Sunday March 18, 2007 10:00am WST
For Immediate Release
PHOTOS of EMBARKATION of NAURU CHARTER FLIGHT ON CHRISTMAS ISLAND:
"The Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews needs to explain to Australians whether or not he told the 83 Sri Lankan asylum seekers (who were flown to Nauru Saturday 17 March in the afternoon) in a letter handed to them before embarkation that they could choose Australia as a resettlement country upon approval of their refugee claim or not, and he needs to explain exactly what kind of lawyers he has promised to provide to them while on Nauru," WA Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.
Advocates have told Project SafeCom (see below) that the 83 Sri Lankans were handed a letter before embarking on the charter flight to Nauru, which told them they could choose Australia or another country as their preferred country of resettlement once their refugee claims had been processed and if it was found that they were refugees.
The letter also guaranteed that they would be provided with lawyers on Nauru.
"The Immigration Minister cannot have his media spin both ways," Project SafeCom spokesman said. "He cannot play Mr Hardball in the Australian press, hoping for a handful of votes and some applause from the radical right in the electorate by stating categorically that the Sri Lankans, even when found to be refugees after processing them on Nauru, cannot EVER be resettled in Australia, and then hand them out letters, stating that they can choose Australia as their preferred country of settlement."
"Either the Minister is misrepresenting his government's policy status for the Sri Lankans in his letter to them, or he is misrepresenting his government's policy status in statements in the Australian media."
"The Minister has to come clean on this issue. If he wants to attracts supporters for this government policy, he needs to confirm what he tells the Sri Lankans about his plans for them on Nauru."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Sri Lankans fly off to Nauru
from Pamela Curr
ASRC Campaign Coordinator
Saturday March 17
At 1pm Christmas Island time (5pm Eastern summer time) 82 young men and boys including the underage minor will be loaded on a charter flight in the custody of 68 immigration staff and Australian Federal Police and taken to the impoverished island of Nauru where they will be detained in this island gulag until the Howard regime is over.
In response to the exposure of the Governments action in denying lawful requests for legal assistance from these young men, the department has today issued each person with a letter stating "We will give you lawyers and legal advice on Nauru" and telling them that they can apply for Australia or another country when they are on Nauru.
Naturally the Government will not tell them what they have told us - namely that they will never be allowed to come to Australia or explain where these "lawyers" will come from since there are none on Nauru.
There is no question that many if not all of these young men have strong claims for protection.
• Many have been tortured, beaten, imprisoned, seen family members killed or had friends and family disappear.
• Many have pieces of shrapnel lodged in their bodies from being caught in crossfire or in direct attack.
• All are young men in late teens or early 20's, a group at risk of being press ganged into fighting or killed by either side.
• All are Tamils from Sri Lanka- a country at war with itself in a violent and bloody conflict.
None of this concerns Howard and his lily-livered minions. They are obsessed with the "deterrent factor". It really is time that a government which treats the arrival of one boat of asylum seekers as a national crisis, was dumped.
Thank you for your many kind offers of phones but as you have probably guessed, mobile phones are of no use where these young men are going. Even the Telstra phone system has been broken for months. The local phone system is very expensive-1dollar per minute to Australia and there are only 2 phones for over 90 people.