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Fixing Australia

Australia is broken. Democracy has holes in it, cracks in it, and it needs fixing. Since the 2004 Federal election we know that our government is not going to fix it. I think we need to do that fixing, and this blog is a start of getting some ideas together.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Christmas in the wilderness, keeping Howard intact: Bakhtiaris

Narrogin WA, 21 Dec 00:25 - So it's true then. The Bakhtiaris may soon be expelled to Pakistan in the dark of night, to a country they don't know anything about, whose language Roqia does not speak. All of these silly and upsetting, traumatising enemy and war games, just to feed the Canberra gang, who, right until the end, want to persist in the suggestions, fed by Mr Ruddock to the Australian public and to the media, when Alan Ramsey knew about the case details as intimately as someone who has the DIMIA file parked next to him on the writing desk, when Russell Skelton found "the truth" about Ali Bakhtiari when .... anyway, read on and see the Trial by Media come apart below.

For the rest of the decade and well into the next decade, the Bakhtiary case may well haunt the Howard government, and I for one hope it does; I hope it haunts Mr Ruddock (fat chance, his feeling department is so minuscule, he will not register), I hope it haunts Ms Vanstone, PM John Howard, all the liberals who have not raised one finger for more than two years at the lies and cover-ups, including those in the ALP who let lies exist, because it didn't interfere with their political careers. The stench of this issue will be in the records of this country, and you've smeared Australia with an abysmal disgrace, and this story will be recorded for all in the world to see. May you feel very, very unwell whenever you encounter this stench, because it's yours, and yours alone.

You know, there's a reasonable chance we'll see Monty or Alamdar back in Australia, when they come back to bomb the living daylights out of some target in our country as members of a terrorist group. Please guys, can you start with Baxter? Course, they would. Much obliged, Sir. Any offices of DIMIA? Adelaide perhaps, that office we hate with a vengeance? Or the Port Augusta police lock-up?

It's a bit like the sick dark joke I have stored away, somewhere in the back of my mind. It goes like this: Three guys sit in a pub somewhere in the Middle East. One says to another: "Hey man, where did you get your real training - you know [wink-wink], the real training?". Number two replies: "Bora Bora Mountains". The first guy shares he has been there as well. Conversation develops. Guy number three stays silent.

"Come on man, what about you. Where did you get the real stuff, you know - the hard-core thing. You're not saying? Come on, no-way, you can't do that. Fess up. Where?"

"Ummmm, errrr, well, it's a place in Australia. It's called Woomera. And the guy in charge is Ruddock, but later on they had this big lady, waddling around..."

The Bakhtiyari Files

Hundreds of news articles have appeared in Australian and International media about the Bakhtiari family since Andrew West revealed the story of the family in the Sun-Herald in February 2002, shortly after their uncle, the now deported "crown witness", clearly a Hazara from Afghanistan, jumped on the razor wire at Woomera. At Project SafeCom, we collected them all (well, most of them). They are brought together in four WORD documents, zipped up for security from viruses. Simply use the "Right-click, Save As" command of your mouse on the images or on the linked text.

No biographies have been written about John Howard. But I expect a book about the Bakhtiaris, and another one, and another one. Have they signed consent papers for their deportation? No? Well, that keeps the road open for an International Court case against the Howard government.

Farewell Monty, farewell Alamdar. Farewell, Roqia. Farewell Ali, hope you start talking again and smiling again. Farewell to all you kids - keep forgetting your names. Turn around once more please. Just to say "goodbye, good riddance, Australia."

And to all those so-called "investigative journalists" who fed the mill of dis- and mis-information - you all should be de-registered by your professional bodies and stripped of any previous awards you hold. Have you ever thought it fit to apologize to the Bakhtiari family? Where were your comments when it was left to Sara Shephen of Green Left Weekly (article also on our website here) to unravel some of the spin and grave errors you made?

Thank you to The Age today. At least your good-bye gifts were beautiful, and you went out of your way, once the Bakhtiaris were also on their way: spot my wry smile....

Mary Crock: Tragedy of a common man

by Professor Mary Crock
Faculty of Law
University of Sydney

23 December 2004

The saga of the Bakhtiyari family's attempts to gain protection in Australia as refugees has been a long and tortuous one. A great many legal challenges have been made on behalf of the family (20 by some accounts) -- all without success. The failures make the task of advocating clemency for the family a difficult one. Mondays' editorial in The Australian describes the case as a 'kind of lightning-rod for the politics of asylum-seekers under the Howard Government'. The very fact that those in government are now referring to the family openly by name underscores the extent to which they have been excluded from the conventions and protections of the refugee system. Whether the family stays or goes, it is my personal view that the family's story provides a vivid illustration of the very worst aspects of the laws, policies and procedures that govern Australia's treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

This is not because the Bakhtiyaris are unusual. On the contrary, their story is archetypical of the stories of many Hazara asylum seekers who have sought protection in Australia in recent years.

Ali Bakhtiyari is in many respects the Australian refugee embodiment of the common man. He left his home (the location of which is disputed) in search of a better, safer life for his young family. Changes to Australia's laws in 1999 meant that recognition as a refugee no longer brought with it the right to sponsor family through regular migration channels. This is why he took the risky decision to engage people smugglers to have Roqia and their five children follow in his footsteps. It seems doubtful that Roqia knew where she was being taken. She certainly arrived in Australia without knowledge of the fact that Ali had made it to Australia, or that he had been accepted as a refugee.

In spite of the length, danger and ardors of their journey, Roqia and the children faced the same reception as their husband and father. They were taken into immigration detention at Woomera Detention Centre in South Australia. Here again, the family received 'standard' treatment. Asylum seekers who arrive without visas are questioned to see whether they have a 'protection claim' as refugees. This involves detainees being asked a series of questions about their origins and motives for leaving a country. Access to legal advice is only afforded to those who answer the questions posed in a way that suggests that the respondent might meet the UN Convention definition of refugee. The central problem is that the system assumes that the person interviewed understands the significance of the questions being asked so that they can make out a case for protection. In her 'screening in' interview (as this process is known), Roqia clearly had no notion of why she was being asked the questions put to her and had no inkling of the dire consequences of her failure to respond.

Upon her arrival, Mrs Bakhtiyari was not informed of her husband's presence in the country, and no reference was made to his claims in the assessment of her case. Australia does not recognize the concept of 'derivative refugee status' in cases like these: separated families cannot use the claims of family members as a basis for their own refugee status. Roqia's account of being a fugitive from Afghanistan was disbelieved because of her inability to recognize Afghan currency shown to her, or to describe key aspects of the geography and political structures of the region from which she claimed to have come. Few concessions appear to have been made for the educational and cultural constraints on Afghani women living in the shadow of the Taliban.

It is worth noting at this point that in late 2001 interviews at the Woomera detention centre were conducted in circumstances that can only be described as extremely stressful -- both for the detainees and for their interlocutors. Indeed, the physical and psychological conditions in the detention centres during the period in question could scarcely be described as conducive to any form of quality fact-finding or decision-making. One departmental officer involved in the processing of these cases made the allegation to me that Mrs Bakhtiyari's confusion over Afghan currency stemmed from the fact that she was shown money that would have been unfamiliar to her because it came from a part of Afghanistan controlled by the Northern Alliance.

Roqia Bakhtiyari was interviewed a second time, and was better prepared. However, the damage had been done: her more accurate answers on the second occasion were dismissed as the result of 'coaching' from other detainees.

Roqia and the children were not the only women and children left to languish in detention, their claims rejected in spite of the existence of husbands and fathers in Australia who had been recognized as refugees. If their plight was 'ordinary', two events intervened to catapult the family into the public eye. The first was the highly publicized escape of Roqia's two sons, Almadar and Montazar, from Woomera detention centre and their adoption as a cause célèbre by refugee advocates. The second was the publication by The Australian newspaper of an article by a freelance journalist who had traveled to Afghanistan to 'check out' the Bakhtiyari's claims.

After their escape from Woomera, the Bakhtiyari boys became instant icons for those wishing to protest against the inhumanity of immigration detention in general and the detention of children in particular. The two young boys brought home the reality of mandatory detention. No longer nameless, faceless and hidden away in the Australian desert, Alamdar and Montazer Bakhtyari's tearful young faces were beamed into every home as they were turned away from the British consulate where they sought asylum. They became a reminder that there are innocent children locked up behind razor wire and that families have been divided by a policy that can allow some members to be recognized as refugees while others languish for years in desert camps.

The Bakhtyaris brought the ordinary injustice of Australia's laws and policies into Australian homes. The Department of Immigration retaliated by going into damage control mode. The authorities moved to deflect criticism from a cruel system by focusing attention on the faults of the family. Roqia's failure to persuade the decision makers of her Afghani origins became the focus for discrediting Ali and the family as a whole. Ali's refugee status was revoked and he was placed back in detention.

The story by freelance journalist, Alistair McLeod featured on the front page of The Australian in mid August 2002 together with a large photograph of an Hazara man looking quizzically at a picture of Ali Bakhtiyari. The family might have once lived in the village of Charkh, it was alleged, but they had not been seen in the area for about 20 years. Sadly, the journalist was killed a short time after the publication of this article in a car accident. Any chance of cross-examining the author as to the accuracy of his account died with him. Later assertions that the journalist had visited the wrong village or had otherwise erred have been rejected at every level, in spite of the family obtaining a large body of evidence to show that they are from where they claimed. The media focus turned predictably from the fate of children in immigration detention to Ali Bakhtyari's identity.

Once this story broke on the front page of The Australian, any hope of leniency for the Bakhtyari family seems to have evaporated. If it was not possible for the family to sway the Refugee Review Tribunal that there had been a miscarriage of justice, it was never going to be easy to persuade the courts that an 'error of law' had been committed. The family were marked as rogues. Their refusal to lie down and submit to their fate only confirmed the views of public and officialdom alike.

The Bakhtyaris assert that they have proof that they are from Afghanistan and strongly contest their vilification as mendacious opportunists. The number and voice of their supporters in the community suggest that while the government (and Labor's Laurie Ferguson) are unmoved, many ordinary Australians have been touched by the family's plight.

As a refugee lawyer, I am personally mystified by the focus that has been placed on the truth or otherwise of the family's country of origin. The family are indisputably Hazara. Indeed, when I first saw Alistair MacLeod's August 2002 article I was struck by the physical resemblance between the man photographed in Charkh and Ali Bakhtiyari. (I even wondered briefly whether the two were related) If the Hazaras have suffered in Afghanistan, they have not received (and are not receiving) brilliant treatment. If the Bakhtyaris did hail from Quetta in Pakistan, there is strong evidence that Pakistan is not safe for Hazaras. Many Hazaras have been killed in Quetta in recent years (and months). I would have thought that the Bakhtyari family's fame could place them in real and present danger. The children could well be at particular risk of being kidnapped or abused. This should be enough to engage a compassionate response even if the authorities are not moved to acknowledge status as refugees.

In point of fact, the family has been able to produce fairly conclusive evidence in recent weeks that they are in fact from Afghanistan. Barrister and advocate for the family, Nick Poynder, provides the following commentary on the material now before the Minister for immigration:

In about December 2003/January 2004 Mrs Bakhtiyari's brother, Mazhar Ali, was deported to Pakistan. He and his Australian escorts were initially refused entry into Pakistan, but after some discussion he was allowed to enter Pakistan, from where (surprise surprise) he returned to his home in Afghanistan. Mr Ali collected a number of letters and documents to prove that the Bakhtiyari family was from that village. These included:

• Confirmation from the District Governor that Mrs Bakhtiyari and her family are Afghan citizens.

• Confirmation of the Governor of the Province in relation to Mr Bakhtiyari's origin.

• Confirmation from the residence of a local mosque that Mr and Mrs Bakhtiyari are from the district.

• Document from the Transitional Islamic Government of Afghanistan containing confirmation from a representative of the village confirming the residency of the relatives of Mazar Ali. The document also contains confirmation from the local high school that Mazar Ali is from the village.

• Confirmation from an Acting District Governor that Mr and Mrs Bakhtiyari are Afghan citizens.

These documents were provided to the Minister's office on 8 June 2004. No substantive response has yet been received.

Then in July/August 2004 Mazar Ali travelled to Kabul and met a guy called Simon Russell, who has been working in Afghanistan with the Norwegian Refugee Council since December 2002. On 17 September 2004 Mr Russell provided a statement confirming that Mazar Ali is without doubt is a Hazara from the central region of Afghanistan. This was apparently provided to the Minister only a few weeks ago; again no response.

From what I understand of Afghanistan, it is not surprising that there has been confusion over the identification of the village. However the fact remains that Mrs Bakhtiyari's brother is from Afghanistan, ergo Mrs Bakhtiyari is from Afghanistan, ergo Mr Bakhtiyari is from Afghanistan. Ergo they have all been wrongly denied protection visas and have spent years in detention for nothing. ENDS.

The Bakhtyaris' biggest crime has been that they have embodied the ordinary pain suffered by many asylum seekers separated from family, locked up for long periods and subjected to vilification and abuse. For this they are being punished.

The Bakhtiyaris represent much about our loss of capacity to respond to pain and need with compassion. We prefer instead to characterize asylum seekers as unworthy and as a threat. When Almadar and Montazer cried at the British embassy we recognized their youth and vulnerability. They were part of us. Sitting next to their classmates at St Ignatius in Adelaide, they became a loved and accepted part of the community. Yet in the remoteness of the public discourse, the boys and their family have become literally and figuratively 'aliens' who we feel comfortable banishing from our shores to face an uncertain future.

Ali Bakhtiyari sits despondently in Baxter detention centre, depressed and alone. His is truly the tragedy of an ordinary man thrust into the vortex of a life of confusing and seemingly unrelenting harshness.

Mary Crock
First published at, also at Scoop NZ

Family loses fight after four years

The Age
By Angela O'Connor
December 21, 2004

Ali Bakhtiyari arrived in Australia about four years ago claiming to be a Hazara Afghan who had been persecuted and tortured by the Taliban.

He stayed at Port Hedland detention centre until he was granted asylum in August 2000. He lived and worked in Sydney while he waited for his wife Roqia and their five children to join him in Australia.

Because they arrived separately, their claims were processed separately. She and the five children were placed in detention at Woomera.

Mrs Bakhtiyari has had another child, Mazhar, now 14 months, who the High Court has decided is not entitled to Australian citizenship because his parents are illegal immigrants.

The family have become Australia's most high-profile asylum seekers while a battle rages over their true identity.

They have always claimed they are from Afghanistan while the Department of Immigration says they are from Pakistan.

In 2002 Age reporter Russell Skelton went to the Afghan province of Uruzgan to check on Mr Bakhtiyari's claim that he came from a village called Charkh. No one in that village, or two others he claimed to have come from, knew or remembered him.

In February 2002, Mrs Bakhtiyari's brother, Mahzer Ali, made world headlines when he threw himself on razor wire at Woomera detention centre. He was later deported to Pakistan.

The Woomera ID CardIn June 2002, the two eldest boys, Alamdar and Muntazar, escaped from Woomera and made their way to Melbourne where they tried to obtain asylum at the British consulate. This month Britain's Court of Appeal in London rejected their claims that they had been unlawfully ordered out of the consulate. In June this year the Family Court ordered the family's five oldest children be freed. They have since been living in Adelaide.

After 20 court actions, it now appears that the Bakhtiyaris will be deported. On Saturday, immigration officials took Mrs Bakhtiyari and her six children from their suburban Adelaide home to immigration detention.

Link to the article in The Age

Headmaster blasts 'totalitarian' act on family

The Age
By Deborah Gough
Social Affairs Reporter

The headmaster of Australia's most well known asylum seekers, the Bakhtiyari brothers, has criticised the sudden removal of their family from their home as similar to that of a totalitarian regime.

St Ignatius College headmaster Greg O'Kelly sent a letter to The Age after Roqia Bakhtiyari and her six children, including students Alamdar and Montazer, were taken from their home in community detention in Adelaide at 7am on Saturday.

"It is totalitarian to come into a house of sleeping children and to have these children woken by what was probably unsmiling strangers," Father O'Kelly told The Age.

"That's the sort of thing that we read about in areas we in Australia are generally against. I think people would consider that very unAustralian."

Yesterday, he met the boys, their father Ali and his lawyer, Paul Boylan, at the Baxter Detention Centre, South Australia, where Mr Bakhtiyari is held. The family is now at a separate detention facility near Baxter.

In a letter to The Age, Father O'Kelly urged the Howard Government to show clemency to the family.

He said the children's high profile had worked against them after they escaped from the Woomera Detention Centre and sought asylum at the British consulate in Melbourne at the behest of refugee advocates.

"I think there is a mindset against the family by certain high officials with the (immigration) department because they embarrassed the department," Father O'Kelly said.

He said the boys had integrated well into the community. Montazer, who graduated from year 9 this year, was known at school at "Monty" and was a fine cricketer.

Both brothers were good at soccer and Alamdar, who is in year 11, was presented with the school prize for English as a second language this year. They were Port Power supporters and had attended games.

Father O'Kelly described suggestions that Mrs Bakhtiyari was not coping without her husband as political persiflage - her husband had visited every three weeks.

Link to the article in The Age

False claims

The new Australian fair go

The Age
Bob Ellis
December 21, 2004

The Bakhtiyaris are to be sent to Pakistan. To Australia's shame. By Bob Ellis.

And so the story moves towards its end. The Bakhtiyari family's phones have been confiscated and they wait in the Baxter detention centre to be taken to Pakistan. They are asking to go to Afghanistan because that is where they come from, but Amanda Vanstone won't let them go there. Although they speak no Pakistani language and speak Farsi, the language of their home region of Uruzgan in accents appropriate to the region, they will go instead to Quetta, in Pakistan. How do we know they come from Afghanistan? Well, the Governor of Sharestan said they did in a document signed on September 7, 2002, naming all the children. Roqia Bakhtiyari's brother, Muzar Ali, voted, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, in the Afghan election of last October 9, a right he has as a registered (and investigated) Afghan citizen.

Justice Kenneth Hayne of Australia's High Court, moreover, said on Monday of last week they may well be Afghans. "It is at least arguable," he said while ruling the baby, Mazhar, though born in Adelaide, was somehow not an Australian, "that the applicant's parents are both citizens of Afghanistan as they claim".

They look and sound like Afghan Hazaras. The father Ali, when I showed him a cricket game on television, was mystified by it, unusual in a Pakistani, and asked me only if Ponting was an Afghan. The mother, Roqia, when asked, identified Afghan tribal recipes for bread and sour milk, and told how her village celebrated the birth of children.

But where was that village and what is its name? Ali drew a map that showed in central Uruzgan a village called Charkh next to a village called Chenar under mountains called Daikwidi. They are all there where he said they were, but an Australian reporter, Alastair McLeod, later killed, went to a place 160 kilometres north of the real one. The translator he brought with him belonged to the murderous Northern Alliance, and to him, of course, the fearful villagers in subsequent valleys professed unanimous ignorance of everything. Bakhtiyari? Never heard of him. Roqia's brother, Muzar, dumped in Quetta so peremptorily that the immigration officers with him were arrested for lacking visas, went back to the real Charkh and got and sent proof that Ali and Roqia are who they said they are. No court has yet considered this.

Asked yesterday if she had read their file, Amanda Vanstone said she hadn't. Asked if she had seen any evidence that they were Pakistanis, she said she hadn't. Asked if she'd seen, or anyone had seen, their Pakistani birth certificates, she agreed there weren't any. She said, however, that they had had a "fair go" - including, apparently, 32 months behind razor wire - and that fair go was now, sadly, fading to black. She never visited Woomera and, though a lawyer, never looked at the evidence.

That Ali is a Pakistani depends on a document that is not signed or dated and indicates one Akhbar Ali to have been born in Quetta, Pakistan. The names of his family - Mariam, Zakia, Sikander and Ghazanfar - are not those of Ali Bakhtiyari's family. On this alone, an unsigned, undated document with the wrong names in it, he is held to be from Pakistan, none of whose languages he or his children speak.

The boys: Ali and Monty Bakhtiyari with their lawyer in Melbourne, looking for a consulateAlamdar is in year 11 at St Ignatius' College and doing scholastically well. Montazar, in year 10, is thought a world-class soccer player and won the school medal for his ability. The little girls Nagina, Samina and Amina have made friends at school who are now crying on talkback radio.

What has all this suffering been about? Well, for the Government to admit it was wrong and by its significant errors and cover-ups caused more suffering than Lindy Chamberlain's family endured would raise the question of the many libels it has committed against this family. It let it be known, for instance, that Ali was an "electrical plumber" from Quetta but never gave the address of his shop. It let it be known he was a rich man with businesses in Saudi Arabia, and Alan Ramsey, the fool, printed this in his column. It let it be known, last week, that Roqia was so stressed with parenting that she would be better off in Quetta, begging with her family on the streets.

And it did not let it be known there is a tiny village called Quetta, not far from Charkh. Which may be where the confusion began.

It has got, in short, a lot of answer for, and pay damages for, perhaps, in what may turn out to be - if our democracy survives - Australia's Dreyfus case.

It began, of course, as cover-ups usually do, with an honest mistake. Roqia couldn't identify some Afghan currency. But it was Northern Alliance currency, then unknown in her district. When she was rejected because of this, and it found out Ali had already been accepted - correctly - as a fugitive from the Taliban, it had to prove his story also was false. And it told so many tales about him that no one remembers now any more what it is they said he did wrong.

He did nothing wrong, of course, just try to save his family from slaughter by selling up and risking all on a perilous journey to a better, kinder land.

And now the story moves towards its end.

Merry Christmas, Bakhtiyaris?

Bah, humbug.

Bob Ellis is a Sydney author.

Link to the article in The Age

NZ asked to give Bakhtiyaris a lifeline

The Age
By Penelope Debelle, Misha Schubert, Meaghan Shaw
December 21, 2004

New Zealand has been asked to grant asylum to Ali and Roqia Bakhtiyari and their six children, who are on the brink of deportation from Australia after four years and 20 separate legal actions.

In a letter cleared by the South Australian Government, the Catholic welfare agency Centacare has asked New Zealand Immigration Minister Paul Swain for clemency.

A spokesman for the NZ Immigration Department said he was unaware of the application.

But when she visited Australia in March, NZ, Prime Minister Helen Clark said her country would respond to any request from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to take asylum seekers. The UNHCR said last night it had made no application on the Bakhtiyari's behalf.

The last-ditch plea from South Australia came as Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone ruled out using her discretionary powers to grant asylum to the family, saying they should accept the verdict of the courts. "They haven't been found to be refugees - they've been found to be Pakistani and in my view should go back to Pakistan," she said.

Lawyers for the family said Australia's immigration laws prevented new material being used to overturn a finding of the Refugee Review Tribunal.

The head of Australia's Hazara Afghan community, Hassan Ghulam, yesterday vouched for the family, who were forcibly returned to immigration detention at Port Augusta on Saturday.

Mr Ghulam, an Australian citizen who supported Afghan asylum seekers in Indonesia and Nauru, said he had met Ali and Roqia Bakhtiyari, and Mrs Bakhtiyari's brother Mahzer Ali who was deported to Pakistan earlier this year but is now living in Afghanistan.

"I am sure these people are from Afghanistan," Mr Ghulam said. "I have met them, I know their story, I know the detail. They are from Afghanistan."

The family could have lived temporarily in Pakistan, but their language, dress, habits, and detailed knowledge of the country proved they were Afghans, he said. Mrs Bakhtiyari's spoken dialect was pure Hazaragi and her knowledge of the area was consistent with where she claimed to be from.

Documents used by the Federal Government as proof that Mr Bakhtiyari was really from Pakistan were clearly fakes, he said. Clues to this included an oddly positioned photograph, suggesting the identity document had been "fiddled with".

Mr Gulam's claims came as a child psychiatrist who visited one of the Bakhtiyari children two weeks ago warned that the boy's mental health was in "real danger".

"It's as serious as it gets - depression, post-traumatic stress, and all the effects of unlimited detention," said Jon Jureidini, from Adelaide's Women's and Children's Hospital.

But Foreign Minister Alexander Downer accused the Bakhtiyaris of trying to fool Australians about their identity.

"I don't think you should make a fool of the Australian people and come to our country and claim to be a refugee when you're not a refugee," he said.

Despite the request to New Zealand, refugee advocates do not have high hopes for the family's chances of asylum there.

Centacare director Dale West said last night he had received acknowledgement of the letter but was less optimistic about New Zealand accepting them because the situation had become more political since the family had returned to detention. "New Zealand doesn't want to embarrass Australia," Mr West said.

Link to the article in The Age

Early morning brings dreaded arrival

The Age
By Andra Jackson, Penny Debelle
December 21, 2004

It is usually about 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning when immigration officials come to collect a deportee.

No notice is given and there is little time to say goodbyes.

Often deportees are not given time to pack their belongings - a concern to refugee advocates who say they may have with them material that could put them at risk in the country to which they are returned.

Detainees are handcuffed and removed by two armed employees of the detention centre. Those who resist are usually sedated. Some say they have been beaten before they are removed, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre campaign co-ordinator Pamela Curr said.

Charter flights are used to transport detainees to major airports where they are transferred to international flights.

Phil Chilton, a spokesman for the Refugee Rights Action Network, said protesters who tried to stop the deportations were kept well clear.

His organisation is concerned that deportations often take place without the knowledge of the detainee's lawyers.

Mr Chilton said he believed the Dutch airline KLM refused to handle deportations and that Qantas had expressed concerns.

Malaysian Airlines and UEA have been used in the past, but a Malaysian Airlines pilot and crew recently refused to fly a Sri Lankan deportee who tried to harm himself.

When he was deported some weeks later, he was handcuffed throughout the flight, even when going to the toilet, Ms Curr said.

An Immigration Department spokesman said the timing of deportations was not disclosed in advance for "operational reasons".

In one operation, in August 2001, 31 detainees considered at high risk of escape or harming themselves were forcibly removed to Syria using handcuffs, batons and restraining belts. Some had up to four guards, employed by the private company Australasian Correctional Management, according to evidence to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.

Last year, the Immigration Department forcibly removed 3390 people from Australia.

Link to the article in The Age

And the forces of good come forth

Marilyn Shepherd
21 December 2004

After 4 years of trauma, depression, beatings and torture of various kinds committed against the Bakhtiyari family some things still need to be said.

Frank Brennan suggested I pen a line or two, something I have never done before, about the legal side of this families plight.

In March I approached Frank with the files for Ali and Roqia as a volunteer researcher and friend of the children. At that time I have met mum and dad but didn't know them well, the children were all firms friends and "grand-children" whom I adore. Now I adore their mum like a sister and daughter and friend.

Roqia only got one chance to have a hearing of her case after rejection by the RRT, it was taken to the High Court because the appeal was over time for the Federal court to hear it. Nick Poynder QC argued that as a member of the family unit of Ali Bakhtiyari who resided in Sydney as a refugee Roqia should be granted a visa under S36(2) of the Migration Act. Justices Kirby and Gaudron supported that view but sadly this government had added a clause denying family reunion for people on Temporary Protection Visas so she lost and stayed in detention.

The High Court was also asked to rule on the Minister's right to deny relief and whether it was reviewable by anyone once the decision was made. Roqia lost that question as well.

Alamdar and Montezar did not escape from Woomera, a video supplied by one of the thieves in the night shows the ACM guards watching them being taken out. They did not get to Melbourne alone, they were taken, they did not turn themselves into the British Consulate, well meaning people did that. I cannot fault Sister Brigid for her role but I utterly condemn the fools who took these boys without thought of what would happen to them.

Jeremy Moore and Paul Boylan could not stand by while these children were publically tortured and it had been deemed the children had no right to appeal their detention in the courts so the Family court were asked to intervene. The Family court did in the end intervene, after 13 long months, and release the children from Baxter into the care of Centacare, they were free for just 8 months.

The High Court was asked by Minister Ruddock to overturn the Family court, which they duly did, no jurisdiction for the Family court to act. Amanda Vanstone had a discretionary right not to redetain the children as a court of law had released them but she chose not to act on that discretion.

Instead she redetained them in their home in contempt of a court proceeding to prevent such an action... Justice Lander in the end had no legal basis on which to release them again and so the Minister gave them their mother and baby brother as fellow prisoners.

Ali was a genuine Afghan refugee when he arrived in 1999 leaving his much loved wife and children not very safely in Pakistan, they lost touch but Roqia tells me that the government were told by Ali just where she was. I would guess they have checked because the High Court heard that the government agreed in the end that they knew he was here.

After Monty and Alamdar were stolen and traded and turned in, Ruddock claimed the children were Pakistanis so the AGE and the OZ sent journalists to see in Afghanistan. Trouble is they both went to the wrong place entirely, as I discovered in my searches.

The village described by Ali is Chaqu, right in the centre of Oruzgan, over the mountains from Bamian on one side and Dai Kundi on the other. In a drought stricken valley their village is still standing, at least a couple of houses are.

The AGE and the OZ though hardly got past the mountains of Bamian, and now they refuse to believe they were wrong so the children are publically tortured for the world to see, for the third time.

Ali had his visa cancelled, it went to the Migration Review Tribunal and he was denied a bridging visa, not because he did anything but because other people got publicity for him, and Bob Ellis went to Woomera to see the boys.

He was denied again, and the MRT member said at the time that she felt really sorry for him, that the grounds for cancelling his visa had not been made out yet but he must stay locked up.

The next proceeding was in the Federal court to have the right to stay in Sydney to fight the cancellation but before it could be decided he was whisked off to Baxter by DIMA.

The Federal court had grave misgivings about the Refugee Tribunal's finding of his so-called Pakistani nationality but they had broken no laws, committed no judicial error so Ali became a Pakistani based on false documents that DIMA had been sent from Indonesia at least a year after Ali arrived in Australia. They are in a different name and have a different face and age but they did the job.

The Full Federal court dismissed an appeal in November 2003 and then the lawyers discovered that he had another RRT hearing, for a permanent protection visa. This RRT failed due to the newspaper reports by Russell Skelton and the rest of the information relied on by the first RRT was ignored. However, the Afghan Identity card was also ignored, the affidavits from Afghanistan were ignored and the language tests saying he was from Afghanistan were ignored. Giles Short even deemed that the photo was unsafe to claim as the applicant.

The Federal court dismissed the appeal because again the RRT was disturbing in it's findings but they had not made any judicial errors, the truth and facts cannot be reviewed by law.

The High court dismissed a leave to appeal, and the cycle went on endlessly with a fraudulent decision being constantly upheld. I have previously sent Sarah Stephen's piece so the readers know about the photos and how different they are.

At 2am on Saturday morning I felt such a dread that I walked down to the house and cried at the gate, then said goodbye and walked home. 9am I heard the news while half awake and spent the day crying and screaming and ranting.

Now the fraud is being revealed is it too late to save our much loved family for my little grand-daughter who has not stopped crying?

How I wish the media, the kidnappers and other fools had left these children to those who love them.

A Barrister's note: where's the Bakhtiyari evidence?

Below is a note from Nicholas Poynder, Barrister at Frederick Jordan Chambers in Sydney, showing that documents were sent to Minister Vanstone's office as long ago as June this year, that should have confirmed, that the entire Bakhtiyari family is NOT from Pakistan, as the minister claims, but from Afghanistan.

Ali Bakhtiyari never lied. It seems more likely though, that Minister Ruddock on the other hand may well have leaked confidential Immigration Case file to certain journalists, and may well have "stimulated" or "massaged" journalists to travel to Afghanistan and other regions to "clearly show" it to be evident that Mr Bakhtiyari had lied. This week all the "evidence" that Mr Bakhtiyari is from Quetta, has come apart in the media.

But regrettably, up to today most media outlets have proven to be absolute weasels.

Please phone Minister Vanstone as soon as possible to ask what happened to the material Mr Poynder sent to her, and why she still claims that the Bakhtiyari family is not from Afghanistan but Pakistan.

Minister's office contacts: Phone (08) 8223 1757 Fax (08) 8223 1750


Asking villagers about the Bakhtiyaris

I rarely get involved in online discussions with large groups of unidentified people, but the situation with the Bakhtiyaris is becoming desperate and information doesn't seem to be getting out.

In about December 2003/January 2004 Mrs Bakhtiyari's brother, Mazhar Ali, was deported to Pakistan.  He and his Australian escorts were initially refused entry into Pakistan, but after some discussion he was allowed to enter Pakistan, from where (surprise surprise) he returned to his home in Afghanistan.

Mr Ali collected a number of letters and documents to prove that the Bakhtiyari family was from that village. These included:

• Confirmation from the District Governor that Mrs Bakhtiyari and her family are Afghan citizens.

• Confirmation of the Governor of the Province in relation to Mr Bakhtiyari?s origin.

• Confirmation from the residence of a local mosque that Mr and Mrs Bakhtiyari are from the district.

• Document from the Transitional Islamic Government of Afghanistan containing confirmation from a representative of the village confirming the residency of the relatives of Mazar Ali. The document also contains confirmation from the local high school that Mazar Ali is from the village.

• Confirmation from an Acting District Governor that Mr and Mrs Bakhtiyari are Afghan citizens.

These documents were provided to the Minister's office on 8 June 2004.  No substantive response has yet been received.

Then in July/August 2004 Mazar Ali travelled to Kabul and met a guy called Simon Russell, who has been working in Afghanistan with the Norwegian Refugee Council since December 2002. On 17 September 2004 Mr Russell provided a statement confirming that Mazar Ali is without doubt is a Hazara from the central region of Afghanistan. This was apparently provided to the Minister only a few weeks ago; again no response.

From what I understand of Afghanistan, it is not surprising that there has been confusion over the identification of the village. However the fact remains that Mrs Bakhtiyari's brother is from Afghanistan, ergo Mrs Bakhtiyari is from Afghanistan, ergo Mr Bakhtiyari is from Afghanistan. Ergo they have all been wrongly denied protection visas and have spent years in detention for nothing.

I was interviewed by a journalist about the above material only a few days ago, yet there is still nothing in the media about this.

I don't propose to involve myself further in these discussions, as there are plenty of others who can do this.  But I am surprised that the above information does not yet appear to have been made public.

Nicholas Poynder
Frederick Jordan Chambers
53 Martin Place
Sydney 2000
New South Wales

Tel (02) 9229 7352
Fax (02) 9221 6944

Govt dismisses Bakhtiari claims
December 22, 2004

THE Federal Government has dismissed claims from the Afghan embassy that people had vouched for the Afghani identity of the Bakhtiari family.

Ali and Roqia Bakhtiari and their six children face deportation from Australia to Pakistan, after failing in legal bids over four years to secure refugee status.

The family claims to be Afghani, but the Government says they are from Pakistan.

The Afghan embassy said today it understood people in an Afghan province had confirmed they were related to Mrs Bakhtiari.

As 100 Bakhtiari supporters rallied in front of Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone's office in central Adelaide today, the Government rejected the claims.

"It has nothing to do with their case," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.

"This is a campaign to put the Government under pressure.

"The courts of this country are not bodgie courts and are not corrupt, and the courts of this country have upheld the Department of Immigration's assertion that these people are not refugees."

In a statement today, the Afghan embassy said that since late last year, the Afghan Government had been investigating claims by Mrs Bakhtiari that she was Afghani.

"It is understood that at least one person in the Jaghuri district of Ghazni province whom Mrs Bakhtiari has claimed to be related to, has confirmed the existence of such relation," the embassy said.

"We have also recently understood that at least a few local inhabitants of the Jaghuri district of Ghazni province have identified Mrs Bakhtiari to the local authorities as someone who is apparently connected to this district."

The Afghan embassy said the issue of the identity of Mrs Bakhtiari was still inconclusive and further investigations were needed until it could be established beyond reasonable doubt.

But Mr Downer said "all evidence points to them having come from Pakistan".

"If the courts have apparently got this wrong, and the hearsay and claims of the Bakhtiari family are somehow right, I'd be very, very surprised," Mr Downer said.

"This family seems rather well known in Pakistan."

Senator Vanstone's office was beset by protesters who staged a noisy but peaceful demonstration calling for the Bakhtiaris to remain in Australia.

The protest action came as South Australia's United Church joined the call for the family's release from detention.


Link to the article at AAP/News Ltd

Afghan embassy making Bakhtiyari inquiries

Wednesday, December 22, 2004. 8:36pm (AEDT)

The Afghan embassy in Canberra says it is looking into claims that a woman facing deportation to Pakistan is an Afghan national.

But the Federal Government is standing by its finding that the Bakhtiyari family is not eligible for refugee status.

Last weekend, the Bakhtiyaris exhausted their legal appeals for refugee status in Australia and were moved from Adelaide to secure housing at Port Augusta in South Australia's north.

The Government maintains the family is from Pakistan and should abide by the rulings of the Immigration Department and Australian courts and accept that they are not refugees.

But the Afghan ambassador, Mahmoud Saikal, says his embassy, along with relevant Afghan authorities, is investigating claims that at least one person from the Ghazni province in Afghanistan is related to Roqia Bakhtiyari.

"All I can say - the file on establishing Roqia Bakhtiyari is not closed with us yet," he said.

Mr Saikal says the claims only relate to Mrs Bakhtiyari and not her husband nor children.

Afghans checking Bakhtiari claims
December 22, 2004

ANECDOTAL evidence exists to support claims that Roqia Bakhtiari is from Afghanistan but the issue needs further investigation, the Afghan embassy said today.

The Bakhtiari family, Australia's highest-profile asylum seekers, faces deportation after New Zealand yesterday rejected their request for asylum.

The family claims to be from Afghanistan, but the Australian Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) has ruled the Bakhtiaris are from Pakistan and refused all family members refugee status.

But the Afghan embassy said in a statement today that the government in Afghanistan had been investigating claims by Mrs Bakhtiari that she was of Afghan nationality.

"It is understood that at least one person in the Jaghuri district of Ghazni province whom Mrs Bakhtiari has claimed to be related to has confirmed the existence of such relation," the embassy said.

"We have also recently understood that at least a few local inhabitants of the Jaghuri district of Ghazni province have identified Mrs Bakhtiari to the local authorities as someone who is apparently connected to this district."

The Afghan embassy said the issue of Mrs Bakhtiari's identity was still inconclusive and further investigations were needed until an answer could be established beyond reasonable doubt.


Link to the article at AAP

A message from Dale West

(Dale West is the Director of Centacare in Adelaide, the agency that cared for the Bakhtiyari family until "the raid" last Saturday)

Received 23 Dec 2004

At 7 o'clock last Saturday morning uniformed men and women representing the Federal Government burst into our house at Dulwich and arrested six children and their mother.

It is clear that while the planning for this operation had included a social visit the day before to "case the joint" and determine who slept where, no thought was given to the re-traumatisation of these children by the surprise attack.

While predictable that the children would experience panic at being woken in their beds by strangers, those intruding also had a moment of panic when one of the boys was not in his bed.

Relief for the guards when he was found asleep on the couch in the lounge room. No single moment of relief for those taken captive.

No time to dress properly, no time to pack, no food, no access to toilet, and no explanation.

Sixteen months of integration into schools, social networks, and building trust, destroyed in three frantic minutes.

No nappy change for a baby boy snatched from his cot by a stranger, to cry all the way to Port Augusta. No bottle for him either.

No time to change the clothes of the youngest girl who wet her pants as a fear reaction to being awoken by strangers. Simply forced to sit in the wet until arrival at the Baxter Detention environment.

A very different day to the expectation of her St Aloysius teacher taking her to a birthday party.

No time for the oldest girl to place her scarf where it needs to be, as she was lead, arms gripped, to one of three waiting motor vehicles.

No time for any of those arrested to understand why this was happening, in the place of their planned day at the beach.

Phones confiscated, personal items of importance broken, and again those who had sought to deceitfully build trust, exposed as agents of a well planned operation.

When the Federal Government authorized the early morning capture of a family they angrily describe, the "worst of the worst", they brought to our suburbs what Centacare has been speaking out against for more than four years.

Children in our Detention system are routinely terrorized. We now know that it happens with planning.

This has long been denied by our Federal Government despite numerous reports and evidence of the impact and the hard work of many people who are experts in working with traumatized children.

The arrogance to do what we know has been happening behind razor wire, in a church owned house in an Adelaide suburb should frighten every Australian, regardless of their position on people who have come to Australia by boat seeking asylum.

I sat with the Bakhtiyari children and their mother last Friday evening unaware that just eight hours later they would be gone from the house they had made their home.

It was not until Tuesday when I was able to visit the family inside the Baxter Detention Centre that the detail of their allegations and its impact of the Saturday morning action could be discussed and comprehended. I would welcome any approach by the others involved that might dispute their account of events.

The signs of trauma for these children have returned. On high alert, but withdrawn. High anxiety drives the need for continual reassurance. The little ones are clinging again. Trust gone.

Again the heart of our international reputation on human rights has been ripped out, like the sleeping children from their beds.

Bakhtiyari supporters in barricade protest

The Age
December 23, 2004 - 1:58PM

A group of refugee activists has occupied the central Melbourne offices of the immigration department in protest at moves to deport the Bakhtiari family.

About six activists are refusing to leave the offices of the department's onshore protection division on the 10th floor of the office Casselden Place building in Lonsdale Street, in the city.

They arrived there about 11.30am.

A spokeswoman for the activists, who identified herself as "Fleur", said the occupation was in protest at last week's transfer of Roqia Bakhtiari and her six children from Adelaide to immigration detention at Port Augusta.

The transfer to Port Augusta has been interpreted as the start of fresh moves to deport the family of asylum seekers to Pakistan.

Security at the Casselden Place building is refusing media access to the floor where the protest is occurring.


Link to the article in The Age

Bakhtiyaris are a living on 'knife edge'

The Advertiser

IN A desperate effort to avoid deportation, one of the Bakhtiyari children has written a letter detailing the trauma of their removal to Baxter and their desire to regain the freedom they had enjoyed.

The family is "extremely anxious" and nervous about its fate, Boylan and Co lawyer Shaya Lewis said yesterday. She was handed the letter when she visited Baxter Detention Centre.

Written by Monty Bakhtiyari, 14, and addressed to Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone, the letter begs for the children to be allowed to be reunited with their friends and schoolmates. "They are really scared that they are going to be deported," Ms Lewis said.

"They are so anxious to know what is going to happen to them, they asked me about three times what was going to happen to them. One of the kids was asking "if Minister Vanstone said we are going to be here until Christmas, what happens on Sunday?" The children are becoming increasingly depressed in detention and are struggling to sleep, supporters of the family said.

Ms Lewis said Monty and Alamdar, 16, "didn't look like the same boys" because of their lack of sleep.

"The kids Alamdar and Monty, I was quite surprised at their spirit on Monday but they've deteriorated," she said. Centacare director Dale West said the "signs of trauma" had returned in the children, with "the little ones clinging again".

Saint Ignatius College headmaster Father Greg O'Kelly called for the Federal Government to "act humanely". Roqia Bakhtiyari and her six children had been living at a Dulwich house until their removal at 7am last Saturday. Senator Vanstone said placing the family into the Port Augusta residential housing facility was a "better move" as they could see their father Ali in Baxter.

The Government believes the family is from Pakistan but the family argues it is from Afghanistan. A spokesman for Senator Vanstone confirmed the family would be given a bill for the costs of their detention.

Link to the Advertiser


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