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Richard: Due to a technical hitch this piece wasn't posted as a comment yesterday. It's such a sad story that I think it's better heard here;


by Marilyn Shepherd

Mustafa was a secret from the outside world for months before an unnamed source leaked the information to the Australian late in 2001. The informer could not abide this child being left unattended and alone for one more day. As a father with a little boy about the same age as Mustafa, and two others not that much older, it seemed unconscionable that this child was all alone in a strange country with no-one making a fuss. No-one was questioning whether this could be acceptable.

According to Ms Inese Peterson, a teacher in Woomera when he arrived, Mustafa came in June 2001 with a number of other unaccompanied children. He was a tiny little child who had some education in Afghanistan and could speak reasonable English. He was a polite and scared little boy all alone with no real idea of where he was, except to tell her that his family had decided to pay all their money to have one child saved from the Taliban. His father is a doctor in Afghanistan and owns a pharmacy in Kabul. Mustafa’s father took him over the border into Pakistan where he was handed to people smugglers, taken to Indonesia and handed to other smugglers for the boat trip to Australia. All alone he survived for 14 days at sea. During the senate enquiry into the refugee boat codenamed SIEV4 it was revealed that every boat which ever left Indonesia was known to the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Immigration and at least 6 other government departments. All the boats were tracked by P3 Orion aircraft until they arrived at either Ashmore Reef or Christmas Island. When boats are allowed to drift at sea for 14 days, about 12 of which they were considered to be overdue, I think this nation has to ask some hard questions about their humanity.

A Department of Family Services memo dated about 25th July 2001 was the first report to be received at the department about the rather parlous state of this child. The unnamed reporter stated:

“The family he has been placed with to care for him are basically ignoring him and he has been found wandering in the compound late at night on more than one occasion in the past week, in temperatures around freezing. He was not being bathed or having his teeth cleaned and is not attending classes. One of the UHN workers within the centre has taken responsibility for at least ensuring that his teeth are brushed once a day and that his clothes are clean. A confidential meeting was held about him this week. Normally all meetings of the staff in the centre are taped, but the recorder was switched off for this part of the meeting. What was discussed was that the boy was “screened out”, which means he will not be released. The family he was placed with has been screened in, meaning they will be released as soon as their processing is completed. The intention of the centre staff was to separate him from the family so that there will be fewer problems when the family is released and also, so that he can be transferred to another part of the centre with other people who are not to be released.

One of my concerns is also the ability for an 8 year old to seek avenues of appeal to his screening out in the same way as an adult would. However, I believe the immediate state of his welfare is of great concern. I guess that as a mandated reporter can I consider my duty to report child welfare concerns to FAYS has been fulfilled.” In a further undated memo the author followed up with the information that a further memo had been received from Monica Lane to Chris Conway on the 25th July. The second memo stated: “Looking at my notes on 25th July 2001 there was information provided from FAYS to DIMIA, Greg Kelly and Di Miller, in which concerns were passed regarding the quality of foster care an 8 year old unaccompanied minor was receiving at Woomera. The issues were: Foster family basically ignoring him Boy found “wandering” in the compound at night Boy not being bathed Boy not having teeth cleaned Boy not attending lessons Boy currently attached to a family about to be released, therefore boy to be moved to a family not due for release.

In light of these allegations Di Miller agreed to obtain a report on the current position regarding the boy and discuss the outcome with me as a matter of some urgency given the young age of the boy and the potential for harm to him.” John you will recall that we discussed the 8 year old unaccompanied minor currently accommodated at the Woomera Immigration & Reception & Processing centre (IRPC). I understand that a number of discussions have been held with officers from your agency including a senior officer from Port Augusta. Until now DIMIA has been able to find suitable carers within the detention environment. However, one of the two current carers has now been released on a temporary protection visa and is in the community. I am becoming increasingly concerned for the ongoing care and well being for this child. I would expect that the continued upheaval and change in carer would have a deleterious affect on the child. It is on this basis that I am approaching you and your agency to establish whether and external care arrangement (with a foster family) would be in the best interests of the child. DIMIA is actively working with UNHCR with a view to re-uniting Mohamed with his family. At this time, the prospects of a quick reunion are not high. I consider that ACM have provided adequate care arrangements to date. However, I believe that the involvement of you and your agency is very necessary to ensure that our duty of care for this child is met. I would appreciate you considering this request as a matter of urgency. Mohammad Mustafa Ali, known as Mustafa, was found roaming unattended around Woomera in the middle of 2001. His assigned birth date, the department has always given the Afghan refugees a birth date on arrival, was 31/12/93. He was hardly 8 years old. He first came to the attention of Family and Youth Services not long after her arrived in July when a number of notifications were made to the department about him being in the centre all alone. Arrangements were eventually made between FAYS and DIMIA/ACM for foster parents inside the centre. Several follow up inquiries were made over some months about Mustafa had been found in Woomera and under the foster arrangements he seemed to be clean and well looked after. On the 20th August FAYS wrote to DIMIA stating they had received several reports that Mustafa was not being cared for at all. On several occasions he had been found wandering all alone in the compound in the middle of the night, dirty. It was reported he was not cleaning his teeth, or attending meals correctly and obviously was often hungry. The contents of FAYS reports are confidential, but nevertheless, they had been given secretly to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission for investigation, after they had taken legal action against DIMIA. When this little boy had first been interviewed by DIMIA about his parents he could only say they were “gone”. There was a dispute among others on the same boat, some said his parents were dead while others said they were in Indonesia. Whatever the truth of his parents, as a little boy on his own, he was screened out of refugee processes, and was never offered a lawyer. The family he was with were screened in and separated from Mustafa at this point, even though it was advised that further separation from everyone he knew would create further trauma. It seems very likely also that Mustafa was never advised that he had to ask for protection. The question is why was this very little boy treated like an adult in the refugee assessment process and not immediately removed from the centre into foster care? At all times DIMIA shunted responsibility for Mustafa over to FAYS, without ever considering his age, that is until details of his story were released to Megan Saunders of the Australian. However, Megan would not publish full details without paper trails or evidence of the facts. Monica Leahy of FAYS had access to an electronic trail that demonstrated that FAYS had made arrangements for Mustafa in the community over 8 weeks earlier but had no positive response from DIMIA regarding having Mustafa released on a bridging visa. Records at FAYS show that he had been granted his visa on 12/10/01 but were not advised until 31/10/01, just before his imminent arrival in Adelaide. After his arrival in Adelaide on the evening of 31/10/01 he was immediately settled with his foster family and enrolled at the local just days later. He did exceptionally well in this environment at first, he excelled at his new school but still problems arose for this boy. His foster family had 6 other children, so Mustafa felt he needed to misbehave to get the attention he craved. He began to fight with his foster sister, and became increasingly disruptive at home. FAYS tried desperately to work with the family and Mustafa rather than cause further upset and trauma for Mustafa, but ultimately were unsuccessful.

On 21/02/02 FAYS moved Mustafa to live with another family, one of the same religious and ethnic group as him, and with only one other child two years younger than Mustafa. With this family he could pray his normal five times a day and relish his role as big brother to his foster brother. His reports were superb, he finally felt he could fit somewhere. He has a feeling of safety and is loved by his new family, even though he still has no idea of the fate of his family, who is believed to be a doctor. After almost a year alone in Australia Mustafa was granted a Temporary Protection Visa on 17th June 2002. Mustafa has never been able to give his address but was able to tell FAYS the general area to pass on to International Red Cross for tracing purposes. Recently FAYS was contacted by a Sydney lawyer with the remarkable claim that a man detained on Nauru was claiming to be Mustafa’s uncle. When Mustafa spoke to him on the phone he was adamant that he did not know the man. Mustafa at the age of 9 was trapped into the position where he felt that if he said he knew the man on Nauru was his uncle he himself might be sent to Nauru to detention, or alternatively if the man was his uncle he could be granted a visa to care for Mustafa..

When I interviewed Mustafa with his foster family on the 17th April 2003 there was still no word about his missing family, father Ali, mother Daljone, brother Murtaza 7, and sister Nagbia 16. He is very anxious to find the family but security in Afghanistan is atrocious. His new family Sadollah and Fatima Baghercouie with their son Pouria are from Iran and love him dearly. I immediately sent to FAYS for all his files and memos under the freedom of information act. I need to find out why this nation would treat an 8 year old child in this manner and why he was screened out of the refugee process. It’s unconscionable that a country could and did do this thing to a child, any child. In discussion with the group I feel we should be able to try harder to find his family, a desire he expressed to me at the interview. As much as he loves his new family, he’s only 10 and has been alone for nearly 3 years.


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Finally, some good news from Syria.

"Syrian President Bashar Assad says his country will not recognise Israel before a peace accord is reached, and that democracy is not a goal for Syria."

Thanks heavens the hereditary Assad dynasty is safe.

Who said anything about Israel?

Paul Walter: "And Eliot, why does nothing discussed here ever have relevance, except in relation to bloody Israel – we had a fair bash at that the other week on several concurrent threads, let alone all the other attempts to justify its shabby behaviour over the years "

Who said anything about Israel?

Thought I would explain our system

As Paul said, I have the flu. The Jews sewing jewels into their clothing is relevant because they managed to escape that way and we do not lambaste them and say they should have bloody well stayed where they were like we do with refugees today.

"The Refugee and Humanitarian Program

1.29 The aim of the Refugee and Humanitarian program is to assist in alleviating the plight of refugees and others in humanitarian need in accordance with Australia’s international obligations. The program seeks:

• to resettle refugees and others in humanitarian need who are outside Australia - the offshore component; and

• provide asylum for people in Australia who engage Australia’s international

protection obligations - the onshore component.1.30 It should be noted that whereas Australia is required by its international obligations to provide protection to persons who are actually within the country and meet the various criteria, of a refugee,51 Australia is under no such obligation to provide protection to people who are living overseas:

The duties imposed by the Refugee Convention are of little consequence in the context of Australia’s selection of people overseas for inclusion in its refugee and special humanitarian program. As a sovereign nation, Australia is free to offer protection to whoever it chooses, irrespective of their international legal status as refugees. Where people come to Australia and seek asylum upon or after arrival, however, it is a different story. Claims for refugee status must be determined, and recognised refugees must be afforded some kind of protection.

52 Offshore Humanitarian Resettlement Program

1.31 As stated above, the objective of the Offshore Humanitarian Resettlement Program is to ‘resettle refugees and others in humanitarian need who are outside Australia’.

53 The Program comprises the following categories:

• Refugees - that is, people who are ‘subject to persecution’ and who have been identified, in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as requiring resettlement (this category includes theWoman at Risk Program);

51 In particular, Article 33 of the Refugee Convention, the obligation of non-refoulement, that prohibits State Parties from returning or refouling refugees to a country where they face persecution on any of the five grounds set out in the Convention definition of ‘refugee’ in A1

As for the unaccompanied children Ruddock claims were not locked up, that is only because they decided to have a suicide pact in January 2002 and the state welfare forced him to let them out of Woomera and Curtin.

There were 290 of them in all, mostly Hazara Afghans and most of them went insane with his version of home detention which was 24/7 guards in a suburban house with no freedom.

He made them all wait for permanent places and then denied them the right to be reunited with their families.

Humbug to Ruddock the ridiculous liar. In his submission to the children in detention inquiry he said he had to keep unaccompanied kids locked up so they didn't get let loose like the Vietnamese kids were to become criminals.

I know most of the kids and Mary Crock did a book about them a few years ago now describing the hell they had been through.

Bogged down in denial, silence and double standard

Richard: "The thread has become bogged down mostly by your repeated question."

In my view, the thread has become bogged down by Marilyn's refusal, on this as on so many other occasions, to answer a simple question specifically related to a statement purported by her to be fact but offered without any corroboration.

Her usual tactic in such circumstances is initially to bark insults at anyone daring to challenge her presumed authority to make such claims, and then to refuse to acknowledge requests for evidence in support of them.

Then there's the matter of her constant, snide, typically irrelevant anti-Jewish innuendo and stereotyping.

If it's okay for Marilyn to do this, why is it so wrong for others to challenge her on these things?

Marilyn raised the topic of Jewish jewel smugglers or whatever, and the supposed dozens of former refugees to Australia killed in Afghanistan, but becomes completely silent when questioned about the purpose and substantive basis of such statements?

I'm sorry, but has Webdiary become a forum especially suited to such claims?

Richard:  For all we know Mariyn has a perfectly good reason for not being around for the last day. Repeating your question in her absence won't get it answered any faster, Eliot.  However, what you say is understood.  Marilyn, would you mind giving Eliot some background please?


As I understand it from my source, the woman has a dose of the 'flu.

And Eliot, why does nothing discussed here ever have relevance, except in relation to bloody Israel – we had a fair bash at that the other week on several concurrent threads, let alone all the other attempts to justify its shabby behaviour over the years. That's not "anti semitic" (emotive, loaded word to discourage debate through the inducement of guilt); that's a legitimate questioning of a political issue that threatens the world, including "us"!

What is with, this frigging fixation: other sections of humanity suffer grief and pain and have troubles also - why do you not care about their problems; only about Israel and Jews?

Any (overdue) disclosures, Eliot??!

Paul Walter is correct

Paul Walter: "Thread relevance, Eliot?"

About Jews sewing jewels into the clothes of their children? As far as I can see, there is none. But to be fair to Marilyn, she should be given a chance to explain why she introduced the topic to the thread.

So, Marilyn, in deference to Paul's question, why did you state this:

""Jews used to sew their jewels into the clothes of their children and send them away, just like the Hazara Afghans had to do."?

Thread relevance?

Also, have you any additional information on your claim that "dozens" of former Afghan refugees sent home from Australia have been killed?

I wish, like you, to let the world know about that.

Richard:  Enough, Eliot.  You've asked several times now, and it it's up to Marilyn whether she answers or not.   The thread has become bogged down mostly by your repeated question.   As to sewing jewellry into kids' clothes, isn't it relevant as a demonstrated method of sending kids away with funds to cover their costs?

Stereotypes and their role in the history of racial persecution

Paul Walter: "You know full well, as a student of history, that people of all races over the whole span of history, have sewn their valuables into their and their children's clothing, to avoid detection when subject to invasion, conquest, plunder, etc."

Are you referring to Marilyn's comment here:

"Jews used to sew their jewels into the clothes of their children and send them away, just like the Hazara Afghans had to do."?

I was wondering why Marilyn felt it necessary to nominate Jews in particular as a people who "sew their jewels into the clothes of their children and send them away"?

As you point out, people of all cultural backgrounds take the sensible precaution of securing their personal possessions.

Nobody mentioned Jews in particular in this context until, quite unexpectedly, Marilyn nominated them.

So, why were Jews especially relevant in that context?

ho hum

Thread relevance, Eliot?

Jenny just leave me alone

The story at the end says that Mustafa is fine, he is now a citizen.

As for supporting the murdering thugs that are called the Afghan government why would I do that? They are worse than the Taliban ever were.

Crikey's attack on Ruddock

From today's email editorial:

Some acts in public life, however, are beyond regret. Some are so unforgivably cynical as to be beyond all limits of accepted political bastardry. Some are so demonstrably evil in their effects as to be unacceptable in any decent society. Mandatory detention of children was both. The Howard Government ruthlessly exploited mandatory detention as a critical component in its campaign to secure political advantage by exploiting anti-immigrant sentiment. Its efforts to exploit and demonise asylum seekers (legitimate and otherwise) were unremitting. In doing so, it locked up children, who suffered serious psychological injury from the process of incarceration.

Would love your opinion on this, Marilyn

Ruddock in today's Australian:

"I was responsible for releasing into the community and putting in place arrangements for essentially fostering into the community unaccompanied minors.

"I don't get given the credit for it, but when I left office there were no unaccompanied minors in detention.

"My view was that the alternative detention regime - which was based upon the Swedish model, where you would keep family units fairly close to where the detention facilities were so that they could meet the principal family member, usually the father, who would continue to be detained while mum and the kids would live in the community - was an appropriate model."

What Jews do

Marilyn Shepherd:  "Jews used to sew their jewels into the clothes of their children and send them away, just like the Hazara Afghans had to do."

Wow. Which Jews were those, Marilyn? Do you have a reference? Perhaps a website or a journal you could refer us to?

Sublime to ridiculous - the great treasure hunt

What on earth are you talking about Eliot?

You know full well, as a student of history, that people of all races over the whole span of history, have sewn their valuables into their and their children's clothing, to avoid detection when subject to invasion, conquest, plunder, etc.

You know full well it is not necessary for people to cite on commonly-known phenomena.

Whereas Jenny at least asks a sensible question, in inquiring after the current well-being of Mustafa and his family.

How is the lad, these days, Marilyn?

Deliberate exaggeration

F Kendall: "I have difficulty in accepting that you are "still reeling", Eliot Ramsay.  I think that you are engaging in hyperbole, and possibly deliberate exaggeration."

About the dozens of refugees whom Marilyn says were sent home to Afghanistan from Australia and killed? Deliberate exaggeration?

Well, I've asked Marilyn to bring us up to date on that point.


The Taliban sent little boys and girls to walk across land mine fields, they murdered them. Jews used to sew their jewels into the clothes of their children and send them away, just like the Hazara Afghans had to do.    Do you get that?  Do you bother to try and understand?

No, just like that bastard Ruddock you blame the poor bloody father.

Typical and expected

Marilyn, a typical and expected belligerent response.

Do you understand that observations are not judgements? You really ought to try for once to be a little less narrow in your interpretation of what people write.

You are predictable, I can say that much for you.

I note you did not bother to update me on the fate of the boy, your story ending around 2003 it seems. But that would be to accept that I might just care. I suppose that does not fit your adversarial mindset so you ignore that in favour of a rant.

Oh well, as you were. You wonder why I don't take you too seriously. Well now you know. And I am sure I am not alone. Those in the government agencies who have to try and sort these matters out have my sympathy vote if this is the sort of attitude they have to deal with.

Don't bother to respond. I am simply not interested in anything further that you have to say. Rant if you like, but you will be ranting to yourself. I will not open this thread again nor any other along the same lines.

I will just assume you support the war in Afghanistan where our troops are dying trying to keep the bastard Taliban out.

Bye Marilyn.

Escaping the Taliban

A father takes his 8 year old child to the lawless border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan and hands him over with all his life savings to people who profit by smuggling other people around the world. What does this tell us about life under the Taliban?

It seems to me that if the life under the Taliban is that dreadful (and I have seen some argue here that it was preferable to what is there now) then we should fully support the war that is aimed at keeping them out of power.

It seems odd that the family cannot be traced given their names and professions are obviously well known. If the family fled Afghanistan, would they not be concerned with finding out the fate of their child, given the lengths they went to to save him?  They may of course be dead.

I see this story is now some years old. It does not tell us whether the family has ever been found in the years since. Mustafa would by now be around 16 if his age on arrival is correct. He may well not now want to leave this country and will have the chance in life his father wanted for him. But at the end of the day we all know that being parted from one's own blood family can create its own long term problems and  trauma. 

That trauma undoubtedly would have started from day one in that border country. It does not take much imagination to picture the likely scene, the tears of the child, the confusion as his father said good-bye. I doubt that being told it was to escape life under the Taliban offered him much comfort. How would any eight year old understand on being left there that this was for his own good.

Life would certainly have to be desperate under the Taliban to lead you to go to such lengths to save your child. I for one can certainly accept that is was, so let us hope they never regain power in that country again.

In the meantime, has Mustafa's family ever been found?  What is his situation at this point in time?

Oliver Twist's porridge

My feeling is that "the people on the ground", if you like, were interfered with in their work, on instructions from above, for esoteric processive legal "Sir Humphrey" type reasons. Confusion of objectives and duty. All to do with that monotonous catch-all for all inactivity: "Policy".

Fancy the lower echelon workers being deterred from their natural and first imperative: the welfare of a child, because people upstairs wanted to indulge in silly politics (I think this is Marilyn Shepherd's point: regardless of whatever folk may disagree on, we wouldn't want kids' welfare jeopardised). The system needed to be upheld, not eroded as to public trust because others wanted to play silly PR games involving the trajectory of the public's response, relative to the government of the day, through an ongoing "framing" of a particular issue in relation to fear and prejudices exploited by press and media.

Nowhere is the politicisation of the public service more in evidence than with immigration and refugees over the last decade or two, although it has always been a contentious, complex, vexed and multilayered subject for Australians, since the first Chinese hit the goldfields a hundred and fifty years ago.

And yes, Eliot, I know that the state governments and their bureaucrats do this "managing" of issues", too - Dr Death comes to mind, although that was to do also with inadequate Federal funding - it's a real threat over time to a system we are loath to be rid of, despite its faults, lest it be replaced in frustration by something unknown far riskier, through loss of public trust .

But that's it - if you ask people like Marilyn they don't give bugger which system is in place, so long as its primary objectives are explicit and rigorously pursued (or opposed if morally untenable). But of course, we then are faced with understanding what the paramount role of a given system is, from the explanations (or not!) of those responsible for its existence and operation, and whether this is understood and assented to by the public.

Is it permissible to sacrifice a kid, or kids, or people say, in order to achieve a certain objective; keeping designated aliens "out"? Or should the humanitarian welfare, under duty of care concepts, of those subject to the system, come above the other imperatives of "policy"?

We seem to acquire indirect evidence that Marilyn's argument from the previous thread, as to the importance of international law and treaty obligation, has some weight after all, else why would there be so much secretive shilly shallying have been going on?

But, as ever, we have these more esoteric and even metaphysical arguments involving the state and the individuals rights and the general meaning and value of life that make it difficult to avoid "relativity" and legitimacy questions on anything.

Some will cry for "civilisation" and meaningful engagement as palliative to meaningless. Others will say, "law of the jungle; let em starve, their weakness is my strength".

I can't see "open slather " immigration, whether or not "refugees" are part of the category, as anything but a threat, given our bungling as to sustainable environment and perverse lack of proportion in the constructive use of our resources.

Yet, I can't accede comfortably to a young kid, or kids, or other refugee subjects, premeditatedly and painfully destroyed for others or my own even if legitimate defence, let alone for the careerist, shabby ulterior motives of five years ago, with a clear conscience.

I can understand, and I believe Marilyn understands, that we can't just import millions of starving, angry people into the country as rapidly as possible.

And I believe we should do as much as possible for those less fortunate, locally and offshore, certainly not aggravate an already tragic situation by playing silly politics with people's lives as ammunition, as Ruddock and Howard did via Hansonism, in the first part of this century.

Yep, the subject makes me uncomfortable and how little I may enjoy activists reminding me of salient realities, If I want to survive in the world I have to embrace reality and truth, no matter how unpalatable, rather than live in the fools' paradise that leads to global warming and building bubble consumer recessions brought on by complacency, let alone the horrors of the early twentieth century.

Still Reeling

I have difficulty in accepting that you are "still reeling", Eliot Ramsay.  I think that you are engaging in hyperbole, and possibly deliberate exaggeration . 

Which is of course a pity, because it makes it impossible to read any comment of yours on any topic as sincere or, indeed,  truthful.

Surely a Royal Commission by the new government?

Marilyn Shepherd: "Standard Operating procedure, sounds a bit like what happened in Woomera."

Thanks Marilyn. I'm still reeling from your account of the dozens of refugees sent home to Afghanistan from Australia and subsequently killed there.

Have you had any contact with Senator Chris Evans about their fate? Surely a Royal Commission by the new government?

Why wouldn't they ?

They didn't care about the children in Iraq. They didn't care about indigenous children until they became a useful election ploy. I honestly don't know how they sleep at night.

Get hold of SOP

Standard Operating procedure, sounds a bit like what happened in Woomera.

All Nazi behaviour.

Good question

They were Philip Ruddock and John Howard and the crowds cheered them on.

I will give this story a few days and then post a few about women and how the guards in Woomera treated them. I have a thousand stories as bad as this one.

Will it ever improve?

Marilyn,  I can probably match them one for three of yours, about Palestine, Iraq, and if you want to get into historical horrors I have few about the good ol US that would make your hair curl.

 I truly do not like people very much.

Beware the coming of terrorists!

Why would you lockup an 8 year old?   Why wouldn't you get them into a supportive family environment, check out their health and see that they got into an educational stream where they could become just another normal kid?

Where do these people come from?

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