Advocates aghast by ducking, blaming, weaving Vanstone

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130

Advocates aghast by ducking, blaming, weaving Vanstone

Media Release
Thursday December 7 2006, 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

Shocking DIMA practices not in the past - they're happening right here and now

"Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone made herself into a national disgrace yesterday on ABC-TV by showing to be someone who is so desperate in her blame shifting over the shocking Immigration Ombudsman report, that she deludes herself in thinking that the solution lays in blaming the ABC, and "the past" - with an oh, so clever finger pointing in the general direction of her predecessor Philip Ruddock, and for good measure the "further past", but only she is to blame and should take full responsibility for the still ongoing DIMA debacles," WA Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

"Only the professionalism of ABC presenter Kerry O'Brien prevented the aggressive sleaze of the Immigration Minister from having any traction on the ABC's 7:30 report," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"And the Minister's attempts to reduce DIMA problems by placing them in the past belies a serious incident that just two weeks ago took place in an early morning raid in Sydney, where DIMA once more showed its unbelievable cow-boy attitude by incarcerating someone with a perfectly valid visa." (as reported by ABC Radio, transcript below).

"Not only was Mr Ahmed El Mazri grabbed from his home, but Federal Police officers accompanying departmental officers at the raid also threatened his daughter, a 10-year old child, with a gun in order to gain entry into his house, and used unbelievable language in barking at the young child to 'let them f***ing into the house' while pointing at the gun, refugee advocates have told us," Mr Smit said.

"The Minister carries full responsibility for what happens in her department, and as the Opposition leader Mr Kevin Rudd pointed out in Parliament question time yesterday, Mr Howard carries full responsibility for the appalling behaviour of DIMA officers - he is the "shadowy man" who created the culture in this (and several other) government departments, for example by appointing Max Moore-Wilton to raid these departments and cull those staffers and managers who would not comply with Mr Howard's direction and political agendas, and this started as early as the early years of the Howard administration."

"It's time Australians stop being lulled to sleep by manipulative Ministers under a government that has seriously eroded the notion of Ministerial accountability, and Project SafeCom is delighted with the impression it has of Kevin Rudd's "new broom", where the ALP leader is not afraid to point the finger squarely at where the problems originate," Mr Smit said.

"Perhaps we should demand the immediate resignation of the Minister, but only amongst the backbenchers in the Coalition are some Liberal MP's who carry enough conscience and capability to hold Vanstone's portfolio - now so tainted that hardly anyone in the Howard government can be said to not be compromised by the manipulation fed into the immigration department as well as the wider public service by John Howard," Mr Smit concluded.

For more information:

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

Immigration bungle angers wrongful detainee

PM - Tuesday 28 November 2006
Reporter: Lindy Kerin

MARK COLVIN: A Sydney man who's lived in Australia for more than 30 years is demanding an apology from the Immigration Department after they arrested and detained him today - then let him go.

42-year-old Ahmed El Mazri came to Australia from Lebanon as a young child.

But he has an extensive criminal history, which has ended with him being deemed a person of bad character, and facing possible deportation.

After a dawn raid at his home this morning, Mr El Mazri was detained at the Villawood Detention Centre.

But soon afterwards, Immigration Officials realised he had a valid visa and released him.

Lindy Kerin reports.

LINDY KERIN: Ahmed El Mazri left Lebanon with his family when he was 12 years old.

He's lived in Australia ever since.

He's married to an Australian woman and has five children.

This morning, police and immigration officials raided his Sydney home and took him to the Villawood Detention Centre.

Mr El Mazri's wife Cheryle says she's still in shock about what happened.

CHERYLE EL MAZRI: My husband got up out of bed to see what was going on and they dragged him out of the house, in his underwear, into a van across the road.

As they barged through the door, they pushed all my children out of the way, they kicked my children's pet. I just thought it was very inappropriate, because they never handed me a search warrant until after the fact.

LINDY KERIN: Ahmed El Mazri suffers from schizophrenia.

He has a long criminal history and has more than 100 convictions, from traffic offences to armed robbery.

In 2002, the Federal Government cancelled his visa on the grounds that he was of bad character and threatened to deport him.

He was held in detention for three years, in limbo after a series of legal challenges.

Mr El Mazri's arrest today follows a High Court decision three weeks ago, which upheld the Immigration Minister's right to deport people who have an extensive criminal history.

But Cheryl El Mazri says her husband doesn't deserve such treatment.

CHERYL EL MAZRI: I think it's absolutely shocking what they did. I mean, I can't see why they would have to do it in that manner, in the manner that they did it was absolutely wrong.

LINDY KERIN: Mr El Mazri was released from detention and was given enough money to get home.

He was too distressed to talk to PM, but his wife Cheryle says there's now great uncertainty about what lies ahead.

CHERYL EL MAZRI: We've just got to sit back and wait. If he is deported, that will be the end of the family ... (sound of Ahmed El Mazri speaking in the background).

He just said he'd shoot himself as soon as he got there.

LINDY KERIN: Mr El Mazri's lawyer Michaela Byers says her client is considering legal action for wrongful detention.

MICHAELA BYERS: I made numerous phone calls to the Department of Immigration in Canberra, they knew nothing about it and said that they would get back to me, which they did and I was told that Mr El Mazri was being released, that their action was inappropriate.

LINDY KERIN: But the Immigration Department Spokesman Sandi Logan denies that claim and says correct procedures were followed.

He says Mr El Mazri's case is extremely complex and that a decision about his future will be made very soon.

SANDI LOGAN: The Department has acted promptly in dealing with it. We've acted transparently.

I think the fact that while Mr... the client, was in very brief immigration custody, and was provided with a cabcharge voucher in order to return home, I think that shows the spirit and the basis in which the Department has acted.

LINDY KERIN: So should he have been detained then?

SANDI LOGAN: As I say, it's a highly complex and very unique matter, it wouldn't be, I don't think, the form to go into parsing the legality of the matter. Needless to say, we've acted promptly in ensuring, once he was in his short period of Immigration custody, that he be released, that cabcharge voucher be provided for him to return home while further consideration is made about his character and his right to remain in Australia.

MARK COLVIN: Immigration Department Spokesman Sandi Logan ending that report by Lindy Kerin.

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