Tag Archives: UNHCR

How can Turnbull make refugees second-class citizens in another sovereign state?

31 Oct

second_class

The Turnbull government, no doubt believing it hasn’t yet done enough to convince the Hansonites they should vote for it, has now decided to create a secondary class of citizens by restricting the movements of refugees from Manus and Nauru, should they be settled in third countries. While everyone else in those third countries is free to apply for a visa to visit Australia, refugees are not.

The reason for this discrimination is that they arrived in Australia seeking asylum on a boat.

I can barely get my head around this much insanity.

This creation of second-class citizens does not, both Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull assure us, contravene any domestic or international law, and it does not breach our responsibilities to the Refugee Convention.

I confess myself at a complete loss. I do not understand how this can possibly be the case. The refugees have committed no crime. Their status has been awarded to them by the UNHCR. Yet Australia can, apparently with no legal ramifications whatsoever, cast them as second class citizens of another sovereign nation by refusing them the same freedom of movement other citizens of that nation enjoy.

The New Zealand Prime Minister has already declined to collude with this plan, declaring that his government will not co-operate in creating a secondary class of New Zealand citizens whose movements are restricted by Australia. Surely what Australia is proposing is contrary to every democratic principle?

And how can any country that is a signatory to the Refugee Convention co-operate with the Australian government’s restriction on the free movement of potential citizens who have committed no crime?

Any ideas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let us not forget

28 Apr

Asylum in Australia

 

As we are dragged kicking and screaming into interminable weeks of sickening electioneering that will, yet again, have asylum seekers and refugees as one of its core bones of contention, let us not forget these facts.

Australia is a signatory to the UNHCR Refugee Convention.

This is an invitation to asylum seekers to request sanctuary in this country. They are not breaking any law by responding to an invitation we extend.

The manner of their arrival is irrelevant. There is nothing in the Convention stating that those seeking asylum in this country or any other, must not be waterborne.

The UNHCR requires that signatories to the Convention ensure domestic legislation is compatible with the undertakings of the Convention.

Successive governments have justified the indefinite and off-shore detention of asylum seekers and refugees by claiming that refusing them sanctuary in Australia breaks a “people smuggling business model” in which those seeking to exploit asylum seekers take their money, in return for the false promise of resettlement in Australia.

Allegedly with the objective of discouraging asylum seekers from embarking on perilous journeys and so preventing them drowning at sea, successive Australian governments have accepted the physical, mental and emotional assault of asylum seekers and refugees, the rape of asylum seekers and refugees, including the raping, assault and complex deprivation of their children; the destruction of the mental health of children, the murder of asylum seekers and refugees, their indefinite detention, their self-harm, their severe mental deterioration, and their refoulement.

In short, successive Australian governments have justified torture by claiming it will prevent death.

The subjects of this ongoing legitimised human experimentation performed by successive Australian governments are people who have legally sought sanctuary in this country. Many of them have been assessed as refugees.

As the PNG Supreme Court has now decided, off-shore detention of refugees on Manus Island is illegal. This means that successive Australian governments have committed illegal acts against innocent people. We’ve always known this. It’s taken the PNG Supreme Court to articulate our criminality.

And let us not forget that on top of the billions already spent on detaining legal seekers of asylum, we face a possible $1billion in claims for false imprisonment now the Manus deal has so spectacularly collapsed.

It’s difficult to feel anything other than the most profound contempt for the politicians who are responsible for this situation. As we endure the endless weeks of their ghastly clamourings for our vote, let us not forget that they have brought us to this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Government by troll

10 Feb

Philip Ruddock

 

And even as I wrote this piece, news broke that Greg Hunt, Minister for the Environment when you’re not having a Minister for the Environment, has just been awarded the inaugural best minister in the world gong in Dubai. I rest my feckin case. 

 

The Turnbull government recently appointed Philip Ruddock as its special envoy for human rights.  Ruddock will quit the government in order to take up his new position, as it will entail considerable amounts of travel during which time he would be absent from the House, and this, he considers, is not fair to his Berowra electorate.

One can imagine the glee with which this arrangement was arrived at. How enraged and outraged the lefties will be was likely the first consideration, as Ruddock’s expertise in furthering human rights, or even lobbying, was most certainly not a central concern.  The man has all the charm of an embalmed corpse, indeed, his waxy pallor during his Howard years caused me to note on more than one occasion that he looked as if he’d just crawled out of his coffin as the sun went down.

Ruddock is known as the architect of the Howard government’s off-shore detention policy, the “Pacific Solution.” This “solution” was condemned by Human Rights Watch as a rights violation, as it contravened international law. The UNHCR supported this view. A long-standing member of Amnesty International, that organisation asked Ruddock to cease wearing its badge, as he had done consistently and conspicuously whilst committing rights violations. Ruddock also introduced Temporary Protection Visas.

In 2003 Ruddock was appointed Attorney-General. He introduced the Marriage Amendment Bill, in which marriage is for the first time defined as being solely between a man and a woman, thus preventing same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Ruddock once famously referred to an asylum seeker child as “it.” He was also responsible, along with John Howard and Peter Reith, of lying to the public on the matter of asylum seekers throwing their children overboard in order to gain access to Australia.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop explained it thus:  Mr Ruddock will actively promote Australia’s candidacy for membership of the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the 2018-20 term. He will represent Australia at international human rights events and advocate our HRC candidacy in selected countries.

Ruddock’s appointment demonstrates yet again that Turnbull varies little from Abbott in his practices: the only difference is the patronising urbanity with which he oils his self-satisfied way through his political life. Turnbull, like Abbott, makes decisions based firstly on the retention of his personal power, followed closely by the retention of his party’s power, followed closely by their collective desire to troll lefties just because they can. Yes. They are that infantile.

Turnbull continues the Abbott tradition of treating government, and governance, as a personal plaything. Abbott trolled the nation when he appointed himself Minister for Women. He did it again when IPA stalwart and vigorous opponent of the Human Rights Commission, Tim Wilson, was parachuted into a job invented for him at that very Commission, with the vague title of Freedom Commissioner and a salary of $325,000 pa.

While the LNP are having great fun trolling, it’s also their intention to take over or outsource institutions they perceive as obstacles to the implementation of their ideology. The government’s decisions have little to do with the welfare of the country, or anybody in it who is not in thrall to that ideology.

I hope the idiots who thought things would be better cos Turnbull are smacking themselves upside the head right now.

The LNP risking a leadership spill in an election year must be as likely as the survival of polar bears, which is to say, negligible. Turnbull is in the strongest position he’s ever likely to enjoy: he could do just about anything and remain Prime Minister. Yet he hasn’t the courage to run with it, and continues to roll over like a submissive dog under the pressure of his party’s extreme right-wing.

The man is scum. He’s worse scum than Abbott. Abbott was always scum, but Turnbull, on the face of it, seemed once to stand for something, though in retrospect I’m not sure what that something was. Turnbull has the smooth voice and sophisticated delivery the cloth-eared and dry-mouthed Abbott so conspicuously lacked, yet behind all his mannerisms, Turnbull is as hollow, and as pretentious, and as cruel.

Welcome to government by troll.

 

 

 

 

 

Asylum Seekers: what it costs Australian governments to persecute stateless persons

12 Nov

 Asylum Seeker Three

 

The foreigner is the political precondition of the nation state… Costas Douzinas.

Australia, while remaining a signatory to the United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees, long since gave up any pretence of observance of international human rights in favour of a nationalistic observance of state sovereign rights. State sovereignty permits governments the right to exclude persons the state deems unworthy of inclusion.

The power of the state to exclude is perhaps the fundamental state power.

Ideological, racial, economic and political factors are the criteria for deciding who is and is not included in the nation-state. As Hannah Arendt noted, statelessness is not a problem of geographical space, but of political space.

The stateless person has as their only descriptor the fact that they are human. Ironically, this strips them of their right to human rights, rights which are only available to them if they are citizens of a state. It is not enough to be human. One must also belong to a state in order to claim human rights. Arendt suggest that the only fundamental human right is the right to have rights. Asylum seekers who have a legitimate right to arrive by boat in Australia are stripped of the right to have rights once their vessel is intercepted by Australian authorities.

 

Stateless Persons UNHCR

Persons seeking asylum from persecution who attempt to access Australia by boat are singled out for exclusion, and though their method of arrival is perfectly legitimate under the Convention, they are criminalised and detained in off-shore camps. Detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island are all that is offered to de facto stateless persons, that is, refugees unable to claim the human rights afforded by citizenship. Persons detained in these camps are exempted from “normal” laws. The methods of addressing their plight are containment and repatriation, or resettlement in another country, rather than granting asylum and legal integration into the Australian nation.

This action against asylum seekers is justified as being in the “national interest,” an abstract concept in which the mystical “nation”  is prioritised over the interests of singular human beings who are dispossessed non-nationals, and therefore considered rightless.  The state is committed to protecting only legitimate members of the nation, the rights of asylum being in conflict with the rights of the state. There is in Australia no concept of offering sanctuary and refuge to those fleeing persecution who arrive by sea. Their loss of place in the world, their loss of belonging, has the effect of reducing them to physical objects, bereft of human dignity, because without rights one is not a person, one is not an agent in the public realm.

In reaction to this deliberate and systematic dehumanisation, asylum seekers held in detention camps on Manus and Nauru behave as did those held in mainland camps such Woomera and Baxter. They sew up their lips in a symbolic protest against the silencing of their voices. They harm their own bodies. They suffer depression and anxiety, and hopelessness. Their suffer the abjection of those who have ceased to belong to any state.

Asylum Seekers Two SMH photo

 

Sovereignty, like religion, is a constructed knowledge imbued with faux mysticism. The Abbott government’s “Operation Sovereign Borders” appeals to this pseudo-mysticism, offering citizens the opportunity to come together in unity, led by a concerned, fatherly government to protect our nation against the breaching of its borders by the unwanted, stateless foreigner. As Douzinas points out, there can be no nation state without the foreigner; one must have someone to protect oneself from in order to maintain the perceived power of sovereignty.

The asylum seeker is equally imbued with mysticism, of the most negative kind as the assumption is peddled that merely due to the fact of her search for asylum she is morally corrupt and corrupting. Her crime is breaching sovereign borders. She is used as a scapegoat to unite citizens and strengthen boundaries, ultimately supporting the ideology of sovereignty.

What we are doing in this country is wrong. The idea that we must treat people horrifically in order to discourage others from attempting sea journeys is morally corrupt. Action the state is legitimised to take against one group can be and will be extrapolated to other groups, when the state deems it in the national interest. When the fate of human lives is secondary to the rights of the state, we are all at risk.

Is it really in the interests of the citizens of this country that so many billions of taxpayer dollars are eaten up in the pursuit and detention of a relatively few people who arrive here by boat, in the pursuit of the maintenance of our sovereign borders? No, it isn’t. It is, however, in the political interests of both major parties. The cost to the taxpayer of pursuing these political interests is obscene, and it is rising, as this graph from The Conversation shows:

 

The Conversation

 

The major parties continue to persecute stateless persons seeking asylum and refuge, solely because of their method of arrival. Australia moves further and further away from the undertakings we made when we signed and later ratified the Refugee Convention. Human beings suffer appallingly in concentration camps, out of sight and out of mind. The matter of the future of stateless persons is a massive global problem, and one that will continue to increase. Australian governments have long thought it is a problem that they can continue to outsource to countries far less capable than are we of providing the possibility of a decent life to those who by no fault of their own, are dispossessed of the lives they once had. This cannot go on. In all conscience, it cannot go on.

Scott Morrison just keeps on keeping on

23 Feb

Pimp. Tool. Liar. by Karen Elliot via flickr

 

There’s a poll in today’s Australian asking readers if they agree or disagree with Scott Morrison’s call in parliament on Monday night for fewer boat people to be accepted as refugees.

As of a few minutes ago, 78% of readers agreed with his proposal,  21% disagreed.

Morrison has called for a maximum of 3,750 boat arrivals per year to be given refugee status.

Indeed, the coalition immigration spokesman brings a whole new model to the process of determining refugee status – it’s to be decided numerically, and will have nothing at all to do with circumstances the asylum seekers fled, or the dangers of refoulement.

The stupidity of this man is astounding. He either has no grasp at all of the principles of refugee assessment, or he knows very well, and has seized another opportunity to misinform and misguide the Australian public on the matter of our domestic and international obligations to asylum seekers.

Or he doesn’t care about either of those things and just has to say something so we don’t forget who he is.

Morrison hasn’t said what he proposes to do with asylum seekers who are legally entitled to assessment after his target is reached.  He can’t send them back if they’re found to be refugees. He’ll keep them in mandatory detention for life, will he?

Or go on another of those humiliating begging trips around the globe, asking other countries to have them, preferably countries a lot worse off than Australia who we can bribe with a bit of foreign aid.

This is yet another of the apparently limitless examples of politicians ignoring our legal obligations to asylum seekers. Unfortunately, some of the wider population is apparently just as ignorant of them.

With many mainstream media voices also ignoring and obfuscating our legal responsibilities, perhaps people can be forgiven for thinking we haven’t got any, and we can do what we like with refugees.

Next time a politician starts banging on about the rule of law, maybe someone should remind him or her of this one. We are legally obliged, domestically and internationally, to accept asylum seekers, no matter how they arrive here, and assess them for refugee status. If they qualify, we are obliged to speedily resettle them.

The idea of numerically determining who will and won’t be accepted as a refugee once they have requested asylum, is the beat up of an increasingly desperate man. Morrison has tried every which way to get up an argument about refusing entry to Muslims, and so far he’s been thwarted. As many boat arrivals are Muslim, he’s now trying another way to give his argument legs.

There is no possibility of a numerical cut-off point for assessing the refugee status of boat arrivals, under our current laws. That is not the definition of assessment, for a  start. It’s saying you’re number 3,751 so bugger off, we’ve reached our assessment target.

What’s amazing, and desperately sad, is there seem to be a lot of Australians who think the idea is a good one, and an opposition immigration spokesman who’s only too happy to peddle that falsehood in his tireless pursuit of votes, and disharmony.

The lies politicians put about on these issues are staggering, all eagerly disseminated by many mainstream media. The fact is, we have voluntarily undertaken to advertise ourselves as a country of asylum. We have voluntarily accepted the legal obligations that go with that.

We could take responsibility for our own actions, and stop making asylum seekers suffer for them.

We could face up to those voluntarily incurred obligations, and either change them, or just get on with fulfilling them.

In the meantime, the false arguments continue to rage, the vilification gets worse, and the politicians exploit it for all it’s worth.

What’s that smell? Flood mud? Nah, it’s just a politician.


Press council replies to complaint against SMH

13 Jan

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Image via Wikipedia

Further to the post of January 7 2011: “Today we sent a complaint to the Australian Press Council claiming that the article by Paul SheehanSydney Morning Herald January 3 2011, titled Cast adrift from reality, the slick spruikers of ‘our’ shame, breaches Principles 1,2,3 and 6 of the Council’s Statement of Principles.

I received the following email from the Australian Press Council today:

Dear Dr Wilson,

The Council has received a complaint from you, in which you raise a concern with terminology used by a bylined opinion columnist in The Sydney Morning Herald.

For your information, a copy of the Council’s principles and practices can be found on the Council’s website http://www.presscouncil.org.au. Therein are set out the standards of journalistic ethics that the Council upholds and the procedures it uses to deal with complaints alleging breaches of those standards.

Attached, for your information, is a copy of the Council’s Guideline No 288 on the issue of asylum seekers.

The Council believes that columns such as Sheehan’s should be given a reasonably wide licence to express a point of view. They are the clear expression of a viewpoint of the individual writing them and are commentary upon the news.

The terminology you complain of talks of  “illegal boats”. Since the boats can be seized and their crew tried before the courts, there is good reason to suggest that the arrival of the boats is in fact “illegal”.

Have you submitted a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald for publication in response to the published column? The Council has consistently said that the best response to a disagreement with such material is the submission of a contrary view for publication. I therefore urge you to take the matter up direct with the newspaper in the first instance, if you have not already. I will write to the newspaper urging it give due consideration to any submitted letter as a way of dealing with your concern.

I will bring your concern to the attention of the newspaper but believe that the best settlement of your concern, in this case, is through the letters to the editor column.

Yours sincerely,

Deb Kirkman, Acting Executive Secretary, Australian Press Council

To which I replied as follows:

Dear Ms Kirkman,
I have indeed twice written to the SMH letters on this matter, as I stated on my complaint form, and neither letter has been acknowledged.

To reiterate, the terminology I complained of is as follows:

1. Illegal boat arrivals. If Sheehan was referring only to the arrival of SIEVs, or to the crew of SIEVs, then these references makes no sense at all in the context of his paragraph.

It is rather disingenuous to suggest that Sheehan was referring to the vessels and their crew, given that the crews are arrested and the vessels are impounded, therefore the problem is addressed immediately at the source and offers no basis for Sheehan’s on-going angst.

Sheehan then goes on to comment on the “relatively small number of people who arrive by boat,” thus clearly confirming that he is indeed referring to the passengers who are seeking asylum, and not to the SIEVs and their crew.

2. Those who arrive by illegal means,and those who arrive without proper papers.

The UN Refugee Convention, to which Australia is signatory, recognises that refugees have a lawful right to enter a country for the purposes of seeking asylum.  

The Convention stipulates that what would usually be considered an illegal action, eg entering a country without a visa, should not be treated as illegal if a person is seeking asylum.

Australian law, in line with the Convention, also permits unauthorised entry for the purposes of seeking asylum.

Therefore, under Australian law, and under the terms of the Convention we have signed, a person who is seeking asylum has the legal right to enter this country without papers, and by any method of transport, even SIEVs, and has the legal right to remain in this country, until his or her refugee status is established through the proper legal processes, to which, as asylum seekers, they are legally entitled.

Their mode of transport does not render asylum seekers “illegal,” as suggested by Sheehan.

This was re-affirmed by the High Court of Australia in November 2010.

Again, my complaints  relate to numbers 1, 2, 3, and 6 of your Statement of Principles.

Sheehan has misrepresented the facts of this situation – asylum seekers are not illegal, even if they enter the country on SIEVs.

Sheehan has suppressed facts that are available to him, i.e. the facts that under domestic law and by international agreement, Australia does not consider those requesting asylum to be illegal in any way, no matter how they arrived in this country, including if they arrived “without proper papers.”

The illegality of their mode of transport is a separate issue, as the law recognises, and is dealt with as a separate issue. Asylum seekers are not held responsible for the legality or otherwise of their mode of transport.

Sheehan has misinformed and misled the SMH readership by conflating the two, and in so doing, ignores Australian law and the UNHCR Convention.

Since when has it been acceptable that even an opinion writer has the license to misinform their readers about Australian law, and the legal status of a particular group of people?

Sheehan has not presented his readers with the facts, and his opinions are not based on the facts. Sheehan has acted irresponsibly in putting forward an uninformed point of view as his opinion. The facts are readily available to him. Surely even opinion pieces are supposed to have some basis in reality?

I have requested that the SMH correct Sheehan’s inaccuracies and conflations. I have received no response

Yours sincerely,

Jennifer Wilson.

Australian Press Council Guideline 288 in regard to Asylum seekers.

Guideline No. 288

Describing “asylum seekers”

Issued: October 30, 2009

For immediate release

The Australian Press Council has updated its guideline on “asylum seekers”, replacing General Press Release 262 with the attached guide. The Council issues guidelines from time to time. These are, in essence, amplifications on particular issues arising from the Council’s Statement of Principles. The guidelines apply the Principles to the practice of reporting and are intended to guide the press on how it should report certain matters. These guidelines are not intended to be prescriptive instructions to the press but act as a series of advisories on the application of the Principles that the Council seeks the co-operation of editors in maintaining. A list of the extant guidelines (and links to them) can be found on the Council’s website athttp://www.presscouncil.org.au/pcsite/activities/gprguide.html.

The Council has from time to time received complaints about the terminology used to describe people who arrive in Australia through means other than regulated immigration and visa transit processes. They are often referred to by the press and others as “illegal immigrants”, “illegal boatpeople” and so on –  or simply as  “illegals”. The descriptor “illegal(s)” is very often inaccurate and typically connotes criminality.

The press has, by and large, abided by the Council’s 2004 Guideline about the use of inaccurate and derogatory terminology to describe such people.

Having considered the matter further, the Council believes that the term “asylum seeker” is a widely understood descriptor, generally a fair and a sufficiently accurate one, and one which avoids the kinds of difficulties outlined above. The Council recommends its use as the default terminology in relevant headlines and reports both by the press and others.

The Australian Press Council comprises representatives of the public and of the industry and acts to preserve the freedom, and the responsibility, of the Australian press. It was founded in July 1976 and has been in continuous operation for over 30 years.

End of Guideline 288

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