2009 World Refugee Day: Christmas Island harbours more secrets than Woomera and Baxter

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2009 World Refugee Day: Christmas Island harbours more secrets than Woomera and Baxter

Media Release
Saturday June 20, 2009 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

• No civilian checks and balances
• Media section spin and control
• 86 locked-up kids
• Blank fields in Immigration Dept Statistics
• Resistant State Director

"On World Refugee Day 2009, we need to move towards the terribly sad conclusion, that regardless of all the good intent and humane words and terrific actions of the Immigration Minister Chris Evans since he was appointed after the 2007 election, what happens on Christmas Island stays on Christmas Island, a vastly different scenario than at the time of the shocking treatment at the Woomera and Baxter detention centres where a large section of the citizenry was informed about what took place inside Australia's refugee jails," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

No civilian checks and balances

"When the infamous deportation to Tehran from Baxter of the little daughter of "Mr X" took place, where the then manager of Baxter, Greg Wallis, personally approved and carried out a cruel deportation of a seven-year old to Iran without lawful grounds, an estimated 2-3 dozen advocates around Australia knew it was happening at the same moment, or a few hours later, because hundreds of advocates visited Baxter, phoned asylum seekers locked up inside and were kept informed by their 'friends inside'," the group's spokesman Jack H Smit said.

Media section spin and control

"Now, having successfully implemented an eery similar isolated Gulag Island Policy as during the Howard year, the Immigration Department's media section headed by Mr Sandy Logan (recruited after the Cornelia Rau scandal), is keen as ever to do as they please, and they can tell journalists around Australia who want to write about what takes place, whatever they like and as much or as little as they like, because there is no throng of citizens to keep their tabs on government policy cruelty."

86 locked-up kids

Amnesty International Australia's Refugee Team revealed yesterday that 86 children are locked up in detention in an action email to its supporters. Amnesty writes:

Eighty six children, including 59 unaccompanied minors, are currently being held on Christmas Island. The detention arrangements in which children are kept, such as the 'construction camp' facility which currently holds 68 children, is inappropriate for children even for the briefest period. The 'construction camp' consists mostly of metal, concrete and gravel, with small claustrophobic bedrooms and no ways to communicate with the outside world. A further eighteen unaccompanied minors are currently held in community detention.

Although the Federal Government has committed to no longer keeping children in detention centres, these alternative detention arrangements with their restrictive conditions and lack of services have similar detrimental psychological impacts on children.

See http://www.amnesty.org.au/action/action/21112/

Blank fields in Immigration Dept Statistics

See http://www.immi.gov.au/managing-australias-borders/detention/facilities/statistics/

"While the Immigration Department trumpets its openness with weekly updated immigration detention statistics, it manipulatively leaves blank the field "children" in their overview of men, women and children in the various detention centres around the country (figure 1 of the weekly PDF File update), and it even goes further, blatantly misleading the public by stating (figure 7) that there are ZERO children in immigration detention centres."

"By splitting immigration detention centres off from detention under other names (residential housing, temporary community detention, etc.) the Immigration Department cleverly manipulates the public and makes it appear as if no children are detained."

It is disgraceful that the Immigration Department, a department so scandalously tainted with incidences of torture and with a history of damaging the lives of those seeking asylum, is clearly trying to spin the facts of Immigration detention. It appears that they do too many things without approval of the Minister or by keeping the Minister out of the loop," Mr Smit said.

Resistant State Director

"Last week I raised the issue of unclear statistics around the detention progress on Christmas Island with the West Australian State Director of the Immigration Department at a Perth function," Mr Smit said, "and it became clear how much resistance there was about my suggestions. The Director immediately tried to discredit my suggestions, and he just stopped short of ridiculing the material I put before him."

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

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