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Howards children overboard lies revisited

Sue Hoffman's last contribution to Webdiary was Race from a Jewish perspective.

by Sue Hoffman

John Howard’s recent comments concerning the asylum seeker boat SIEV 4 that was central to the ‘children overboard’ senate inquiry are disappointing but not surprising. Falsely accused of throwing their children overboard, he maintains the boat passengers don’t deserve an apology as "they irresponsibly sank the damn boat, which put their children in the water", which is as untrue as the allegation that they threw their kids into the water. He has conveniently forgotten to mention that ADF personnel were under orders to override safety of life at sea conventions by delaying rescue until passengers of asylum seeker boats were in the water, rather than when it became apparent the boat was going to sink.

The SIEV 4 passengers aren’t the only refugees deserving of an apology from the Howard government. In fact there’s a very long list, including asylum seekers detained for years, some more than five, before being granted refugee status, who are now struggling to overcome the effects of prolonged incarceration in conditions known to cause severe mental health problems. There’s the asylum seekers whose cases are still unresolved, living in the community for years, supported by community groups as they are not allowed to work, not allowed access to Centrelink and not allowed access to Medicare.

Then there are the Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) that deny overseas travel and family reunion to refugees. Men who have been held in immigration detention centres upwards of five years, released last year as refugees on three year TPVs, waiting for the time when they might been granted Permanent Protection Visas that provide for overseas travel, and allow them to see their families for the first time in eight or more years.

For many TPV holders, it’s too late. Parents have died in the interim. Their marriages have fallen apart through the enforced separation. Children don’t recognise their dads. The TPV holders and their families deserve an apology.

TPVs were the cause of the growing number of women and children who attempted the dangerous sea voyage from Indonesia to Australia. Separated from their husbands and fathers living in Australia, the restrictions placed on TPV holders made it impossible for the families to be reunited through legitimate channels. Placing desperate people who’d fled regimes such as Saddam, the Taliban and the Iranian Mullahs in such impossible situations calls for an apology.

The TPV policy explains why there were so many women and children on SIEV X, the asylum seeker boat that sank on October 19th 2001 killing 146 children, 142 women and 65 men. In the words of one Iraqi refugee whose wife and four children, and nine other family members, drowned, “If they allowed us to bring our families this would not have happened... I had no other choice,..that was my last option after it became obvious that I had lost hope of seeing my children because of the cruel condition of TPV. There was no other way but the sea to bring my wife and four children”.

This man, along with others in similar circumstances, was finally granted a Permanent Protection Visa late in 2005, allowing him to travel overseas and mourn the death of his loved ones with his parents and siblings, and other members of his extended family, for the first time since the tragedy.

The sheer callousness of the Howard government is illustrated by the case of Sondos Ismael and Ahmed Alzalimi. Ahmed was living in Sydney on a TPV when his wife Sondos and their three little girls attempted the fatal journey to Australia on SIEV X. The girls drowned but Sondos was rescued and taken with other survivors to Indonesia. Her husband was only able to be with her in Indonesia if he gave up his right to live in Australia. Despite extensive lobbying, it was five months before Sondos was granted a visa that allowed her entry to Australia so she could finally be with her husband, and they could grieve the loss of their daughters together.

Four bodies were reportedly recovered and taken to Indonesia within a few days of the sinking. TPV holders with family on SIEV X were informed they would not be permitted re-entry to Australia if they went to Indonesia to try and identify the bodies. The thought that their wives and children might be buried in Indonesia torments to this day, but despite requests, no information has yet been provided that would assist in the identification of these bodies or where they are buried.

It is yet to be established exactly what role the People Smuggling Disruption Program (PSDP) played in the SIEV X disaster. PSDP was a government initiative, in which the Australian Federal Police and Indonesian Police were:

“involved in a covert disruption program targeting people smugglers operating inside Indonesia. Disruption tactics included…selling passage to asylum seekers on phoney voyages…and keeping their money so they could not buy places on other boats.

“One informant connected with the disruption program boasted…he had arranged for Indonesian locals... to scuttle boats packed with asylum seekers… close to land so everyone got off safely.

“To date no direct link has been established between the disruption program and the sinking of SIEV X. However, this possibility cannot be ruled out, given that SIEV X sunk at the height of this program and only a week after the People Smuggling Taskforce discussed 'beefing up' disruption.

“The Senate is so concerned about this possibility that it has passed three resolutions calling for the government to set up an independent judicial inquiry into the people smuggling disruption program in Indonesia and the sinking of SIEVX.” http://www.sievx.com/FAQ.shtml

Until such time as there is a full powers judicial inquiry into SIEV X, we may never know exactly what happened, and to what degree actions by Australian authorities contributed to the tragedy. The lives of the 353 dead are not of lesser worth because they were asylum seekers, or because they were Iraqi. They, the 45 survivors and the families they left behind, deserve far better than the treatment meted out to them. A heartfelt apology for both the disaster and the treatment by Australian authorities of those most directly affected by the SIEV X tragedy is long overdue.

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another SIEVX victim

To add a short tribute to Amal after Mary and Marg.

Amal was one of the bravest human beings Australia should have welcomed with open arms and love.

We didn't and we lost.

RIP, dear lady.

Forgot to mention

Forgot to mention that the Pakistani documents used against Ali Bakhtiyari in August 2002 were not sent to Islamabad until December 2002.

And that they had been deemed obsolete by the Pakistan government since 2000, were in a different name and the person on them was not even an Hazara.

Still, it's very clever that DIMIA sent the bloody thing to Ali three months before they got it.

Revisiting DIMIA

Robert Jovicic is home but only for a few weeks and has to apply for Serbian nationality, something that would be impossible as he was born in France to Serbian parents and is as Australian as all of us.

Vivian Alvarez finally got home and the Senate report into the circumstances of her deportation has led to the removal of several of the cowboys in the compliance department. However, she is still very ill and has not been compensated one cent after almost a year.

Cornelia Rau is doing better. Living alone, going to TAFE college but still not compensated after more than 13 months after her release. Why not, I have to ask.

Shayan Badraie, the first child in detention that we got to see, is finally a resident of Australia after 6 years of literal torture and torment. He has been awarded $400,000 and all legal costs by DIMIA - the whistle blower being none other than the repulsive Philipa Godwin who told repeated inquiries and Senate estimates that Woomera and other detention centres had better facilities than most Australian kids got. I wonder why she turned?

There are now 247 cases of wrongful detention being investigated and still no results or answers as to who they are and why they were locked up.

Recent revelations show that some Asians were being dragged off the streets and locked up and then the key being thrown away with no investigations being done.

All but two of the original "boat people" have been released from detention. No more have been deported by force since the Bakhtiyaris.

DIMIA have answered Paul McGeough’s questions about the deportation of that family, via Linda Kirk and some of the answers are astonishing.

1. Not one person in the family was ever interviewed by Pakistan.

2. Pakistan does not allow forced "returns" so who paid the bribes?

3. DIMIA now claims that they never denied Roqia and the kids were from Afghanistan, she was only deemed to be Pakistani because she might have been married to one. That is illegal.

4. The so-called travel documents for Roqia and the kids were issued on the same day as the Afghan embassy made it clear she was from Jaghouri in Afghanistan - 22 December 2004 and Pakistan refused to stamp them.

5. There are no entry or exit stamps for either Bangkok or Dubai yet we know they were in both places for a day.

6. 27 December 2004 the Afghan Ambassador wrote directly to Vanstone saying that Roqia and the children were Afghans and that a media report (Russell Skelton at The Age) which claimed to have spoken to officials in Kabul were a flat out lie.

7. The photos for Roqia and the kids were taken from media reports and the kids mostly look scared to death.

8. DIMIA stupidly claims that the Afghan authorities are still searching for Roqia's nationality. But then they say that we are not financing the IDCU anymore anyway.

9. Of the three boats deemed to be all Pakistanis only three - Roqia, her Afghan brother and a boy from their village. All of that out of 374 people.

10. Of 106 people investigated by the IDCU 105 were deemed to be Afghans.

Madness.

Two Iraqi men are still locked up on Nauru at a cost of $1 million a month and are to be given the "freedom" of the island with bikes and an allowance. They have been deemed to be refugees by Australia but then said they are dangerous - to us it seems but not to the 11,000 Nauruans. More madness.

The West Timorese who were taken to Darwin and then to Christmas Island are being assessed by the RRT.

The West Papuans should have an answer soon but why they were taken to Christmas Island at vast expense beats me.

Vanstone keeps making motherhood statements about improvements in the culture and behaviour of DIMIA but I fail to see just where that is.

The real issue

Justin Wilshaw, have you ever met a refugee who has inflicted harm upon you or your family? Personally I have met a quite a few refugees. The first two I ever met had numbers tattooed on their forearms. They, like the others were/are gentle and wonderful human beings; as such I have no fear of refugees.

Justin talks about the “floodgates” and that would appear to be the only discussion worth having. It would also appear that, when all is said and done, the return to the “floodgate” argument is the last refuge of their (the supporters of our inhumane treatment of refugees) argument. We spent a lot of money to stop the “floodgates”; the Pacific Solution costing the taxpayer around half a billion dollars to demonise a few hundred human beings, 98% of whom are now living peacefully with us. We could have saved 99% of that wealth if we just processed them in a caring and humane manner. The only thing we can salvage from this insane policy is that we stopped the “floodgates”, yet this claim is in reality open to debate.

Personally I feel the real question is: just how many refugees can the Australian community and economy accommodate without having major negative effects?

Gareth Eastwood claims: “I personally have no problem in the so called “floodgates” being opened to refugees and immigrants. I agree we need a controlled border….”

I’m with you mate, for this gives us the opportunity to unite in a moral and also practical sense to discuss the topic without the emotional fear of refugees themselves, but in a more responsible and mature manner. As long as we allow our leaders to play politics with this one then we will all continue to pay with our wealth and our morality.

The floodgates and "these folk"

Justin Wilshaw, I have a question for you. I will avoid the moral, ethical, emotional and international law arguments that have been thrown at you here on Webdiary. You appear to place little value on this side of the issue. I must admit I tend to do the same.

I can assume you are not primarily concerned in the legal aspect because of these comments you posted previously.

“But where does it end, Sue? If people are allowed to come in and to leave, and then to come back, it will be never-ending and open up the floodgates. If you allow one to do it for a tragedy, do you allow others to do it if a sick relative dies in some other country? I don't have as much faith in these folk as you do.”

So that leaves me wondering why exactly you don’t want “these folk” moving here from other parts of the world. So Justin, what are your primary reasons for not wanting refugees to move to Australia? Is it just refugees you have a problem with, or are you against all immigration as well? Or is it just refugees and migrants of a particular racial or religious background?

I personally have no problem in the so called “floodgates” being opened to refugees and immigrants. I agree we need a controlled border, but that would mean identify yourself and in you come. We have plenty of resources (including water) and room for more people.

Justin, you argue strongly against “these folk” being barred from entering Australia, but you have yet to provide any reason why. I am not referring to a legal argument either. There weren’t always laws in this country preventing people from moving here. What’s the justification for them being in place now?

I wouldn’t bother throwing me into your “you lefties here” bucket. As a Howard voter, Iraq war supporter and proud capitalist, that badge would look very silly on me. I’m assuming you voted Liberal as well last time around. You do realise the number one ideology of the Liberal party is freedom and individual rights? Don't you think these refugees should be allowed to choose their own path? Or are you masking a nationalist attitude in there as well?

OK mate, I‘ve given a few reasons why they should. Your turn, why shouldn’t they?

an answer to the queue question

Justin, when you say:

"I personally feel that people arriving here uninvited by boat, having travelled through 10-15 other countries to get here, should be placed back on their boat, towed to international waters, and sent back from whence they came. "

you echo the meanest of measures ever applied by Australia to asylum seekers.

Would you feel any responsibility for the fate of those you would have towed to international waters?

The mode of arrival by asylum seekers appears to be particularly worrisome for you. The country count during passage is also important if I read you correctly.

When you say "towed to international waters" I assume you are saying the boat has arrived in the Australian migration zone.

If so, are you saying Australia should breach our obligations and own laws to rid ourselves of the burden of duty to protect refugees?

You may like to Listen to Vietnamese Asylum seekers

A young Vietnamese refugee girl answers the question on queue jumping you use in your arguments that was posed to her the other day in this interview.

Her boat reached the migration zone and an attempt to tow them to international waters was foiled by the Aussies on the streets of Port Headland taking photos and a tenacious young journalist who filmed the boat within cooee of shore.

Statistical analysis

Justin, I think Hamish is a little generous in his praise of your statistical analysis.

1.      The global trend is important, especially as the raw numbers for Australia are very low. Yes there’s a 183% increase from Pakistan, for example, in the third quarter of 2005 (05Q3) but in Q1 and Q2 we see +21% and -17%. I would say that as the trend is very much down, by about 27% for Pakistan globally, and the raw figures for Australia are so low, the number could easily be an aberration and not something to get worked up about.

2.      In the case of Sri Lanka, the global trend in Q3 was down by 21% after increases in Q1 and Q2. The numbers from Myanmar are very low, but surely there would be genuine asylum seekers from that country. The number from Iran globally is down 15% for Q3; Myanmar doesn’t even make the list.

3.      Frankly, I don’t know where you get the figure of +211% for Iran: Page 5 of the PDF file says there was only a 12% increase for industrialised countries between Q2 and Q3, and the tables show -15% between 04Q3 and 05Q3. For Australia it’s -31%!

4.      Afghanis are down 84% to Australia. The raw numbers are incredibly low. Yet they were the ones supposedly coming in hordes about 5 years ago. The decrease reflects the general dramatic reduction from that country to all western countries; these figures do bear out what I have been saying.

5.      We all agree that there has been only one boat of Vietnamese reported in the last four years. Yet asylum seekers keep arriving. HOW? Those who arrived even from Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran in the last few years must have come by other means. My point is that in the normal course of events most refugees and asylum seekers, “unauthorised arrivals”, ordinary immigrants too, arrive here without notice by the vast majority of people. Not many know that a bipartisan family reunion program during the Fraser years led to over 200,000 Vietnamese arriving here without fanfare or hysteria. The more recent “boat people” would have too, had not the boats leaked, sunk, and the Liberals created a moral panic about the Tampa and the fictitious hurling of children into the sea so they could win an election on the strength of prejudice, xenophobia, fear and self righteous disgust. Clearly, when asylum seekers can keep on arriving in Australia without the use of leaky boats and people smugglers, and without any public attention except for that caused by the occasional spread in the Age or SMH about conditions in the detention centres, there can be no argument about the correctness of allowing the more visible ones in. Making an unauthorised arrival is not against any law.

I asked you a few posts ago to answer this question:

“Of course, the question you raise with your response is this: was the arrival of the boats such a terrible, calamitous thing? I ask you now to answer this question without resorting to prejudice or fear-mongering or falsehoods or myths, and by sticking to the facts.”

Well, you’ve managed with some facts, in a manner, but your reading of them and the conclusions you draw are either askew or simply not substantiated. I think you’re still relying on assertions, which in turn are driven by fear or prejudice.

We still don’t know the answer to that question. Surely you’re not pinning your whole case on an objection to “people smuggling”? Is that the entire basis of your humanitarian feeling for the asylum seekers? Would you have absolutely no objection then to many thousands of Afghani, Iraqi, Iranian and other Middle Eastern “unauthorised arrivals” so long as they don’t arrive by boat?

No response? Why?

Last week I asked Justin Wilshaw a few questions. Other 'diarists asked other questions at about the same time. Justin decided to answer their questions, but did not answer mine. Why?

There is a hint of the answers to my questions in his response to Andrew McRae and Marilyn Shepherd - he doesn't want to see asylum seekers arrive here by boat. Why? Is it a genuine concern for the welfare of those who would risk so much to reach a safe refuge?

Apologies for not responding

Craig Rowley, my apologies for not answering your question. You replied to my first post in this thread, and I simply stopped looking that far down the page as I was discussing things with Marilyn and others.

(Note: Why don’t we just have comments posted in chronological order, with referencing back to the post you’re referring to? This reply thing is a pain especially if you’re coming in late and replying to a post at the start of a 50 post debate, often your comment is overlooked)

I don’t believe I have “rushed back” on to Webdiary at all. I have regularly contributed to, and don’t make “special appearances” just for refugee threads. I am also not a member of any political party.

I suppose, Craig, that I have a problem with people paying a lot of money to bypass other people who are also in need. Regardless of if you agree with our laws and our quota, they are the law of the land. I have said many times I have no problem with people seeking asylum, so long as they do so in accordance with our laws and the processes that we as a sovereign nation have established. I have said in other threads I agree with Marilyn that we should take more refugees than we currently do.

Gareth, by these folk I referred to those asylum seekers who have arrived here by boat not in accordance with our laws. Yes, my family came here from Europe. Greece and Wales to be exact, after the war. If you want to go back, that’s fine Gareth. I’ll continue to occupy this invaded land.

Seeking protection in Australia

Justin, the law in Australia says that to seek protection in Australia a person has to be in Australia. That's it. That's all it says.

Here is an exercise. Refugee A is in a camp, perfectly safe being cared for by the UN and they have been there for up to 17 years. Refugee B is being persecuted in Afghanistan and bribes their way out of the country to Pakistan, is persecuted and tormented because the Taliban and Pashtun tribes are killing Afghans and sending them home. Who is the most in need of protection?

Money has nothing to do with anything. It is about persecution which is described in law as at risk of serious harm and without government protection. Justin, a refugee is not a migrant, not a person simply moving from one place to another because they feel like. They run and keep running. I know refugees from Iran who have vast amounts of wealth but they still had to come on boats because we won't let them on planes if they can't get papers and they can't get papers because they will be killed.

What on earth does it take to get you to understand that simple premise that a true refugee has no way at all to travel legally and that Article 31 of the Refugee Convention forbids detention or punishment because people don't have papers? There is nothing anywhere to say people have to be poor, or have to fly on nice shiny passports, to seek protection. As for the quota, that is not a law – it’s a lifestyle choice by a lazy government.

Refugees vs Asylum Seekers

Justin Wilshaw: “I have said many times I have no problem with people seeking asylum, so long as they do so in accordance with our laws and the processes that we as a sovereign nation have established.”

I don’t mean to be rude but based on the above quote it seems to me that you don’t quite have your head around the issues.

Firstly, there is a difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker. While it is true that for the purposes of our obligations under the Refugee Convention all asylum seekers are considered to be refugees, there is no provision under Australian law for asylum seekers to legally apply for protection in Australia from outside our migration zone. The Australian government has no structures or institutions in place to process refugee claims offshore. That is left to the UNHCR, and it is only after the UNHCR has determined that someone is a genuine refugee can they enter Australia under the Refugee and Special Humanitarian Program.

An asylum seeker, on the other hand, is someone who has already arrived in Australia when they ask for our protection. The legal process for someone seeking asylum in Australia is to arrive within our migration zone and ask for protection.

There are two types of asylum seekers: “authorised” and “unauthorised”. An authorised entrant is some who has arrived on a tourist or student visa and then asked for our protection. An unauthorised entrant is someone who has arrived with fraudulent or no documentation. It is wrong to think that asylum seekers who arrive in Australia without a valid visa are deliberately trying to defraud the system. In most cases people are fleeing persecution from their own government and it is not safe to obtain the proper documentation. There is no legislation or statute that makes it illegal to arrive in this country without documentation.

Returning to the above quote, Justin, could you please explain to me what “laws and processes” this “sovereign nation” has established to process asylum seeker claims? Thanks.

BTW, any chance of getting an answer to my earlier question? What would you do, stay in the camp and be raped and tortured or seek asylum in Australia? Cheers.

The law is the issue then, or is it?

Thank you, Justin Wilshaw for responding to my questions. I understand how you may have missed them, so whilst I appreciate your apology it was not necessary. (Note: You can set your comment viewing preference to Flat list - expanded and see all the comments in chronological order).

Ok, so you say your chief concern is with observance of the law. Do you recognise that under Australian law and international law a person is entitled to make an application for refugee asylum in another country when they allege they are escaping persecution and that means people who arrive on our shores without prior authorisation from Australia, with no documents, or false documents are not illegal?

I guess you'd have to answer yes to this question going by your most recent response to Marilyn, where you say: "I have a problem with this, but it's the law so I accept it."

What is the "problem" you have with "this" based on, then?

Our neighbours...

Craig Rowley, thanks for pointing that out. Things just became so much easier!

I personally feel that people arriving here uninvited by boat, having travelled through 10-15 other countries to get here, should be placed back on their boat, towed to international waters, and sent back from whence they came.

This, however, is not the law, and I respect that. If someone from say Timor, Indonesia, Fiji, the Solomons was to make the trip and apply for asylum I am more than happy to support their applications. They are our neighbours, and they are going to the nearest signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees to claim asylum.

Nationals from counties not within a bull's roar of Australia should wait their turn like thousands of others in camps around the world do, and not use their access to money to buy their way here.

This is fundamentally why in 2001 John Howard was so successful with his refugee claim. You have never heard an uproar from anyone regarding Indonesians, Timorese or Fijians claiming asylum because they're our neighbours. Flip the situation over. If suddenly a thousand or so Timorese showed up in Turkmenistan claiming asylum, it would make front page news. They have a country next door who is a signatory (us) . Why would you want to go so far to claim asylum when you have a country next door who is a signatory?

That, Craig, is my "problem" with "this".

I am dying to see Marilyn's response to this post!

What a hoot, Justin!

Justin, refugees who come here from Bosnia through the "legal" program had to come across dozens of countries that were closer.

Refugees who fly come from Peru, Brazil, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Iran, South Africa, Palestine, Pakistan, Israel, America, Chile, Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and all sorts of other places - some halfway around the world and they pay for it.

So what? As the High Court has said over and over again, it is a right endowed on anyone in the world by Australian law and international law.

Only 9% of them are deemed to be refugees because they could get travel documents but they were not locked up like animals out in the desert for years.

Those who came on boats, a perfectly legal method of travel since humans existed, are almost all refugees.

I think you need to explain to the Australian readers on this forum why you so whine on and on about people smugglers hurting those poor refugees, then want to behave ten times worse and break Australian law at the same time.

Tell us all you could look into the eyes of a small child from Afghanistan who has already been tormented and tortured and turn him or her back into the sea without a thought as to whether they live or die.

If you could, you should get a job with DIMIA, who did it to a tiny baby boy just over a year ago, denied the family travel documents and left them to die.

Why?

Justin Wilshaw, thank you for explaining that your "problem" is with those particular asylum seekers who are nationals of countries not in our immediate region. Do you know why the people you have a "problem" with seek to come here rather than stay in another country they may travel through? What do you think motivates these asylum seekers to choose Australia as their destination?

Refugee numbers are down

Alright Andrew, I'll stick to facts. The BBC report is quite correct is saying refugee numbers are down. They are down significantly in Europe which the report you posted is based on.

In the region encompassed by New Zealand, Japan and Australia, refugee numbers to Q3 2005 are also down by 8%.

This is largely due to massive declines in Afghanistan (-84%), Nth Korea (-74%) and some smaller drops of 20% in some other countries. However of the 30 countries on the report 21 have recorded INCREASES. Of those 21 there are still increases from Iraq (20%), Pakistan (183%), Myanmar (41%), Sri Lanka (61%) and Iran (211%).

Now, given the crux of a number of people’s arguments on here (Marilyn: read this) that the first place a person who departs Afghanistan or Iraq can stop is here in Australia, it goes without saying that as those who come from Iraq and Afghanistan need to go through Pakistan, Myanmar, India etc to get here. Now if Pakistan, Myanmar, Iran, Sri Lanka are still experiencing increases and we went back to the system we had pre 2001 then it not hard to work out that the people-smuggling trade would resume.

Thanks for your time, Andrew.

Source: Asylum levels and trends in industrialised countries Third quarter 2005 UNHCR, Table 8.

Hamish: thanks, Justin. Is there a link by chance? It sounds like an important source for this debate.

Not the first place

Justin, I have never maintained that Australia is the first place that refugees can stop. I have always said it is the first place they can get to that has ratified the refugee convention, the protocol, and other human rights instruments with legal processes in place to process the claims of refugees.

As you noticed, the claims from Pakistan have risen by 183% - that is, thousands more Pakistan nationals are being forced to flee. Now if Pakistanis are not free from persecution in Pakistan why on earth would Afghans be?

And Justin, the people smuggling continues every day. Every minute of every day people are crossing borders in trucks, buses, trains, on foot and on donkey's to get to another place and all with the help of bribes and so on. Every day people are flying into other countries to seek protection and most of them have no papers.

This obsession of yours with process and places to stop has become quite deranged. The very fact that 98% of those people who came on boats are still here legally and permanently as refugees proves my case that Ruddock was always talking twaddle. Surely to heaven, Justin, you understand the difference between landing on a piece of dirt subject to grotesque human rights violations, with no rule of law, with no legal process and one like Australia that does have those things? Well, we did once.

People are not refugees when they arrive somewhere to claim protection, they are refugees because they have been forced to leave and all this crap you write drives me nuts. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are being forced to leave again; Iranians are leaving the mad Mullahs and so on. They are only smuggled out of their own countries and into countries that have not signed the convention. None of them has been smuggled into Australia for the simple reason that the whole world knew it was happening and because it is perfectly legal to come to Australia on boats. The way some people carry on is madness - how do you think the place got settled over 200 years? Do you think those 10,000 Afghans and Iraqis were the first people ever to come to Australia on boats without papers? Did our ancestors say "beam me up, Scotty" and transmogrify or morph onto the island?

Justin, refugees are human beings, they are not criminals, and they have a legal right in international law to travel to any place available that has signed the refugee convention to seek the protection of the state. There is simply no point in continuing to say that Afghans should have stayed in Pakistan when Pakistan is just as bad as Afghanistan.

Refugees in our "region"

Marilyn, that’s not what I’m saying at all. From memory Pakistan is not even a signatory to the UN convention on refugees.

It is my position that if we went back to policies pre 2001 that boats would start arriving again. Andrew said that with Afghanistan and Iraq numbers now falling (Afghanistan’s are, Iraq's aren’t) and overall refugee numbers dropping there is no basis for my position.

My point, Marilyn, is that whilst total refugee numbers are down, there are still countries in our "region ( as per Table 8 of the report)" who have increasing numbers of refugees leaving them, and as a result that is why I maintain that should the laws go back to pre 2001 we would have boats arriving again.

So What, Justin?

So what if refugees do come again, Justin? Will the sky fall in, will the island sink? Will life as we know it come to a shuddering halt?

You fail to notice that refugees are allowed by law to come to Australia. And that they have to be in Australia to seek protection.

With 20 million refugees in the world on any given day are you suggesting that Australia not do their fair share and leave it to everyone else? Tanzania has 750,000 refugees, Pakistan has 4 million, Iran 3 million, Germany 1 million, and we whine incessantly about 4,000.

Justin, if the government had not denied family reunion for refugees from October 1999 onwards the women and children would not have been on the boats. They were aware of that less than 3 months after they started the policy and did nothing about it.

We can't pretend we care about the welfare of the refugees who come on boats because we locked them up like criminals, denied them legal review, tortured their kids, and then when that didn't work we turned them back into the sea without a moment's thought as to whether or not they died.

Warehousing of refugees in camps in places like Kakuma is revolting, yet the rich world thinks they are being "generous" when they offer to resettle only 100,000 refugees a year or less than 1% - Australia accepts less than 6% of that 1% – fewer than 6,000 people.

Last year, after the "quota" was raised to 6,000 in the refugee stream we still managed to fall short by over 400 places. How in the world could we do that with 20 million refugees needing some sort of solution? Again Justin, over 8,000 asylum seekers come to Australia every year. Did you notice no-one was talking about kicking them out?

And did you see Debra Jopson's expose - we allow murderers from the Shatila and Sabra refugee camps to roam free for 12 years just because they flew here.

How stupid is that when we torture the very people who have managed to escape from the monsters listed above.

Exactly, Marilyn

Exactly, Marilyn. In October 1999 the Government denied family reunions. That became the law of the land. You might not like it, but it was the law. As you said, “Justin, if the government had not denied family reunion for refugees from October 1999 onwards the women and children would not have been on the boats. They were aware of that less than 3 months after the started the policy and did nothing about it.” So they said, F#@k your laws, we're coming anyway. That is why people voted for John Howard, it is why these laws will always be in place, and its why you will never convert even a double digit percentage of the population to see it your way.

You now seem to agree with me that changing the laws will have the boats coming back. So you're happy for the little kids who can't swim to be back on leaky overcrowded boats in the middle of an ocean again? You're happy for the people smugglers to be making money again?

They were women and kids


Justin
, they were women and children - should they have stayed to be blown up by Australian bombs?

God, this is madness. They didn't break any law, they were still allowed to come and seek protection in their own right.

And again, if the boats started again so what? Who are the people smugglers that are supposedly making all this money, do you know?

Get over it Justin. DIMIA knew the policy was putting more and more women and children on the boats not the refugees. The refugees mostly had no idea where their husbands were, sometimes for months and months because DIMIA wouldn't even allow one phone call out of the centres.

Anyone on earth is allowed to come to Australia and claim asylum - that is the law and the bottom line. All but one of the wives who came to Australia with her kids now lives here, the question should be why was one excluded? The answer is that she genuinely had no idea that her husband was here.

Stop it already. 98% of those who came are still here - can you even read that?

Now Justin have a good look at yourself and explain your hatred and disgust for refugees to all of us. This debate has gone on for years and you have not stepped one inch forward.

"Smugglers" have moved people around the world for centuries and are doing it to somewhere as we speak.

Traffickers are the ones we need to stop. They steal women and children and send them to slavery and exploitation. No-one is exploiting the refugees, they have to leave so they leave.

Try and place yourself in Iraq and Afghanistan as a woman whose husband has disappeared. There is no social security, the police keep arresting you, there are no jobs, no legal rights, no nothing and no husband.

Marilyn,

Marilyn, Australia didn't deploy fighters to Afghanistan, so they were safe from our bombs.

Who are the people smugglers that are supposedly making all this money, do you know?

Marilyn, that is a silly line.  Abu Quassay is serving time in Egypt for wrongful death from memory and I recall a trial in Queensland of a people smuggler. But you already knew about both of these, didn't you Marilyn.

I don't doubt for a minute your fact that 98% of those whom arrived are still here. The fact, though, is irrelevent. They arrived here by a method which broke our processes for accepting refugees. That they were able to get here, they were then able to claim asylum as is the law. I have a problem with this, but it's the law so I accept it. They took the place, because they had money, of people waiting in camps around the world.

The damn problem with the boats coming, Marilyn, is that the things are death traps. 353 people died on SIEV X, and you want the boats to start up again. The policies of this government stopped the boats coming. It stopped women and children, who can't swim, crossing an ocean on boats that were not seaworthy. Why can't you admit that this is a good thing?

Link for Refugee Numbers

Hamish, I can never get the link thingy to work properly with PDF files. The main address is: www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/statistics.

You go down on the right hand side and under "Asylum trends" you see the file for 2005 third quarter.

Cheers mate.

Justin Wilshaw suddenly

Justin Wilshaw suddenly seems to care for the refugees! - "these poor people", he calls them. Or could there be a touch of sarcasm there?

Justin naturally claims the Government's policies can take all the credit for saving "these poor people" by deterring them, but shows his complete ignorance of the global context. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the source of nearly all "unauthorised arrivals" - Justin keeps using the term "illegal", of course, as it's a habit too hard to break - the regimes that most asylum seekers and refugees were fleeing from have been removed, and consequently countries that do not have Australia's draconian detention policies have also seen greatly reduced numbers of arrivals, as this BBC report of 31/8/2004 demonstrates:

'The number of asylum seekers in industrialised countries has dropped to the lowest level in 17 years. The UN said the decrease was largely down to the massive decline in refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the figures, the number of people seeking asylum in industrialised countries fell in the second quarter of 2004, continuing a downward trend. Approximately 86,900 people applied between April and June in the 30 richest states, compared to 107,911 in the same part of last year.

The UK, which was the top receiving country at the beginning of the 21st century, has seen numbers fall quite sharply UNHCR spokesman Rupert Colville. Applications are 8% down on the previous quarter, which itself was almost a fifth down on the last quarter of 2003.

UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesman Rupert Colville said: "The total number of claims in all 30 industrialised countries during the first six months of 2004 is 22% lower than during the first half of 2003.

"It's the lowest level since 1987. Three big groups - Afghanis, Iraqis and Kosovars - have fallen away."

It should also be remembered that the numbers of arrivals in Australia were minuscule, compared to other parts of the world, even before the "great flood" of them which had Justin quaking in his leaky boots.

The other point to make, which Justin himself alludes to in his reference to 'leaky overloaded boats', is that disasters like the sinking of the SIEV X would also have had a deterrent effect.

No, the real question, which Justin ought to answer, is this. If, as he says, the Government's policies have been such a triumphant success, with only one boat arriving with Vietnamese on board since the Tampa, WHY has it been necessary to continue with the Western world's most draconian inhumane detention policies, especially since more than 90% have been found to be genuine cases?

No sarcasm, Andrew

Andrew, no sarcasm. If you check over my posts over three years in Webdiary, this has always been my position.

The reason it is necessary, Andrew, is I have no doubt that should we go back to the way we were pre the 2001 election. Boats would start arriving again.

Justin's lack of doubt

Good heavens! No facts, no evidence, no effort to argue against the quote from the BBC? Just your own lack of doubt? Surely the report I quoted indicates that that simply won't happen, unless of course a catastrophic situation develops in a war-torn or famine-ravaged country. In which case I'll bet even your draconian and inhumane detention laws won't stop them if they're desperate enough. A leaky boat might, though, so there's always hope for you.

Of course, the question you raise with your response is this: was the arrival of the boats such a terrible, calamitous thing? I ask you now to answer this question without resorting to prejudice or fear-mongering or falsehoods or myths, and by sticking to the facts.

Fear and loathing

Andrew, come on, if a “faith based” approach to policy is good enough for George Bush it should be good enough for Justin Wilshaw.

You hit the nail on the head, I think, by asking whether the arrival of boats was such "a terrible, calamitous thing". Apparently, it was for some people. The completely irrational fear and loathing that many Australians have for a very small number of asylum seekers can be attributed in no small part to Howard's campaign of lies and distortions. That's what children overboard was all about - create a lie, make it a generalisation and make it stick. Disgusting.

In the 1970s we had a wave of asylum seekers ("boat people" then, now referred to erroneously as "illegals" by people like Justin), from Vietnam. My understanding is that Malcolm Fraser tried to diffuse tension in Australia towards these people, rather than inflaming it as Howard and Ruddock did - unashamedly. It's called moral leadership, something this country hasn't had for many years.

I'm proud to say there will always be Australians who see through the hate-mongering of politicians like Howard and Hanson and treat refugees with the compassion they deserve.

People like my parents, who helped a Vietnamese family find their feet in Australia after arriving here as refugees with just the clothes on their backs. I didn't realise it at the time, but it made a deep impression on me as a young teenager to see how much a small amount of kindness and genuine human contact could mean to people who have lost everything. That family, by the way, established a successful motor repair business in Sydney and are now proud, hardworking Australians. The kids have grown up here and are doing great.

As soon as a group of people is reduced to an abstraction, with a pejorative tag like “illegals”, you deny their humanity. It then becomes a cinch to remain resolutely unmoved by our draconian and cruel mandatory detention policy.

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back!!!!

Marilyn, you will note I made mention of you in my first post. I was busy typing away and thought, debates on refugees just aren’t the same without Marilyn’s stories.

This last story wasn’t too bad either. Have you ever thought of compiling them into a book?

Anyway, to answer your questions:

1. No, they should bring their kids. We have had this discussion before. Hell will freeze over, Marilyn, before you can convince me that someone fleeing Afghanistan or Iraq cannot stop anywhere but Australia.

2. No, that’s not what I'm implying. What I'm saying is if someone attempts to enter this country illegally, gets in here, and then wants to leave again and come back. That ain't cricket!

3. No. Let me tell you though, if an overloaded, unseaworthy boat had been allowed to leave from Darwin harbour, after people were herded on to the boat by Australian police, sank in the Australian SAR zone on its way toward Indonesia I would be with you in demanding an investigation by the government. I don’t, and I have said this before, necessarily think that an investigation should not be held. I just think the investigation needs to be held in Indonesia, by Indonesian authorities. The boat left from their country, and sank in their SAR zone.

Two questions for you though, sweetie:

1. Are you at least partially happy that due to the Government's polices the boats have stopped and these poor people are no longer putting themselves and their kids on leaky overloaded boats to cross an open ocean?

2. If we are, as you said, the “first place of real safety with legal mechanisms in place is here”, where have all the refugees gone? The boats have stopped. If we're the first point of safety where are they going now?

The basis for your argument is these people cannot stop anywhere but here. Well, they are not coming here anymore so where on this big earth are they now going?

Good to see you back.

We turned them into the sea

Ah Justin, the argument that we stopped the boats is so old and tired is has grown hair.

Now let me tell you about SIEV5 that came during Operation Relex. It got almost to Ashmore Reef and carried 238 Afghan refugees. The boat was terribly overcrowded, many of the people had scabies and most importantly a baby died and a baby was born. Deb Whitmont covered this story on the program "Deter and Deny".

After several days at sea on this boat and in spite of the best efforts of the doctor on board a baby died at sea. We don't know his name. Then a baby girl was born. Her name is Ashmorey but there was a problem. The boat was overcrowded and her mother, Fatima, urgently needed medical care. The navy were ordered not to take her off the boat and send her to hospital which I am sure they would have done for a dog. Fatima was bleeding heavily, you see, and the sun was so hot with no shade and many children becoming very cranky. They were in a shocking state according to the official reports and David Marr and Marian Wilkinson's book "Dark Victory" - you really should read it, Justin.

Anyway after about a week of this the women and children were taken off the sinking boat and loaded into the hold of the Warramunga like cattle while the men and boys were herded into the hull of the sinking old boat while the navy drove the thing. They took it like this for two days before getting to within 12 nm of the shore, taking the women and children off the Warramunga and pushing them toward Indonesia. They arrived sort of safely but the boat sank in the middle of the night. Mum Fatima bled for over a month in Indonesia where the refugees were taken to Lombok. They lived in squalor paid for by us. Ashmorey and her family, an Hazara family, were forced back to Afghanistan by Indonesia even though there was a death sentence on their heads for daring to escape a Taliban prison. No-one knew if the boat would sink, the people in the hull were dragged out every half hour or so and hosed down to wake them up.

The story is horrific and barbaric.

SIEV7 was just as bad. The Iraqi passengers were sure they would be deported from Indonesia and records I received from the UNHCR office show that over 850 people were - we paid for it with no regard for their safety during a war by the way. On this boat some people jumped into the sea to drown, others were beaten by the crew, others has double strength capsicum used on them and most of them were ill from being in Indonesia. They were again dumped off the coast and 3 men died. That is murder, sunshine.

There was SIEV12 in December that we didn't know too much about but two Afghan men drowned after it was turned away from Australia. Now, what do you want to do to the navy who turned away innocent bleeding mums and new born babies into the sea? The navy ship didn't even bother to see if they were safe, they just left them on a sinking boat. Will you point out to me what is different to that compared to what the so-called smugglers did? The Indonesian fishermen didn't use capsicum spray on them, or beat them - they just gave them a ride to Australia to seek protection.

'Where are they now?' you ask. Well, after all that most of the Iraqis are here but 101 Afghans and Iraqis are still being supported by us on Lombok in appalling conditions with starvation rations. Now, almost all the Iraqis, Iranians and Afghans came via Pakistani airports or Dubai airports. They had forged documents and the "smugglers" paid the bribes to get them away from danger and into Indonesia. As they were on a plane by then where would you have had them stop - should they have stepped off the plane over India maybe?

It is a simple fact of law that if a nation has not ratified the refugee convention they are entitled to deport people back to the countries of persecution. We are not allowed to but Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and others certainly are. Iran has signed the convention but have never had any help to support over 4 million refugees so they starved them out of the country – they were offered one way tickets out by the Iranian government. Leave and come here or go to Iraq. What choice do you make? Go to Pakistan or Afghanistan? Jordan and Syria didn't ratify the convention and Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have gross human rights records. So Justin, where do they go?

Where are they now? Well, 2 million went back to Afghanistan but are now leaving again due to the resurgence of the Taliban and continued persecution - they will start to turn up again in Europe and England and the whining will start again. The Iraqis are leaving in the hundreds of thousands going to anywhere they can. Last year Australia still managed to have nearly 4,000 asylum seekers, all of whom were smuggled out of their own country so I guess they didn't go anywhere. There are still 20 million refugees in the world warehoused like flotsam all over Africa and Asia - the world could absorb them tomorrow and never notice.

Now back to the boats. Boats 1 and 2 during Relex spent 10 and 12 days at Ashmore Reef with two sinking boats lashed together and under armed guard. Sydney Morning Herald ran the photos once or twice when they accidentally got close enough. People went mad in the heat and sun, no shelter, little food, continual abuse. Read David and Marian's book based on the navy's own statements. Then tell me it was worth it.

SIEVX and Justin

Hello Justin, here is your worst nightmare back again. I have been a tad busy, actually, waiting for questions on notice, replies to a number of questions, and following the AWB madness. It's funny your attitude, Justin, so let's have a chat about Shayan, shall we.

Shayan was only 5 years old when his parents escaped the manic Mullahs in Iran with his parents. He was thrown into Woomera, tear gassed, saw suicide attempts galore and ceased to eat and talk.

We first met Shayan on 4 Corners in August 2001, just before the TAMPA. Someone had smuggled in a camera to an Iraqi doctor who had fled the Butcher of Baghdad only to find himself locked up like a criminal in Villawood. He eventually won a human rights medal for ground breaking research about the effects of detention on human beings - it is a truly appalling report with 32 of 33 people in long term detention going mad.

Anyway he became pretty famous and was eventually released from Villawood, as a refugee mind you, and is probably now a permanent resident. If any readers know where Ameer Sultan is now could they please tell us?

Shayan was taken out of Villawood a number of times and spent 94 days in hospitals being rehydrated and treated, rehydrated and treated and still Ruddock refused to release him.

Ruddock said Woomera was humane, was kind, loved the prisoners - almost to death in about 890 cases which included dozens of kids - and Shayan was putting it on.

Ruddock repeatedly called Shayan "it" and claimed "it" only got sick in lovely Woomera because "it" only had a stepmother. Wow. What a stretch even for Ruddock.

Shayan's baby sister was born in prison and spent her first 2 years locked up, she had never seen a dog or walked on real grass or played in a park before that.

HREOC did an investigation into Shayan's plight which makes a sickening read - brute force used on a 6 year old is not a good look. After over 2.5 years the family were discovered to be genuine refugees but little Shayan was almost catatonic by then. He didn't trust his parents, his teachers or his doctors and he was only 8.

Last week Shayan was awarded $400,000 plus over a million in legal fees for his "humane" treatment in Woomera. Not long afterwards I spoke to a dear friend who was in Woomera with him, who nearly died from untreated paratyphoid and then nearly lost her baby due to lack of medical care and terrible treatment. They are now permanent residents but Deba is nearly 5 and almost always ill and terribly underweight. Mum caught paratyphoid in nice, safe Indonesia while she was in one of their lovely prisons for three months thanks to Australian federal police reporting she and her husband as illegals. Nice stuff considering what we know of their activities now. They will sue, I suspect, as will thousands upon thousands of others.

You see, Justin, if the rest of the world can recognise an Hazara then surely Australia can without locking them up. If the rest of the world can talk to an Iraqi who refused to lop off hands and give him refuge without prison then so can we. If the rest of the world can allow family reunion, which directly prevents mums having to get on dangerous boats then so can we.

Then I come to my other work - the hated and despised Bakhtiyari's who were really lying scumbag Pakistanis. Right? Wrong. In several questions on notice to Senator Kirk DIMA have been forced to concede they always knew they were Afghans. I also got the so-called travel documents they used. What a joy they are. Photos taken from newspaper reports, not signed, not stamped by Pakistan and bizarrely claiming that baby Mazhar - born in Australia for the world to see - was born in Quetta, Pakistan. Imagine the horror for that poor girl after 4 years of illegal detention getting to Islamabad and not being able to enter the country. But of course DIMA knew that because the same thing happened to her brother who was imprisoned in Karachi for not having travel documents and being an Afghan.

So Justin, a few questions for you now, sunshine.

1. If parents are refugees, are forced to leave dangerous places and the first place of real safety with legal mechanisms in place is here should they come and leave their children behind?

2. Should every person who comes to Australia never leave again and come back? That seems to be what you are implying.

3. If 353 white Zimbabwean farmers had drowned in the shocking circumstances that these Iraqis did would you want an investigation?

It is time, Justin. Put up now or forever hold your peace.

The 'queue jumping' mentality

The criticism of refugees or asylum seekers on the grounds of their being “queue jumpers” is nonsense, saying more about the mentality of many Australians than about the asylum seekers.

1. Justin Wilshaw blandly says refugees “have to wait in camps for their claims to be assessed before coming here.” Truth is the vast majority of refugees in the world would be waiting for ever, and many, even if the “checkers” finally got around to their tents, would also be without the documentation the absence of which so disturbs the people who support indefinite incarceration.

2. Most of the asylum seekers in the last few years have come from Iraq and Afghanistan, where there are NO embassies, let alone “queues”.

3. Most of the countries between the middle east and here are not signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention and will not provide protection.

4. The people I've met who blather on about jumping the queue are just using this false notion as a rationalisation. Truth is that when discussion goes further it turns out they don't want refugees, period, whatever the means of their arrival, especially if they're not European and/or “Christian”. This usually means white. These people subscribe to the belligerent populist line that Howard exploited so successfully, “we will decide who comes to this country”. In my experience, many Australians are selective in what they like to think is their “generosity”.

5. The argument that asylum seekers are “illegals” is also without foundation as no laws are being broken. They are more correctly defined as “unauthorised”, which is a different notion entirely.

6. More than 90% of asylum seekers or “unauthorised arrivals” have been found to be genuine refugees, meaning the means of their arrival is irrelevant. Their being granted TP Visas does not affect the refugee program as a whole.

7. The complaint about their being well off is spurious. There is little agreement about how much, on average, someone has paid to come to Australia. I challenge Justin Wilshaw to provide a definitive figure other than the one estimated by the UNHCR. He can look that up for himself. In any case, it is well known that in many instances cash resources are pooled to allow family members or friends to escape. The Justin Wilshaw line is typical of a country in which personal ownership and consumption is valued above collective or communal sharing. Many approved migrants to Australia have come in this way, with the intention of attempting reunification with the family later on.

8. Justin Wilshaw says he agrees there is no “queue”, but continues to talk about “unauthorised arrivals” as those wishing to “circumvent a process”. I wish he could explain the difference and the self-contradiction. I suppose there are some habits that are just too hard to give up.

Funny thing about the queue

It's a funny thing about this so-called queue Andrew. When rich people want to come to Australia as economic migrants they are wilfully invited to "jump the queue". For family reunion for migrants they are only allowed if they pay and for the rich they need $64,000 "bond" for the parents to come - those with the money are jumped to the first plane tickets. Then of course if there really was some sort of queue for refugees it would take 3,000 years to settle the current refugees. There is of course no such thing as "process" as Justin wistfully wishes. The only place in the world anyone can legally apply for protection in Australia as refugees is in Australia. That is the law of the land. The people brought from the camps come as migrants who might have something useful to offer Australia. Pretty sad that people in Australia don't look at the conditions the people come from rather than how they get here isn't it? I just noticed that Vanstone has blamed Shayan Badraie's lawyers for not accepting an offer from the department last year - knowing DIMIA they would have wanted the legal fees paid by the little boy. Still, Vanstone has to keep up her record of blaming lawyers while punishing the victims of her disgusting department, I guess.

responses

Jacob, David quite clearly implies that our PM is not honest with his line “...statements of our scrupulously honest Prime Minister”. He then says that “…consider what our Government has taught us about these people:” Given that the implication is that the Government is not honest, and then David proceeds to tells us that our “dishonest” government has told us the following about refugees, it is not hard to deduce that the list he makes, in his opinion, are lies.

I don’t know, Jacob, why David included that Refugees don’t have visas in his list, because we all know they don’t.  I was merely pointing out that the PM was not lying about them not having visas, as they didn’t.

Steve, I won’t repost each point, but will respond to them in order

  1. There is nothing to stop a refugee going half was around the world, through 15 different countries to get here. You are correct. There is also nothing wrong with a sovereign country then detaining those people until they work out their status. It would probably easier to work out their status if they stopped closer to home!
  2. They also don’t say we can’t.
  3. Any parent who puts their baby on a boat, which is unseaworthy, across open ocean, is negligent.
  4. See above answer to Jacob.
  5. Whilst I agree there is no “queue” they are paying a lot of money to circumvent a process whereby others without the money have to wait in camps for their claims to be assessed before coming here. That is why they are called “queue jumpers”. I would have though you Lefties on here would be all over people using money to get ahead of people without money. I suppose only when it suits you hey?
  6. I don’t swear at anyone, and my posts have not been censored! Lighten up. I choose, as does every other web diarist, what to respond to and what not to. I don’t want to respond to “they mutilate themselves and sew their lips together just to get attention”, because it’s just pointless emotional stuff. I don’t argue emotions that you can’t debate with facts.
  7. I suppose that is one way to look at it.

Carl, see point six above. That’s why I didn’t respond the first time, and why I won’t respond this time.

Clarification

Justin, I'm prepared to admit that my original post wasn't as clear as it could have been. I certainly wasn't suggesting that Mr Howard was lying about visas (although frankly, I'm less sure about his line on the whole children overboard thing).

The point I was trying to make is that locking refugees up for years at a time essentially for not having the correct paperwork (ie a visa) might seem a little harsh to some people. Which is why I think it's been important for the Howard Government (Mr Ruddock in particular) to remind everyone how nasty and 'not like us' these people really are.

Heaven forbid we should feel empathy with them!

BTW - welcome back Marilyn, was wondering if you'd ever pop in. Keep up the good fight.

Gutless Justin, gutless!

Justin, my question was not “pointless emotional stuff”. Refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, the Sudan are not economic migrants looking for a better job, or middle class Poms fleeing the cold of winter. They are people who have been raped, beaten, tortured, and abused. They are escaping war, genocide, and tyrannical dictatorships. That you are too afraid to answer my very reasonable question says much about you and much about the opinions you hold. Cheers.

What's wrong with economic migrants?

Carl: "Refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, the Sudan are not economic migrants looking for a better job."

So what if they are? My ancestors on both sides of the family were all economic migrants. I bet some of yours were too. Why the need to separate refugees from migrants?

Carl, your question is

Carl, your question is loaded. It's not specific, and it's emotional. Hence, my refusal to answer it. Have a nice day.

Raped over and over and over again!

Nice dodge, Justin. Of course my question is loaded, the whole refugee debate is loaded. My problem with your contention is that you seem to be failing to understand or recognize the human dimension. You don’t seem to understand that we are talking about real people, fleeing real threats. That talk of proper process and orderly queues is completely ludicrous.

Let me test your ability to empathize, imagine for a moment that you were not lucky enough to be born a white Australian male, instead you were born a black Sudanese woman.

You live in an impoverished village in western Darfur. It is common practice for the women of the village to sleep in their neighbour’s house because of the fear of the Janjaweed. You see, the Janjaweed like to conduct night time raids where they force members of the same household to rape each other in an attempt to cleanse the region of black Africans.

Imagine that one night a group of Janjaweed enter your village and force your neighbour’s son, thinking that he is your brother, to rape you over and over and over again. They force your son to rape your neighbour’s daughter over and over and over again. Then they kill all the men in the village and take turns themselves at raping the women of the village over and over and over again.

You are abducted by a group of Janjaweed and held as a sex slave for over a week. Somehow through the grace of God you manage to escape the rape and torture and find yourself in the squalid refugee camps where some 2 million people live. The camps are rudimentary: no running water, no adequate sanitation, no health care to speak of. Every day hundreds of children die in these camps. The mothers in shock carry around their dead children in their arms for days, not wanting to put them down. The world has largely forgotten you. The refugee resettlement program is woefully inadequate and western nations will only accept those people who can speak English.

Each day the conditions in the camp deteriorate further and disease is rampant. Security in the camps is nonexistent; all around you there is violence, abduction, rape and torture. You fear not only for you own life but the life of your 12 year old daughter. You don’t know how long the two of you can survive in this living hell on Earth.

So, what do you do, Justin?

Come on mate, have the guts to answer the question. Have the guts to put yourself in a refugee’s shoes for a few moments. I eagerly look forward to your response.

Carl, Its not a question

Carl, it's not a question of if I don't feel compassion or sadness for what is happening in other parts of the world. The plight some people find themselves in is terrible.

We need to have a controlled border, and there needs to be a process by which you arrive in this country.

If you attempt to bypass that process, then expect to be detained.

Not good enough!

Come on Justin, answer the question. What would you do? Would you wait patiently for the rape and torture and genocide to consume you or would you do everything within your power to get you and your loved ones to safety?

The answer should be so simple. If you really do believe your own hard-line rhetoric then you would stay in the camps and wait for due process, however long that takes. But if you are a normal sane human being you would pack your things tonight, sell all your worldly possessions and hop the first boat, bus or plane to a land of freedom, prosperity and security.

So which one is it? Due process and rape and torture and death or seek asylum in the safety and security of the west?

BTW, as I and many others on this forum have pointed out on a number of occasions in order to legally apply for asylum in Australia you must first be within Australia’s migration zone. It doesn’t matter how you get here, whether it be by boat, plane, fall from the sky or tunnel through the centre of the Earth once you are here it is our legal and moral obligation to process your claims honestly and efficiently and treat you with dignity and respect. Is that really so hard to understand?

Justin an Anti-Howard Sleeper??

Justin Wilshaw: "They don't [have visas]. I'm not sure how our PM can be lying about this??"

Yes indeed, how could "our PM" possibly be lying? When everyone knows that refugees, by definition, do not have visas.

Brilliant, Justin! For a minute I thought you were a serious Howard-hugger, but now I see you're a crypto-subversive. Your ironic reference to "our PM's" certitude that "they" don't have visas is an inspired piece of pro-refugee agitprop.

Not sure where you're going with this, but can't wait for the denouement.

Congratulations, mate!

Dear Justin

And if they suffer post traumatic stress syndrome and depression as a result, well, they chose to come here, didn’t they?

J: That they did. Past 15 or so other countries to get here. Including three countries that are signatories to the UN convention on refugees.

S: Justin, there is nothing to stop people who flee their homes for safe refuge traveling until they find it. There is no constraint upon them to move to an adjacent country. To present a logical extension of your thought. As 15 countries did not imprison these people, why do we?

Given what we know about these people, it’s a reasonable response, surely, to lock them up in the middle of the desert for four, five, or six years. Before releasing them as refugees.

J: Given that we know nothing, as most don't arrive with documentation, yes it is.

S: Justin, international conventions governing our obligations to people seeking refuge make no mention of identity checks. Imprisonment for no crime, without charge or trial, according injury or hurt, is not part of our obligation to them. Our refusal to observe our obligations is patent.

...they don’t love their children the way we do (they’re prepared to sacrifice them to get here, for Chrissakes!);

J: They do put them on unseaworthy vessels, to cross an open sea. That's fairly reckless in my book. (and before you say they have no choice, see above).

S: Justin, nobody can tell whether people love their children. Judgmental urges run deep in Anglo-Saxon psyches. We are certain that we are right. We know this in our hearts. Dear Justin, you are however no more an authority on love than John Howard. His claim is scandalous. Yours I am sad to say is made in ignorance, for which you are forgiven.

they don’t have visas;

J: They don't. I'm not sure how our PM can be lying about this??

S: Justin, David Curry did not say that the Hon. John Howard MP lied. A brief review of his contribution will reveal your (unintentional) error.

they jumped a queue

J: They did. They spent money ($10,000 was the last estimate I heard) to bypass normal channels, and refugees who don't have $10,000 to get here.

S: Justin, there is no queue. It is a fabrication. It is a sop to resentment and envy. It is absurd.

J: The other points are just emotional waffle which is pointless debating.

S: Justin, David Curry’s statements are at least as valid as your own. In this forum all statements are worthy of debate. As Peter Costello would say, if you don’t like it here, why not go somewhere else. If you choose to stay, then you must also choose to stop swearing in your posts. No exceptions.

Happy 10th anniversary, John Howard

J: It is fantastic, I agree with you totally. Well deserved and a wonderful milestone.

S: Justin, the mathematics of the situation is its one virtue. Whatever period of time we will be forced to endure John Howard, let us call that X years. The remaining period of time from today, by simple arithmetic that can be understood by even the most numerically challenged, is (X – 10). This is joyous news indeed, for all things that begin have an end. I too celebrate Howard’s decade, as I know that with each passing moment his departure moves closer. Ah, how a simple equation can lift the spirit.

10th Birthday wishes from Senator Faulkner

Faulkner's speech commemorating 10 years of Howard government starts on page 70 of yesterday's Hansard (1.1MB PDF). With only 20 minutes, he didn't have time to go into detail, but it is a fairly comprehensive summary list of the Government's "achievements". This is one to keep, because it is so difficult to remember them all.

A view of the lies from the Deck

I have pasted below a “deck view” account of what happened on SIEV 4. The letter was submitted to the Australian Senate Inquiry by those people our PM insists are responsible for kids ending up in the water.

My reading of the submission made by the The Australia Defence Association (PDF 78KB) who were scathing in their remarks concerning the politcicising of the forces provides much credibility to the account afforded by the poor wretches that ended up on Nauru than the smug and misleading account of the PM.

Laurie Oaks said on the PM's past 10 years "part of Howard's genius is to look like a reasonable man even when he is engaged in the rankest political opportunism …."

To: The Honourable Australian Senate Members

From: Iraqis detained in Lombrum detention centre

Manus Island (PNG)

Dear Sirs

Peace upon you,

We are the Iraqis who fled from the oppression of the dictatorial regime in Iraq seeking peaceful land in Australia. On behalf of all asylum seekers here we would like to say thankyou to your efforts to give us a chance to explain the full details about our boat sank in Australian water and clarify our innocence from the accusation of throwing our children overboard. After you found we are innocent by the Australian court besides trying to give you the full view about the camp situation from all aspects. Your attention is proving to us you respecting to human rights, freedom and democracy.On the 7th October 2001 at approximately 3.30-4.00 am the Australian frigate Adelaide (01) fired warning shots to try and scare us and to force the captain to stop the boat. They called to us in English and Arabic demanding us to stop the boat so they could give us supplies that we needed. The frigate intercepted our course so that the Indonesian captain reduced speed, while marines in 4 rubber boats took advantage of the low speed and entered our boat. Some headed for the bridge and engine room while other spread taking full control over all passengers by driving them into two groups. Men in the front, women and children in the aft, so no one could enter either the bridge or the engine. They took control of all the gates leading to every section of the boat. All the marines were in their full military equipment with weapons and electric sticks etc.

There was a navigator officer and the wheelman that forcibly took over from the Indonesian crew and changed course to the opposite direction, then all the passengers knew that they were lying to us about providing supplies, while their main purpose was changing our course towards Indonesia. Our people crowded and made many objections by shouting at them, crying, even begging by the women and children, but they ignored all that and asked for a backup force who came at once and they were onboard too, the frigate was still escorting.

By using the maximum speed can get from the engine they pushed the speed levers heading toward Indonesia, causing a heavy unnatural smoke getting out from the engine to the women’s section, bridge and outside the accommodation causing asphyxia for the passengers, especially the women and children.

The boat kept on moving and after sometime the engines sound start to splutter until it went out completely. We couldn’t hear the engines anymore and there was no more smoke.It was then that the Australian marines moved out the boat in a rushing way as if they were escaping and we were left by ourselves about 10 to 11 am, 7th October. After that the Indonesian crew told us they think we are in international waters and the engine was broken, water pump and rudder too. The Australian navigator left us a small compass besides it drawing an arrow that leads to the direction of Indonesia.

All the passengers were shocked when remembering the claims of the Navy who firstly offered to help and provide our needs such as food and water and now they had deserted us, left alone in the middle of nowhere and the wide ocean in front of us, with the terrible condition of the engine and water leaking through the boat, because the pumps connected to the main engine were stopped and no more fuel left to operate the portable emergency pump.

Because of the desperate situation all the passengers started to evacuate the seawater inside the boat using different kinds of available pails and jugs. After that we raised a white sheet over the mast asking for aid using the life-jacket whistles and the voices of the women and children calling the frigate which was watching us from a distance.

The boat came from the warship with marines, one of them speaking Arabic, he asked why we’re not moving. We answered that the engines is not working and there’s more water leaking inside and the health condition is very bad, that’s why we’re asking for SOS. The boat went back to the frigate and after sometime they came again bringing two mechanics with them to check the engine. They went inside the engine room, staying there for about two hours trying to fix it but didn’t manage. When they were sure of our claims, they went back to the frigate about 6-7 pm to report the situation. It was then that the frigate herself came to us and started towing us to Australian regional waters in a very rough sea.

The towing, rough sea and high winds affected the boat’s keel and mainframe. We could all hear the sound of breaking woods. As a result, the seawater inside the boat got higher. Together with 3 of the marines we started evacuating water manually, using pails and jugs and whatever is available.

The towing procedure continued for 24 hours, meanwhile the Navy provided us with technical and medical aid. Medically they sent two doctors who checked the women, children and men. They gave us medicine especially for sea sickness.

The navy brought a portable pump that works on diesel to vacant the water but it didn’t work. Manual pumps were also tried but these were broken too. They sent the pump back to the frigate for repairs and brought it back again with benzine for our own but unfortunately it didn’t work also.

During this time the seawater was increasing inside the boat and it was very hard to control it by the technical staff in spite of our request for aid. The technical situation of the boat was reported to the frigate’s captain by officers on board.

When the level of water inside the boat was about one metre and the drowning was going on increasingly in such terrible excess, all the passengers were desperate and all been calling for help, especially the kids – from the crew of the warship which were on board with us. In that moment of horror some of us repeated attempts to lift our kids to gain their sympathy to show then we have kids and women on the boat. We appealed to the Australian Navy officer asking him to help the women and children to abandon the sinking boat and have them transferred to the warship before things got worse. He listened to them and called for the commander in his turn had called the Australian Government and they are both waiting for an answer.

The situation on our boat was getting very dangerous, water level increased inside the boat, all of us was facing death by the continuous sinking as women and children started to cry and prayed to God asking for mercy. This situation been told to the Australian Government by the commander of the warship time by time. The only answer we’ve heard from the officer on board our boat was that they were reporting directly to the Prime Minister’s Office and the order must come from them so they can help you abandon your boat – that answer kept the same until the boat was sinking then we had the answer which was – we will make the rescue when your boat is completely submerged and you all must go in the water with the kids and women. Then and only then, our orders will give us the permission for helping you from drowning.

Whilst all this was happening we wrote a letter to the president of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, declaring our tragic situation and asking for an urgent rescue. An officer onboard said that it had been sent to him, but still there was no answer, no reaction.

The water level inside the boat reached 130cm, so they sent us a hose from the main pump inside the frigate for taking water out but this didn’t succeed and things were getting worse.

The officer onboard said that they were still waiting for an answer and told us not to worry for they were going to rescue us if the boat sank and we were actually in the water.

Things were getting very bad so they brought us some life-jackets although we have our own from the first moment we were onboard – some had lost them so they took the new jackets.

After a while events were happening rapidly, the boat went down and we were dropped into the ocean with all our possessions which included money, jewellery, personal belongings, documents, etc. Whilst many of our personal belongings were simple things, they mean a lot cause they were the most precious we were able to bring. All these were possible to be saved if the decision to abandon ship was taken earlier. With the help from the Navy nothing would have been lost.

The Navy picked us (children, women, the elderly and men) from the water. They were very capable in doing the rescue and we like to take this opportunity to thank them for helping us, especially the Australian girl which was the doctor who jumped from the frigate deck to the ocean without a life jacket, just to save a child with her mother before going underneath the ship. Also there was a brave sailor who jumped in with a life-jacket which exploded from the sudden shock, but he kept on saving passengers.

All these events shows how brave were the navy, how impressed they were by our desperate position, their kindness and their deep respect for human rights and life.

One of our women was deeply hurt in her back by the rope used to lift her from the ocean to the ships; deck.

This thing gives you a very straight view of the way the Australian Government dealt with us, they were well known of the whole situation and never gave the order for the Navy to help us until the boat was fully submerged with water, never considering that we have on board infants and babies.

All this drama took place with the full knowledge of the Australian Government which didn’t give the order to the Navy at the right time, before the boat sank, then all this tragedy would not have happened.

After our boat sank the war ship rescued us putting us on the ship for two days transferring us to Christmas Island according to Australian decision read it by Australian Immigration officer they apprehend us for 11 days in a basket ball hall, after that they banished us outside Australia to Manus Island in (PNG) according to the decision we are going to Australian Camp to apply for asylum status but the truth was under night darkness forcibly and secretly on military planes and bad treatment by ACM they put manacle in the hand under restricted media isolation without informing us about our destination.

We like to point out a very important event that during our lifting from the airport on Manus to the camp some of our people were pushed out the military plane – Hercules and force was used to get into the cars. Also there were a lot of soldiers and police cars used to escort us to the gates of the camp.

Then the whole force separated around the camp with the cars facing the fences aiming their lights toward the inside of the camp and the police and the policemen and soldier rising up also towards us as if they were into some kind of exhibition or a film well done to scare and terror us.

In spite of all this our people stuck to patience, quite, and hold their nerves because we are peaceful people seeking peace not violence.

We like to highlight the main reason was to apply for asylum status there secondly the Prime Minister resolution of past accusation of throwing our kids and we are terrorist not deserving entering Australian soil.

In 21/10/2001 they apprehended us in a camp which is old military base from the second world war used by American army lacking the minium living condition beside the hot weather.

We are living inside isolation due to these circumstances. Some people choked and other attempt to commit suicide, spreading many kinds of disease some known some unknown like Malaria, Typhoid fever adding to this existing many kinds of snakes and rats.

Though there’s been a local media visit to the camp in the early of February and they were forbidden from entering the camp by IOM for both governments of Australia and PNG didn’t approve their permission for them to contact us. Also in the Australian reporter Greg Roberts came to the camp to visit us and was not allowed to enter.

There’s been a report on the newspaper called Post Courier issued on Monday 11/2/2002 at the no. 8353, sec page under the title – Media Tour show refugees are well – written in it that the health status in the camp is good!!

We would like to inform that, recently been announced officially that we are innocent from charges that we been accused of which is called children overboard by the High Australian Court for there was no evidence of what been claimed about us throwing our children overboard the boat to the sea. As was said by some of the Australian officials that this charge had our destinies and our innocent children and women in the political fight used cruelty to win the elections.

In that time, under the hard circumstances we’re suffering … that we ask you by the name of everyone of us especially the kids and women, by the name of Human Rights, liberty and democracy.

You who have a living conscience, brighten minds and fair hands. To re-consider our case and deal with it in a fair human way, especially that all of us including the children are imploring you to be our legal defenders and lawyers.

We ask you to accept an invitation to send some delegation from your honourable senators to examine the tragic situation in our camp on Manus Island.

If that is not possible we request your approval to call our committee which represent the whole camp to come further word to Australia so we can declare all the events been written in our report.

Also we ask your generosity to make an appointment for a good professional lawyer to support us in defending our case, as well as sending the media and investigators to our camp here.

Especially we are a nation who have been suffering from persecution in Iraq and that was admitted by the President of the United States, Mr Bush, who said that both Iraq and Iran and North Korea are considered to be the worst terrorist governments in Asia.

That’s without mentioning the dangerous sea voyage we’ve had and the bad situation we are facing here in PNG.

We hope you make us a reconsideration an purify our reputation from those crimes that we’ve been accused, by accepting us as part of your society as helpful numbers at all levels, scientifically, practically and enlightenly.

Taking into consideration we have completed our processing and medical checks.

On behalf of the whole community we hope you, the Australian Government, the Australian people, PNG Government and IOM, you’ll accept our apology. Wishing you all a happy life and to continue in your appeals defending human rights and justice

Sadiq Mzeraa Hussain Almallah Faez Alzubaidy Dyari Alkadi Majid Alghanim

Manus Asylum Seeker Camp Committee (First Arrival Group) – representing all those who arrived at Lombrum on 21 October 2001.

The truth ...

Yeah, but why should anyone believe the testimony of a bunch of reffos over the statements of our scrupulously honest Prime Minister? After all, consider what our Government has taught us about these people:

  • they don’t love their children the way we do (they’re prepared to sacrifice them to get here, for Chrissakes!);
  • they mutilate themselves and sew their lips together just to get attention;
  • they may well be terrorists and criminals;
  • they make stuff up about brutal dictators and extremist Islamic regimes to try to get our sympathy;
  • they’re predominantly Muslim (and we know what they’re like, don’t we?);
  • they don’t have visas; and
  • they jumped a queue, dammit!

Given what we know about these people, it’s a reasonable response, surely, to lock them up in the middle of the desert for four, five, or six years. Before releasing them as refugees.

And if they suffer post traumatic stress syndrome and depression as a result, well, they chose to come here, didn’t they?

Happy 10th anniversary, John Howard.

And if they suffer post

And if they suffer post traumatic stress syndrome and depression as a result, well, they chose to come here, didn’t they?

That they did. Past 15 or so other countries to get here. Including three countries that are signatories to the UN convention on refugees.

Given what we know about these people, it’s a reasonable response, surely, to lock them up in the middle of the desert for four, five, or six years. Before releasing them as refugees.

Given that we know nothing, as most don't arrive with documentation, yes it is.

...they don’t love their children the way we do (they’re prepared to sacrifice them to get here, for Chrissakes!);

They do put them on un seaworthy vessels, to cross an open sea. That's fairly reckless in my book. (and before you say they have no choice, see above).

they don’t have visas;

They don't. I'm not sure how our PM can be lying about this??

they jumped a queue

They did. They spent money ($10,000 was the last estimate I heard) to bypass normal channels, and refugees who don't have $10,000 to get here.

The other points are just emotional waffle which is pointless debating

Happy 10th anniversary, John Howard

It is fantastic, I agree with you totally. Well deserved and a wonderful milestone.

Justin, a few questions for you

Justin Wilshaw, I asked you these questions some months back but you never managed to provide any answers.

So let me try again, if a woman who had just been raped came knocking on your door begging for your help would you turn her away because she had passed through someone else’s front lawn to get to your house? Would you throw her back onto the street and tell her to wait for the proper authorities? Would you detain her without proper medical care until you could ascertain that she was a genuine rape victim? Or would you give her immediate entry to your home, keep her safe and secure and seek out help?

I await your considered response.

NIMBY central

Justin, it's late, I shouldn't care about your response but what the hell. Your callous attitude towards those far less fortunate than yourself is pretty typical of the NIMBY country we now live in. No wonder JWH keeps winning elections.

I know this is a tired old debate on Webdiary so I guess I'm flogging a dead horse with you. I could rehash every line about human rights and compassion but it would be a waste of time.

I'll say this, though. If you are interested in what these lovely policies really mean you would try to meet somebody who has come out the other side of four or five years of detention as a refugee. Just to get a balanced view.

But you won't do that, because then you'd have to acknowledge that asylum seekers are human beings just like you. Except, of course, that they've suffered far worse things than you will ever have to experience.

Howard's Way

Stuart Hickson's feelings about John Howard mirror my own except that mine are much stronger, and far less complimentary.

The article on “people overboard” is perhaps appropriate on the tenth anniversary of Howard's accession to power. It was then that he learned that lying can be advantageous and that many Australian people are gullible. Infinitely. He traded on the inherent racism that exists in the hearts of many voters.

Then Iraq came along and he learned that the wishes of the Australian people who put him into power can be completely ignored. Seeking to strut on the world stage, he joined us to the most hated and feared country in the world, but falsely assured us that this would not endanger us in any way. He learned the value of using fear as a political tool.

Then, by allowing the rapid growth of credit and by leaning on the Reserve Bank to keep interest rates low, he used inherent greed to fuel rising housing prices. People borrowed to the hilt, and then our John warned that if he wasn't re-elected people would lose their homes. That trick got him the Senate.

He has enjoyed the indulgence and company of media tycoons and has made their profit dreams a reality, theirs and other denizens of the rich end of town. He even lowered their tax rates. Simultaneously, his IR legislation rips the guts out of a system that protected workers’ rights, and sacrifices them to the future whims of employers.

He has ignored the global warming issue and prefers to have married couples send their children to child-minding centres rather than to be parents. And so it goes on and on.

Australia has been compromised by the little suburban, Christian fundamentalist solicitor; reduced, narrowed. And while the little man fiddles, the Labor Party is burning.

Who will save us?

Hamish: welcome to Webdiary, Daniel.

Howard's Way

Daniel Smythe, you say Howard's IR legislation rips the guts out of a system that protected workers’ rights, and sacrifices them to the future whims of employers. Who would have thought that the unions would use this legislation to get rid of Crean and four other frontbenchers just because they would not do what the boss (the unions) wanted?

Craig R. Ed.: How did the unions use the WorkChoices Act in the preselection contests, Syd? Have the ballots been counted? Are you privy to news on the Hotham outcome that has not yet been reported?

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