Advocates demand Parliamentary Discourse changes following refugee suicide

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Advocates demand Parliamentary Discourse changes following refugee suicide

• Speaker Harry Jenkins MP: Advocates demand Parliamentary Discourse changes following refugee suicide

• Mr Al Akabi's refugee assessment files should be part of Inquiry following his death

Media Release
Tuesday November 16, 2010 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"The suicide of Mr Ahmad Obeid Al Akabi in the Villawood detention centre last night should shock Parliamentarians in Canberra, and if they had a decent bone in them, it should stop the ghastly baiting, the near-unbearable howls and screams about "stopping the boats" and the use of disgraceful terms such as "illegals" and "illegal boats" from Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison, who brazenly re-create old and tested lies and misinformation in their quest to fish for the xenophobic vote," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

"Mr Harry Jenkins in his role as Speaker of the House has many instruments available to him to uphold the standards of the Parliamentary debate. It is incredulous that while Australia as a nation has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention for the Status of Refugees, nothing happens when politicians act like drunks, vile bandits and brazen liars in implicitly and deliberately misrepresent the norms and values of that Convention, a legally enforceable instrument which is clear about the legality of the maritime asylum journey and which sets in motion Australia's legally defined response of decency," spokesman Mr Smit said.

"Parliamentarians in The House are to uphold Australian law at all times. The language, the talk and the discourse spewed forth from Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison on a constant basis, defiles Australia as a nation, and it places serious questions over their ethical commitment to the UN Convention and definitions to which Australia as a nation is a party."

"Every time this happens, the Speaker of the House has the power to invoke regulations and expel Members of the Parliament. Nobody who vilifies the UN Convention, implicitly vilifying those who arrive by boat under the powers of that Convention, has a place in the Australian Parliament. Mr Jenkins should inform the House that language deliberately seeking to undermine that Convention is subject to his powers and sanctions."

"There should now be a full inquiry into the circumstances of Mr Al Akabi's death, and all files and communications relating to his interviews with the immigration department around his refugee status determination should be part of this inquiry, Mr Smit said.

"We know how stressed the immigration department currently is around the overcrowding of all detention facilities around the country. Many bureaucrats have recently been seconded from other government departments - from e.g. the Police Department, the Department of Defence - to assist in refugee claims assessment. If this has led to a deterioration in standards of assessment it is a direct contributor to the man's death. Consequently, the opening of these files and communications is essential in determining the circumstances leading to the death of Mr Akabi."

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
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