Canberra will fail to find humane asylum solution bipartisanship this week

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Canberra will fail to find humane asylum solution bipartisanship this week

Media Release
Sunday June 24, 2012 1:00pm WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"Most Canberra politicians will be genuinely disturbed by the recent boat tragedy, a context mobilising the will for political change to the seemingly eternal "mousewheel trap race" going round and round in one direction or the other - but the caged mice trapped inside that cartwheel in Canberra's Parliament House will be unlikely to jump off the treadmill that has locked both the government and opposition in their silly tit-for-tat madness, because they are not prepared to travel to Ground Zero of Australia's manipulative dealings with asylum seekers," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

"Both Conservative and Labor politicians are either unwilling or incapable of bringing the debate to a level of openness and honest background analysis that acknowledges how they developed their own poison bait which has trapped them in the current heinous situation that's costing lives - because they're unwilling to speak publicly about the bastardisation of forbidding asylum seekers fair process BEFORE they take to boats to arrive in Australia," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"True analysis of the asylum seeker conundrum should begin with John Howard's doubling of international Immigration Department Compliance Officers in April 1999 in refugee outflow locations. These compliance officers are tasked to STOP anyone trying to board Australia-bound flights with the intent to seek asylum on arrival. Former Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock confirmed this tasking in a 2011 interview I conducted with him in Parliament House. If we stop asylum seekers from travelling to Australia using "formal travel" then we drive them to use their only available option to reach Australia for asylum claims assessment - using the alternative travel offered by smugglers."

"The second element of an honest analysis for a fulsome debate to resolve the situation has been reported many times - and most recently by the United Nations News Agency IRIN (see below). There is ONE OVERRIDING REASON asylum seekers jump on boats in Indonesia, and that is that they DO NOT GET HELP from UNHCR in Jakarta. As long as politicians ignore to acknowledge this, they will fail to commit to essential honesty before the Australian people."

"Third, Liberal politicians need to step back from their obsession with the notion of State sovereignty, which leads them in fanatical ways to insist the notion of "illegality" on the part of asylum seekers. As a result, politicians like Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison descend into infantile blamers that look like primary school bullies engaged in playtime yelling matches. The reality is that the UN Refugee Convention challenges State sovereignty, and modern liberal politics demands that the UN becomes an integrated whole in neoliberal discourse. It does not behove Liberals to remain stuck in 20th Century notions of nationality in a world of global politics."

"Fourth and finally, Labor needs to stop cringing and twisting itself into contortions about integrating a true commitment to a fulsome UN Human Rights paradigm in Federal politics. If it was good for Whitlam, who acceded to many UN Conventions and Keating and his drive for Aboriginal Land Rights, then it's also good for Gillard and Bowen to acknowledge, loudly and unambiguously, the rights of asylum seekers to arrive without prior authorisation - no matter how loud Abbott wails about doom and the end of the world."

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

INDONESIA: Asylum seekers take to boats out of frustration

IRIN - humanitarian news and analysis
a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
PUCAK, 22 June 2012 (IRIN)

Refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia, many of whom fled persecution and conflict in their home countries, say they are being driven to get on boats for Australia out of frustration with the resettlement process.

"It's been two years that I have been here. How long am I supposed to wait?" asked Liaqat Ali Yousufi, 32, an ethnic Hazara from Afghanistan's eastern Ghazni Province, who was registered as a refugee in November 2011 and had hoped to be resettled to Australia by now. "The process doesn't work. There are people waiting three or four years" he said.

"It just doesn't make sense anymore. Sometimes I think it would just be easier to get on a boat," Riad Kamil, 50, an Iraqi asylum seeker from Baghdad, whose case is on appeal after he was refused refugee status in 2011. Both men live in community housing in the town of Pucak, a hub for asylum seekers and their families - and the people smugglers ready to assist them - about 80km outside of Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.

Almost all of the residents have been granted refugee status by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and some are families seeking asylum.

"You can't blame them. It [refugee determination] is an open-ended process, and that's the frustration - there are no dates for anything," said an aid worker who asked not to be named.

According to Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship, some 29,000 people have made their way to Australia by boat since 1976. Many asylum seekers feel they have no other choice.

Barred from working, the men and their families are dependent on a handful of agencies and non-governmental organizations working to assist them while their cases are pending.

But they could also be considered lucky - more than 1,000 asylum seekers, mostly single males, now languish in 12 government detention centres across Indonesia while their claims for refugee status are being determined.

According to UNHCR, there are close to 6,000 asylum seekers and recognized refugees in Indonesia (4,552 asylum seekers and 1,180 registered refugees), mainly from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. Many of their cases have been pending for two to three years, or even longer, activists groups say.

"We are aware of this and are, of course, doing our best to address the problems that a long procedure poses to the situation of refugees and asylum seekers," said Manuel Jordao, the UNHCR country representative in Indonesia.

Since 2009 there has been a spike in the number of asylum seekers arriving in the country, from 385 in 2008 to 3,230 in 2009, and 3,905 in 2010, UNHCR reported.

This in turn has led to an increase in the number of people in detention that are of concern to the agency, which does not enough resources to cope with the influx.

At the end of May 2012 there were 1,159 cases were waiting to be interviewed, 41 percent of them in detention.

But for many asylum seekers and recognized refugees, the delays in the processing their cases is doing little more than pushing them onto boats - a move UNHCR strongly advises against.

Smugglers charge an average of US$6,000 per person - less for children - for the dangerous journey in often overcrowded and poorly maintained boats, depending on the time of year.

In 2011 the Indonesian authorities intercepted more than 100 groups of people in various parts of the country, or in boats mostly off the coast of Sumatra.

"We understand that it is not easy to stay because of what are often long waiting periods. However, when we look at the number of boat tragedies recently, we hope that refugees will be more patient and wait for a safe solution to their lives," Jordao said.

On 22 June, rescuers were searching for dozens of people in the sea after a boat carrying up to 200 asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia sank near Christmas Island, an Australian possession.

The island outpost is closer to Indonesia than Australia and has long been targeted by asylum-seekers hoping to reach mainland Australia.

"If the Australian government was willing to process asylum seekers in Indonesia and guarantee that recognized refugees would be resettled, far fewer people would need to get on a boat to get protection," said Ian Rintoul, a spokesman from the Australian Refugee Action Coalition.

UNHCR said 522 of the 911 refugee cases submitted to Australia from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2011 were accepted.

In May 2012, 24 refugees departed for resettlement in Australia, and there are 529 refugee cases now pending.

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