Australia's Minister For Deportation prepares for next phase of refugee cruelty

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

Australia's Minister For Deportation prepares for next phase of refugee cruelty

Media Release
Wednesday August 20 2003 20:00pm WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

Today refugee advocates, working together by email and phone around Australia as part of NADA, the National Anti-Deportation Alliance, have confirmed corroborating details that "forced deportations" of Iranian asylum seekers from Australia are imminent, and that they could take place as soon as Friday 22 August or Saturday 23 August from the Baxter detention centre.

Inside information has been received that information in The Age of 19 August by Russell Skelton ("Iranian refugees set to be sent home", see details below), speculating that deportation of Iranians may well take place "within days" seems to be true, and that the deportation may well concern more than a dozen single men, who have been especially targeted by the Minister of Immigration as "trouble-makers".

It has been confirmed that all visits to the Baxter IDC for Saturday have been cancelled, with some ACM staff telling visitors booked for Saturday, that 'it is DIMIA who cancelled the visits', while other staff told visitors the cancellations are due to renovations to the visitors' centre.

Refugee advocates argue it seems strange that DIMIA/ACM would attract building contractors and repairmen on a Saturday, because of the weekend rates of contractors; that repairs would take place on a day where most visits take place, and that repairs would take place in an area which recently was reported to have been refurbished.

Detainees have also reported an unusual increase in new staff in the Baxter centre, and reports were also confirmed that 'several DIMIA people from Canberra' have arrived at the centre.

While speculations are followed up, it seems from the context that the Immigration Minister is targeting especially those detainees who he can label in the media as 'troublemakers', such as those detainees who have in the past been charged with property offences (and in some cases had these charges promptly dismissed by the courts, incurred a fine of 'one dollar' for those property offences) - in an effort to appease the public about the controversial deportations.

Other detainees likely to be targeted for deportation are those who were involved in break-outs from the Baxter detention centre earlier this year.

The deportation of Iranians has been widely condemned by Australian church groups, refugee advocates and human rights groups, because it is well known that Iran subjects political dissidents to torture, imprisonment, flogging, eye gouging and stoning, and that some who have been deported seem to have disappeared without a trace.

The head of the UN working group on arbitrary detention Louis Joinet recently spoke out about Australia's deportation policy to Iran in the context of the secret Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Iran, stating that any deportation to Iran should happen in conjunction with UNHCR, which was rejected by Philip Ruddock.

Recent questions in Parliament by Federal Greens MP Michael Organ (Hansard pp 18082-12083) forced Minister Philip Ruddock to confirm that the MOU does not include any agreements about physical or human rights protection of those who are returned, and on other occasions Ruddock has dismissed any suggestions that Australia carries any form of responsibility for what happens to detainees once they have returned to Iran.

"This weekend we're likely to enter a new chapter on human rights abuses in Australia", Project SafeCom's spokesperson Jack Smit said. "This government has been ruthless and intransigent, it trades good economic relations with foreign countries with lives of people".

"The scandal of how this government treats asylum seekers has become indelibly etched into Australia's national record, and it seems only a matter of time that the day arrives that even those who have cases before Australian courts will be whisked away and deported by the Minister for Immigration. We wonder whether this is also the case this weekend - while many Iranians still have claims before the Australian High Court".

"Whether it is or is not the case this weekend, Ruddock's actions only entrench the resolve of groups like Project SafeCom to work tirelessly on asylum seeker issues until and beyond the day a 'Royal Commission into Australia's Treatment of Asylum Seekers under Howard and Ruddock' is called."

Online Information:

What awaits Iranians when they return:

National Anti-Deportation Alliance:

"Iranian refugees set to be sent home" - The Age; By Russell Skelton, August 19, 2003:

For more information:

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
National Anti-Deportation Alliance (NADA)
Narrogin/Fremantle WA
[phone number posted]

Grant van Riessen
Project SafeCom Inc.
Records Manager, NADA
Perth WA
[phone number posted]

Peter Wilkie
Refugee Rights Action Network
Member, NADA list
Perth WA
[phone number posted]

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