Don't rock the Boat Howard!
PRIME Minister John Howard today denied the children overboard affair had swayed the 2001 election? Mr Howard has spent the week defending himself against claims he had been informed that nobody in Defence believed children had been thrown overboard by asylum seekers.