Ruddock's Sweet Deal with Iran doesn't cancel atrocities of both countries

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

Ruddock's Sweet Deal with Iran doesn't cancel atrocities of both countries

Media Release
Thursday 13 March 2003 - 15:00 WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes


The deal struck this week by Australia's Minister of Immigration Philip Ruddock with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran does nothing to undo the torturous methods to quell dissent by Iran, while it can also not make Australian human rights atrocities undone, refugee advocates argue today.

Peter Wilkie from Perth's Refugee Rights Action Network said: "The Howard government shows its double standards and willingness to trample on human rights by being 'best mates' with the USA's George W. Bush, who calls Iran one of the 'Axis Of Evil' countries, while at the same time Australia's Immigration Minister boasts about reaching a repatriation agreement with Iran, which reportedly also includes agreements in progress about forced deportation of those in Australian detention centres."

According to the US State Department [Report on Human Rights Practices, 2001] in Iran "[....] The Government significantly restricts citizen's rights to change their government. Systematic abuses include summary executions, disappearances, widespread use of torture and other degrading treatment reportedly including rape, severe punishments such as stoning and flogging, harsh prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention, and prolonged and incommunicado detention."

This week Project SafeCom received a petition, signed by 63 Iranian detainees in the Port Hedland detention centre, asking for help from the Australian community, the government and UNHCR to help them leave for a "third country". The asylum seekers noted that after having been in detention for three years, they had given up the hope of changing the hardline refugee stance of the Australian government.

The document was also sent to the Rev. James Haire, President of the Uniting Church in Australia.

MEDIA NOTE: the document - as well as some other information about Iranian detainees, has been reprinted on the Project SafeCom website here:

From the Petition: "We, Iranian asylum seekers in the Port Hedland detention centre, considering that it is about three years that we have been locked up in the Australian detention centres and have no hope for any positive changes in the refugee policy of Australia and we can no longer bear these circumstances, request UNHCR and also the government and community of Australia for settlement and being processed in a country other than Australia."

"In Australian detention centres many Iranians would now feel as if they are signing a death warrant if they accept Ruddock's repatriation deal", Jack Smit of Project SafeCom said. "They come here from a country that tortures dissenters, only to be tortured with indefinite incarceration by a heartless government that has stitched up the Migration Act so many elements essential to equitable human rights implementation can be excluded from its refugee assessment process."

"Self harm will increase, desperation will increase, and the likelihood of more suicides will no doubt also increase."

Mr Smit said: "We recently saw a similar example of what Ruddock is capable of, in the clause inserted in the "Reintegration Package" sent out to refugees, including those living in the community as TPV's, from Afganistan last December."

"That clause: I/we further understand that I/we will be required to formally withdraw/discontinue any matters before UN Treaty bodies such as the UN Committee Against Torture or the UN Human Rights Committee prior to my/our departure from Australia."

"With such blackmail clauses, who needs Australia on the list of "safe" countries under the refugee convention? It's time we issue a worldwide essay competition in which we ask who is the worst torturer and human rights abuser, Iran or Australia?"

For further information:

Peter Wilkie
Refugee Rights Action Network
[Phone number posted]

Rev. Elenie Poulos
National Director
Social Responsibility and Justice
Uniting Church in Australia
[Phone number posted]

Ms Pamela Curr
Victorian Greens Spokesperson for Refugees
[Phone number posted]

Mr Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[Phone number posted]

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