Friday January 16, 2009 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
"The Australian government - more precisely, Australia's Immigration Minister Senator Chris Evans - will need to shoulder the blame for the drownings of at least four - but maybe more - asylum seekers enroute to Australia after their vessel capsized trying to reach the Australian coast," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning after the event was first reported yesterday afternoon on wire services (see AAP Report below).
"It is the Immigration Minister Chris Evans who travelled to Indonesia on more than one occasion since becoming Minister, sealing deals with the Indonesian government about that country's dealings with people entering its territories in their attempt to sail to Australia to seek asylum," spokesman Jack H Smit said, "while up till now the Minister has failed to reveal to the Australian public what those deals exactly included."
"The Kupang Immigration Detention Centre from which the asylum seekers escaped prior to embarking for Australia, is funded by the Australian government and run by staff of the International Organisation for Migration - a commercial profit-making organisation regarded in some circles as having been involved in questionable practices - and the escape raises many questions about issues surrounding the duration the asylum seekers had been detained prior to their escape, the way they were treated while detained, and the openness and accountability of their processing by IOM."
"While Minister Evans as well as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd have repeatedly 'barked' very loudly about their 'success' around border protection and people smuggling issues since coming to government, no explanations have been given about government-sponsored processing in Indonesian holding and processing camps such as the Kupang centre."
"It is possible, that also these escaped asylum seekers who drowned, were entrants who had been held for extended periods. Australian advocates have pressured MP's and Minister for several years about the fact that in facilities on Lombok, also funded by Australia and staffed by IOM, asylum seekers had been held for up to six years in miserable conditions without any visibility or accountability in relation to their third-country processing and relocation."
"Many of the Afghani asylum seekers held in camps in Indonesia are Hazaras, who have just one single purpose: to come to Australia and join their families who are already settled as refugees in the community."
"It's time Immigration Minister Chris Evans starts explaining to the Australian public exactly how its taxpayer funds are in tune with Labor's promises to 'process 90% of people within 90 days' - because 'what's good for the goose is also good for the gander' also in Indonesia, and it's time the Minister tells us how the Rudd government's processing system reflects the accountability he is so eager to talk about," Mr Smit concluded.
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Immigrants drown after fleeing detention
The West Australian
Australian Associated Press
15th January 2009, 14:35 WST
Four illegal Afghan immigrants have drowned at sea and five others are missing after escaping from a detention facility in eastern Indonesia, officials say.
The men were among 18 Afghani and Burmese nationals who overpowered guards at the facility in Kupang on Wednesday, seriously injuring three.
The escaped men then boarded a motorboat that capsized in a storm hours later, police spokesman Okto Riwu said.
Nine survivors were returned to custody and a search team scoured the choppy waters off Kupang for the missing, he said on Thursday.
They were apparently trying to arrange a boat trip to Australia when they were detained in Kupang in December without proper identification.
Indonesia has long been a transit point for people from poor, often conflict-ridden countries hoping to enter Australia.
In recent years, most migrants have come from Iraq or Afghanistan. They typically fly to Indonesia before continuing to Australia aboard cramped, barely seaworthy ships.
Indonesia's vast seas are treacherous, particularly during high tides in the tropical rainy season.
On Sunday, a ferry capsized off the west coast of Sulawesi and 230 people are missing and presumed dead.