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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.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The man with the gag: witnessing a forced deportation

Are you flying deportation class?Narrogin WA, 12 Jan 2005, 9:25pm - It had to happen sooner or later: someone on a flight, bound, gagged and muffled, moved under the highest secrecy, deported by force, not only with duct tape over his mouth, but the entire story covered up. Using the Christmas holidays, the absence of the lawyers, the expected silence of those advocates that can block their work - and, as we saw this week, using the cover of the tsunami, that not only flooded the coastline of ten countries, but that also seems to flood the media channels. First the Bakhtiaris, then Iranians, today a Sudanese man. Sonia Chirgwin was there, becoming the "accidental reporter". Thank you, Sonia. We owe you a debt. And note, that while there are AAP reports, they are online-only or wire-only reports. In the "official print versions" we're unlikely to find the story of the Iranian man we deported yesterday - I had to find it at the Jerusalem Post tonight.

Jack
Sonia Chirgwin, an environmental consultant working in Tonga and Laos, told the story below to me. It occurred when she was flying home to Mount Gambier to spend Christmas with her family.

I believe it is an important glimpse into the reality of deportation and I would like to distribute it as widely as possible - to the media, to refugee advocacy groups and indeed to anyone prepared to read it. Sonia has agreed to this as she feels strongly her responsibility to this voiceless nameless man she met so briefly.

Pam O'Connor
Coordinator
Rural Australians for Refugees
Mount Gambier
On the 13th of December, I flew from Bangkok to Australia on Thai Airways. After a long flight there was a stopover in Sydney for one hour prior to completing the flight in Melbourne - arriving at approximately midnight. The plane was then returning to Bangkok. I was seated at the very back of the plane. On re-boarding the plane in Sydney, a very officious looking man bustled in and cleared some space in the overhead luggage compartments, reassuring passengers that disturbance would be minimal.

Not understanding what was happening I speculated to my neighbouring passenger that maybe they were bringing on someone in a wheelchair. But then there was an alarming sound - metal scraping on metal, banging and clattering. We exchanged a nervous glance, and then our fellow passenger was on the plane.

Squeezed between two security officers I can only define as goons, the man was handcuffed, with a chain leading to a restraint at his waist, and to cuffs at his ankles. But perhaps the most shocking was the gag. The man had layers of black gaffer tape around his mouth, bound so tightly that it was cutting into his face. Above the tape, his eyes were wildly panicked. They locked on to mine briefly before he was manhandled into the seat, and a blindfold placed over his eyes.

It's funny the things that come out of your mouth when you are wildly searching for a way to understand what is happening. "Is this man alright?" I asked the guard closest to me, even though it was quite clear that he was not all right. The guard was sweating, short of breath, and somewhat adrenalin filled after physically dragging the man onto the plane. "Look I can't tell you anything OK," he answered with a barely repressed anger. I asked what the man had done to be treated in this way. He again snapped at me that he was unable to tell me a thing. "Welcome back to Australia" I said, shocked at this being my first experience after being away for a year. Then a third official entered the plane, a smaller man, who unlike the other two didn't look like he belonged at the door of a bad-ass nightclub to keep the clientele in order. I recommenced my line of questioning with him.

Seeing my obvious agitation, his voice was deliberately calm, seeking to avoid any sort of fuss. He was telling me they had no choice that some people are "bad" and simply will not co-operate. I asked why he was being treated in this manner on a public flight, and he said that the choice is either this or to charter a plane for a quarter or a half a million dollars of taxpayers money. He felt that as they had a responsibility to the taxpayer, the choices were limited.

Sitting in the silence my discomfort grew. The fact that I was seeing this wasn't the problem. Maybe all Australians should be exposed to the hard reality of what refugee deportation can look like. The public flight was not something I should have complained about. My distress was stemming from the man's treatment, and from his obvious fear and distress and my helplessness. Nothing I could say or do would get the flight stopped, get the tape removed from the man's mouth, get his bonds released or have his voice heard.

So I recommenced my dialogue with the more reasonable of the man's guards. I asked whether what I was witnessing was the inevitable outcome of Howard's refugee policy. The man spent a lot of time, again in this carefully composed and reasonable voice, assuring me that although he could not tell me any details of this particular case there were simply no options. I wondered whether his crimes were speaking out against his government, or if his crimes were real but the level of punishment unjust. Of course I do not have any answers, as the official was careful to reveal nothing..

Changing tack I asked about the guards' work, acknowledging that it looked really difficult, and asking where the three officials went from here. He told me they were flying to Bangkok, then accompanying the asylum seeker back to his country of origin, before having a stopover in Bangkok and returning to Australia. He would not tell me what the country of origin was.

In asking about the deportee's treatment, and voicing my concern about the lack of dignity leaving in this manner, the official, again in reassuring tones, told me the difficulties they faced. They had been negotiating with the man for 8 hours and he would not stop screaming. He had the choice to be taken on the plane reasonably, but he would not comply. He stressed it was one of the worse cases he had faced as a negotiator, although they had tried everything to make him cooperate. He also told me they were not allowed to use chemical restraint but only physical means to force him to comply.

He also could not help but give me a spiel on Australia's rights to protect its borders, our rights to determine who comes into our country. I did not engage in this debate, seeing that it was obvious that we came from very different perspectives, and the 'we' that he was talking about somehow did not include Australians that thought or felt as I do. He seemed uncomfortable at my use of the term human rights, his voice taking on an even more calming and rational tone.

He asked me about my life, my work, and we conversed fairly pleasantly about what I did and where I lived. All the time my mind was racing for ways to find out more, the image of the deported man's panicked eyes burnt into my mind.

However I was not able to assist him in any way. I left the plane in Melbourne wondering if they would remove the deportee's gag to allow him to eat or drink any time over the 12-hour flight back to Bangkok. I could not see how it would be possible, as they would not want him to scream again. Through the tape he could not utter a single sound, an image that so sums up the voiceless state of the people that 'we' determine to be unfit for our country. All I can do is tell his story. But it is with sadness, as I do not know his name, or where he is from although I can say he is of Middle Eastern origin. All I can do for him is give a glimpse of his story, as I have no idea of what other horrors he has endured. I need to tell this brief chapter of his story as it is also our story. It is a story of what our nation sees as a reasonable measure to protect our borders.

28 December 2004
Sonia Chirgwin
Mount Gambier SA

Refugee groups condemn sedation of deported asylum seekers

REFUGEE ACTION COALITION
PRESS RELEASE
January 12, 2005, 3:00pm EST


Refugee advocates have reacted strongly to the news that two asylum seekers deported from Villawood detention centre on Tuesday night were injected with sedatives before being deported.

The news comes after shocking eye-witness revelations of the forced deportation from Sydney by Thai airlines last December.

The two asylum seekers accompanied by 8 guards were both on the Emirates flight that left Sydney on Tuesday night.

Australia's longest-help asylum seeker, Abdul Khogali, was also given a further injection at Dubai.

"It is typical of the inhuman activity of the government that Mr Khogali's family were not told of his whereabouts until Thursday. The family has been through hell," said Ian Rintoul spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. "We only have the immigration department's word. There is no confirmation that Mr Khogali is in Khartoum and we are still not sure that Mr Khogali has not been detained in Sudan."

The minister cannot hide behind the department. The deported men were shown letters signed by the Minister for Immigration before they were deported.

"Emirates have made themselves complicit in the brutal policies of the federal government. The refugee movement will be calling for a boycott of Emirates. At a time when there have been widespread calls for corporate responsibility over asbestos and the tsunami, Emirates actions will be widely condemned," said Ian Rintoul.

"The use of injections to sedate deportees confirms that the government has no concern for human rights or the safety or asylum seekers. There have been a number of deaths in Europe as a result of forced deportation procedures themselves," he said.

"The use of medical procedures has been condemned by the medical profession as well as international human rights bodies.

"We will be approaching airline unions to inform them of what has taken place and requesting union support for action against forced deportations," said Ian Rintoul.

Sharan Burrow, president of the ACTU has already requested that union members not cooperate with forced deportations. There will be a protest in Melbourne, Friday, against the government policies of deportation. The rally will march to Emirate offices.

For more information, contact Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul [phone inserted].

A transcript of Mr Khogali's description of his attempted deportation in 1999 reveals the shocking details of this brutal procedure - available on request.

Refugee groups campaign against Emirates

Sydney Morning Herald
January 13, 2005 - 12:39PM


International flights from Australia could be disrupted by refugee activists protesting the forced deportation of failed asylum seekers.

The Refugee Action Collective said it was urging passengers to boycott Dubai-based Emirates Airline and would hold demonstrations highlighting its involvement in removing unsuccessful asylum seekers from Australia.

Activists were considering buying tickets on Emirates flights so that they could stage on-board protests, group spokesman Ian Rintoul said.

Mr Rintoul said Emirates was the main airline involved in deporting people from Australia, although others had also been involved.

The Immigration Department uses several airlines to return asylum seekers who have failed in their applications for refugee status.

Mr Rintoul pledged to continue the campaign, which will include handing out leaflets to passengers, until Emirates announces it will stop taking deportees on its flights.

Protesters would not try to stop passengers from boarding flights but they wanted to raise awareness about the issue, he said.

"If passengers put up sufficient concern the captain or the company will actually remove the refugee from the flight," he said.

"We're considering actions of actually purchasing tickets on Emirates flights in order to stage protests.

"It then becomes a very simple measure for the airline - it's a matter of removing someone who poses a security risk."

Mr Rintoul said four passengers boarding an Emirates flight this week remonstrated with airline staff after protesters told them a man was being deported to Iran on that flight.

Passengers might refuse to take their seats upon boarding, or could chant slogans, causing costly disruptions and delays to the airline, he said.

Activists will protest outside Emirates offices in Melbourne on Friday and are planning further demonstrations in other cities.

Emirates was vulnerable to a campaign because it had gone to great lengths to convey a clean corporate image by sponsoring Australian sporting events and promoting itself as tourist-friendly, Mr Rintoul said.

The refugee movement was seeking support from unions in campaigning against airlines that deported failed asylum seekers from Australia.

Comment has been sought from Emirates.

© 2005 AAP

Link to The Sydney Morning Herald

Deportation jet's space wasted

Courier-Mail
By Tuck Thompson
13jan05


THE Federal Government missed an opportunity to deliver relief aid to tsunami victims and bring Australians home last month when it flew a chartered jet to Bangkok to deport the Bakhtiyari family.

A four-engine RJ-70 jet, large enough to carry 70-80 passengers and cargo, was practically empty, but cost the Government an estimated $150,000.

"I'm not going into details about that," a spokesman for the Immigration Department said, when asked if the agency had notified other agencies that the jet was heading to South-East Asia.

In a media release, Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said the eight-member Bakhtiyari family flew to Bangkok from Port Augusta on December 31 and transferred to commercial flights to Pakistan.

The Courier-Mail has learned the plane flew over tsunami-devastated areas and stopped in Indonesia on its journey, but the department declined to confirm the information.

"It's our general policy with removal operations not to discuss details of operational matters," the Immigration spokesman said.

Asked if the minister had violated that policy through her media statement, he said he didn't want to discuss what constituted details.

The flight - five days after the tsunami struck - occurred during a period when the Howard Government was being criticised for not doing enough to get Australians out of affected countries.

With dozens of empty seats, a near-empty hold and overhead storage, the jet could have delivered two to four tonnes of life-saving supplies. The RJ-70 could have operated on shorter runways closer to devastated towns and villages.

After the delivery, the crew could have rested while the plane was made available to Australians needing a free ride home.

Shadow Immigration Minister Laurie Ferguson was checking with sources yesterday to find out why the plane did not support tsunami efforts.

"If it was feasible, it should have been done," he said. "I've been advised that approaches were made to the Defence Department and, on both occasions, it was knocked back, which is disturbing."

A Defence Department spokeswoman said C-130 transport planes were operating during the period but she didn't know anything about the Immigration-chartered plane.

A government official said the Bakhtiyari family were deported on the flight not because they were considered dangerous but because of concern they would create a scene on an Australian commercial flight.

They lost a five-year battle to stay in Australia following an investigation that indicated family members were not Afghani refugees, but Pakistani nationals.

In her media release, Senator Vanstone said the Government expected to spend more than $3 million to deport the family, including $600,000 in legal costs and more than $1 million in detention centre costs.

The Immigration Department would not disclose how much of the $1.4 million in removal expenses went towards the Bangkok flight, but an aviation source indicated the plane leased at about $8500 an hour.

The charter company, National Jet Systems based in Perth, did not return repeated calls for comment.

A week ago, the Bakhtiyari family were reportedly heading for Quetta on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border after avoiding questioning by Pakistani authorities.

Link to the Courier Mail

Australia deports Iranian man to Tehran

The Jerusalem Post
Jan. 12, 2005 9:46

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
SYDNEY, Australia


An Iranian man who sought asylum in Australia after converting from Islam to Christianity has been deported to Tehran, where rights activists say his change of religion could endanger his life, a refugee advocacy group said Wednesday.

The man, in his 30s, was placed on a flight late Tuesday from Sydney to Dubai, from where he would be transported to Iran, said Ian Rintoul, a spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition.

Rintoul said the man, whose identity was not released due to fears for his safety, had a "high likelihood" of being killed in Iran, where activists say Christian converts are routinely persecuted and often put to death.

"There are documented cases of people not getting out of Tehran airport after they've landed," Rintoul said. "So we have very serious concerns about this guy."

London-based Amnesty International said persecution of Christian converts was common in Iran, and that many Western countries consider this when assessing asylum requests.

"It's pretty much universally accepted in most countries that converts will face persecution if their conversion is discovered when they return to Iran," said Amnesty's refugee coordinator in Australia, Graham Thom.

The man arrived in Australia by boat four years ago, and was held at detention centers.

The Department of Immigration declined to confirm if he had been removed from Australia.

A department spokesman said on condition of anonymity the claims all asylum seekers' claims were carefully assessed on their merits, and that no asylum seekers would be deported unless the government was satisfied they would not face persecution.

Such decisions "do not rely on sweeping and superficial generalizations that particular countries are either safe or unsafe for own nationals," the spokesman said.

Link to the Jerusalem Post

"Glossy promotions lady" Minister Vanstone belies hideousness of new Deportation

Project SafeCom Inc.
Media Release
Wednesday January 12 2005 12:00am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes


"WA Refugee group Project SafeCom expresses its deep dismay with what is likely to become "today's deportation" of Sudanese man Abdul Khogali."

"While Australia's longest serving "no rights at all" prisoner was snatched from the Villawood detention centre yesterday, the Immigration Minister, who does not get told about the dirty work of her own department, gets the job of telling DIMIA's glossy story - how great Australia's refugee and immigrant intake is. Her words still ring in Australians' ears, telling them last year what good citizens we are with our tremendous numbers of refugee intakes from Sudan."

"Meanshile the Department of Immigration seems to work overtime while every lawyer is still on their Christmas holiday, as now may well become clear: first it was the Bakhtiari family, then it was for the Iranians terrified of returning to torture, once, twice, three times, and then by force, and as we are convinced, with drugging - thereby compromising the ethics of the Nursing profession - and now it's Mr Khogali's turn."

"Once again, Australia deports an asylum seeker who has half of his family living as residents in our country, and who in addition fears repercussions if he returns to his country, because he fled when he refused to obey Sharia Law by complying with a demand to kill someone in Sudan."

"The ethics of Australian asylum applications may now also become clear again: if you're too innocent during your very first application interview with a single DIMIA officer, you seal your fate as an asylum seeker. Additions to the original line-up of persecution facts are, under Australia's approval system, highly unlikely to succeed. This deportation case is another one in a long line-up of cases of which the government says that they have failed because the person is not a refugee, while lawyers and migration agents, as well as thousands of Australians who know the person through their contact and friendships, know what the truth is. Today we have again been guilty of refouling an asylum seeker, perhaps even to his death."

Australia's longest detained asylum seeker faces deportation

Refugee Action Coalition of NSW
MEDIA RELEASE
January 12, 2005


A Sudanese asylum seeker, Abdul Khogali, who has been in detention for seven years was forcibly removed from Sydney's Villawood detention centre last night (Tuesday night).

The man is Australia's longest detained asylum seeker.

He was placed on a charter flight from Sydney to Perth from where it is expected the government will attempt to deport him to Sudan.

The man had been a police officer in Sudan and fled after he refused to enforce Islamic sharia law which includes the amputation of limbs and public execution.

Detainees at Villawood report that the man was beaten when officers unexpectedly came to remove him from his cell in Villawood last night.

The man's uncle and the uncle's extended family have been accepted as refugees in Australia.

"We are extremely concerned," his uncle, Mr Elmalki, said speaking from his home in Perth. "It is too dangerous for him to be returned to Sudan. It is unthinkable."

"We are very worried about his welfare here and for him in Sudan," he said.

Three years ago, an attempt to deport the man failed when he resisted being sedated prior to deportation.

The Sudanese man was the second asylum seeker to be taken from Villawood last night. An Iranian man was put on an Emirates flight after three previous attempts to deport him through Melbourne failed after the Iranian asylum seeker resisted. There were scuffles when police were called to remove refugee supporters who were leafleting Emirates staff and embarking passengers.

In December 2003, a Sudanese asylum seeker was returned from Tanzania, en route to Sudan, after Sudanese authorities refused to recognise travel documents issued by the Department of Immigration.

Refugee supporters are concerned that there is about to be a wave of forcible deportations. An Iranian man was deported days after the federal election last October.

"The government is using the publicity concerning aid for tsunami victims in the hope that the unsavoury aspects of its refugee policy will escape scrutiny. Its lack of compassion for refugees stands in stark contrast to its professed concern for tsunami victims," said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney.

For more information, contact Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul [phone inserted]

Deport Asylum Seekers and Face Boycott: supporters

REFUGEE SUPPORTERS WARN EMIRATES AIRLINE

Perth Indymedia
by Baxter05 support alliance
2005-01-12 1:54 PM +0800


As the Federal Government persisted with its increasingly desperate efforts to deport asylum-seekers to unsafe countries, the Refugee Action Collective of Victoria (RAC Vic) and the Refugee Action Collective of NSW (RAC NSW) last night warned Emirates that assisting the Government with deportations will result in national campaign to boycott their services...

Refugee supporters received an unconfirmed tip-off that Emirates had agreed to help the Department of Immigration Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) deport an Iranian asylum-seeker from Sydney Airport last night. He is a Christian whose life will be endangered if he returns to Iran, where the punishment for conversion to Christianity (apostasy) is death.

This is the most recent in a series of attempts by DIMIA to deport this man. Originally at Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia, he was then taken to Maribyrnong Detention Centre after he resisted attempts to be deported with acts of self-harm. After he resisted further efforts to be deported from Melbourne, he was taken by road to Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney (DIMIA officials are able to bypass airport terminals at Sydney Airport).

RAC NSW last night held a hastily organised demonstration inside Sydney Airport. As many as 30 refugee supporters sought to prevent the deportation, but they were forcibly removed by the police. It is understood the deportation was successful.

It is believed a Sudanese asylum seeker was also deported via Sydney Airport last night.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Sharan Burrow has requested that union members in Australian airports not assist with any deportations.

Refugee supporters from around Australia will converge on Baxter Detention Centre this Easter to demand the federal government stop the deportation of asylum-seekers and permanently close the camp.

Despite Australia's public support for victims of the Asian tsunami, asylum seekers from tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka appear to be the next group targeted for deportation.

RAC Victoria spokesperson Tim Petterson said the boycott warning would be extended to all other international and chartered airlines.

"We are saying to Emirates and to all other airlines that when you imperil lives by helping the Government deport asylum seekers to unsafe countries, you will also imperil your bottom line.

"Expect your offices to be picketed, and t-shirts, badges and bumper stickers across Australia calling upon your customers to treat you with the contempt you deserve by no longer using your services," Mr Petterson warned.
ENDS

For information/interviews, contact:

Tim Petterson (RAC Vic) [phone number] or
Ian Rintoul (RAC NSW) [phone number]

http://perth.indymedia.org/?action=newswire&parentview=8015

Mystery surrounds asylum seeker

The Courier-Mail
12jan05


THE fate of Australia's longest-detained asylum seeker was shrouded in confusion today after his family and refugee advocates heard he was to be deported from Perth.

Abdul Khogali, 36, was to have been placed on a flight to South Africa today, after being flown to Western Australia from New South Wales last night, despite fears he faces possible death on a return to his Sudanese homeland.

But after a South African Airways official told Mr Khogali's family that he was not on the flight to Johannesburg from Perth, it was unclear exactly where Mr Khogali was being held or whether he had been deported.

A former policeman, Mr Khogali has spent seven years in the Villawood detention centre in Sydney since fleeing Sudan in 1997.

He left his home after refusing to enforce Islamic Sharia law, which includes the amputation of limbs and public execution.

Mr Khogali's uncle Ahmed Elmalkey, who lives in Perth, said it appeared his nephew was to be deported despite personal pleas to Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone.

"I am very worried about his situation, because we do not know where they will take him," Mr Elmalkey said.

"We don't know why they have refused his case and will not grant him a protection visa.

"It is too dangerous for him to be returned to Sudan. It is unthinkable.

"Today I have rung the immigration office about nine times, and all they have said is `We will ring you back'."

Mr Elmalkey and other members of Mr Khogali's family had been accepted as refugees in Australia.

He said Mr Khogali had become increasingly depressed during his long detention.

Supporters had even approached Senator Vanstone directly during her visit to Perth during the election campaign last year, but had not heard anything since.

Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition said the organisation was concerned the Federal Government had initiated a wave of forcible deportations.

"The Government is using the publicity concerning aid for tsunami victims in the hope that the unsavoury aspects of its refugee policy will escape scrutiny," Mr Rintoul said.

"Its lack of compassion for refugees stands in stark contrast to its professed concern for tsunami victims."

Mr Rintoul also claimed attempts had been made to deport Mr Khogali in 1999, but the movement had to be abandoned when he resisted sedation prior to his deportation.

A spokesman for the Department of Immigration said the department was unable to discuss any part of Mr Khogali's case, for operational reasons.

Link to article in The Courier Mail

NSW: Christian asylum seeker deported to Iran

AAP newswire
Wednesday, 12 Jan 2005 at 2:29pm
Category: Australian General News
Low priority; Story No. 2420


Deported
By David Crawshaw

From Our Anonymous 'Wire Tap'


SYDNEY, Jan 12 AAP - An Iranian man who sought asylum in Australia after converting from Islam to Christianity has been sent back to Iran, a refugee advocacy group said today.

The man, in his 30s, was put on an Emirates flight from Sydney to Dubai last night, the Refugee Action Coalition said. He would then be taken to Iran, where he feared he would be killed, coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said.

The federal government had refused his application for asylum and he had exhausted all avenues of appeal. There has been no comment from the government on the case.

Protesters gathered at the airport terminal to try to dissuade passengers from boarding the plane by handing out leaflets and holding placards.

Security officers ejected about 18 protesters from the terminal.

Mr Rintoul said there was a "high likelihood" the man would be killed when he returned to Iran because he had been persecuted by Iranian authorities before.

Converting from Islam to Christianity is punishable by death in Iran. "There are documented cases of people not getting out of Tehran airport after they've landed," he said.

"Their relatives have turned up at the airport but the person never makes it through the terminal; they simply disappear and are never heard from. So we have very serious concerns about this guy."

The man, who has asked not to be named out of fear for his safety, arrived in Australia by boat four years ago and was held in the Curtin detention centre in Western Australia and later at the Baxter facility in South Australia.

Immigration authorities are believed to have tried three times to deport the man from Melbourne airport in the past eight days.

Emirates has declined to comment and comment was being sought from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs today.

AAP

Immigration Department "desperately" trying to deport asylum man

Project SafeCom Inc.
Media Release
Tuesday January 11 2005 7:05am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes


"Some officials in the Immigration Department are controlled by ruthless fanatics, who implement their cruel deportation regulations because they have the right to implement them, but they are fed by merciless torture considerations, and they prefer not to tell the Immigration Minister what they do", refugee advocacy group Project SafeCom claims today.

"It is time, that not just the Immigration Minister, but also John Howard himself, open their eyes to the fact that we deliver Iranians right into the hands of their torturers when we deport asylum seekers, who will move heaven and earth to prevent such deportations from happening, and acknowledge that this fear alone should be grounds for mercy and protection by Australia."

Yesterday evening refugee advocates in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney have been alerted to the fact that an asylum seeker had been scheduled to be deported to Iran by DIMIA more than three times in the last week, while each time the attempts to take the man have been thwarted because the man has violently resisted his deportation process.

Last week the man was taken from the Baxter detention centre by force, but his physical fight with the guards resulted in the deportation being aborted, and instead the man was brought to the Melbourne Maribyrnong detention centre.

Then on Sunday, he was taken from the Melbourne centre in another attempt to deport him, yet again he foiled the attempts by guards contracted by the Immigration Department to forcibly deport him on what is believed to have been an Emirates flight.

Next he was again taken on Monday morning from Maribyrnong - but again, through his display of fierce physical resistance, he was able to abort the attempts, and on Monday afternoon he was taken by car from the Melbourne centre, this time by car for what is believed to be a road-only trip to the Villawood Centre in Sydney.

According to advocates, the Villawood centre is chosen because they have "more experience with sedation" of deportees. It is also reported that some airlines, also Emirates Airlines, refuse embarkation of passengers or prisoners, if they are taken by force, and if they show unwillingness or resistance.

Project SafeCom has also received reports that Department of Immigration officials are deliberately trying to leave Minister Amanda Vanstone out of these operational decisions, so while possibly thousands of concerned Australians are trying to request a halt to deportations of Iranians, especially but not only Christians, by writing, faxing or phoning the Minister, either directly or via other members of the government or opposition parties, DIMIA staff use privileges available to them under 'operational matters', and they spare neither cost nor methods of cruelty to achieve their aims.

"Senior DIMIA officials would be charged with cruelty to animals if their actions would be perpetrated on horses or dogs, but they get off without scrutiny or inquiry because they operate their own torture kingdom under privilege and regulations, right here and right inside Australia."

For more information:

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom inc.
phone 0417 090 130

Ian Rintoul
Refugee Action Coalition
Sydney [phone inserted]

Mark Goudkamp
Refugee Action Coalition
Sydney [phone inserted]

Govt to deport Iranian man: advocate

The Age
January 11, 2005 - 2:04PM


The federal government will try to deport an Iranian asylum seeker from Australia after three unsuccessful attempts to force him to leave, a refugee group said.

The man, in his 30s, fled Iran for Australia four years ago after converting from Islam to Christianity - an offence punishable by death in his home country, according to the Refugee Action Collective.

But the federal government has rejected his bid for asylum and he has exhausted all possible appeals.

The group said the man, who has asked that his name not be released, forced Immigration Department officials to abandon attempts to deport him from Melbourne airport last week and early this week.

Refugee Action Collective spokeswoman Madilyn Gorman said the man began screaming uncontrollably when officials tried to force him onto flights, prompting one airline, Emirates, to refuse to carry him.

Emirates declined to confirm or deny the incidents in Melbourne, saying it could not comment on any passenger.

After a third failed attempt to deport the man on Monday, immigration officials loaded him onto a vehicle and drove him to Sydney, possibly to the Villawood detention centre, she said.

"They tried to deport him and another man last Tuesday at Melbourne but he basically said 'I refuse to go back to Iran', and he put his head down and kept shouting," she said.

"The airlines are nervous about deporting people."

Ms Gorman said the government was planning to deport the asylum seeker from Sydney airport on Tuesday night, possibly on an Emirates flight to Dubai.

She said the man arrived in Australia by boat four years ago and was held in the now-defunct Curtin detention centre in Western Australia, then at the Baxter facility in South Australia and later at the Maribyrnong centre in Melbourne.

He feared he would be killed if the government sent him back to Iran, she said.

Comment was being sought from the Immigration Department.

The case comes after Australia's highest-profile asylum seekers, the Bakhtiari family, were deported on December 30 after failing in their bid to stay in Australia.

© 2005 AAP

Link to article in The Age

Rally hears Iranian man may be persecuted if deported

ABC ONLINE NEWS
Tuesday, January 11, 2005. 4:09pm (AEDT)


Refugee activists say they have grave fears for the fate of an Iranian asylum seeker who is expected to be deported from Sydney's Villawood detention centre within days.

The Refugee Action Collective says the man fled Iran for Australia in 2000 after converting to Christianity.

They say in the last five years he has been detained at the Curtin, Baxter and Maribyrnong detention centres.

Last night he was moved to Villawood.

Ian Rintoul from the collective has told a rally today that the man fears for his life after reports that another Iranian Christian deported to Iran was interrogated for three days and told he would be charged with converting to Christianity.

"Our fears are that today they will attempt to sedate him in Villawood and make yet another attempt to deport him," he said.

"That man has stood up three times against the threat of deportation because he knows what going back to Iran really means."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200501/s1280140.htm

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