Refugee advocates condemn Vanstone Visa change regulations

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

Refugee advocates condemn Vanstone Visa change regulations

Media Release
Friday May 13 2005 12:00am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

WA Refugee advocates Project SafeCom have expressed strong condemnation of Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone's announcements surrounding the new visa, available to socalled 'stateless' and long-term asylum seekers.

Spokesman Jack H Smit commented this morning, that the Immigration Minister "...seeks to play god with the future of asylum seekers by creating a hybrid form of 'Ministerial discretion' in stating that asylum seekers will only receive such a visa 'by invitation', on invitation of the Minister."

"This week, Australia could have become a world leader amongst UN Convention countries by creating the first visa class in the world for 'stateless' asylum seekers' who fall outside the UN Convention but who have no home in any country around the world, but Vanstone instead has sought to increase her own power and control, and this visa tells asylum seekers in Baxter that the Howard government refuses to flinch over its cruelties now well recorded."

"Instead of dealing with this painful issue by creating a humanitarian visa category for both stateless and long-term asylum seekers with openness, courage and generosity, the Minister has instead applied more personal power to her own role, and she has added an unbelievably cruel 'failure clause' by announcing that on invitation, recipients of these invitations need to respond within seven days and accept the visa on offer within that period."

"Tomorrow, Australia's longest held asylum seeker Mr Peter Qasim could be 'celebrating' what is his seventh birthday since he has been in Australian detention, but this cruel offer is unlikely to give him any reason for joy. The Howard government's sustained meanness and hardline policies and the associated face-saving stubbornness - not wanting to be seen as 'softening' the policies - are clearly more important to the Minister and the government that the recognition that we torture people such as Mr Qasim and that long-term detention causes irreversible psychological damage."

"In addition to the Ministerial discretion element, people will also loose their rights to appeal, the regulations are unclear about eligibility to other visa categories - such as a spousal visa - and at any moment, visa holders can be re-detained for removal. This is the no-human-rights visa, and it constitutes another Howard government scandal in the long row of scandals of our government."

The issue of 'stateless people' has been identified by the UN and its refugee agency UNHCR as an issue of world concern, because the world community, including Convention countries has up till now failed to substantively deal with the issue of people who have no country-based papers or identifications. UNHCR has expressed this concern on several occasions.

For more information:

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

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