Monday May 2 2005 11:30pm WST
For Immediate Release
"It is extremely unlikely that just 33 people were unlawfully held in Australian detention centres, and based on this figure it is more likely that about 55 people are held unlawfully EVERY year," WA Refugee group Project SafeCom's spokesman Jack Smit said this morning.
"Acting Immigration Minister Peter McGauran should stop acting like a toothless and gutless government puppet when discussing the number of those unlawfully detained in Australian detention centres, and own up to the true numbers, and reporters and journalists should ask ALL the questions they need to ask, and stop doing half a job.
"The number of "thirty-three" as widely reported in this morning's AAP media reports after Mr McGauran was interviewed on ABC's PM radio program yesterday - indicating the 33 individuals who were released after having been unlawfully detained - is not by far the true representation of the number that may well have been held unlawfully in detention centres, but ONLY the number on the public record - and documented publicly since more than 14 months, since the February 17 2004 Senate Hansard was issued - and that number ONLY represents the number released over a 7-month period, since the start of the 2003-04 financial year, as already noted in a Project SafeCom press release of last Sunday morning.
"If 33 people are found to be held unlawfully in Australian detention centres over a 7-month period, then that number would re-calculate into 170 individuals over a 3-year period," Mr Smit said.
"Adelaide refugee advocate Ms Marilyn Shepherd has tried to bring this snippet from the Hansard to the attention of several people, including journalists, Ministers and backbenchers in Federal Parliament for months, and the Hansard is a full public record for all to see.
"Peter McGauran hopes that admitting to what's being stated by reporters will get him off the hook - and he may well, if reporters don't do their research - but what this admission did not show in news reports was the very limited period under question in the Hansard table.
"We now await his admission of the full number of individuals unlawfully held since, say, the TAMPA incident, or since the start of John Howard becoming prime minister in 1996.
"Yesterday's misrepresentation of how many Australians have been locked up only strengthens the call for a Royal Commission into Immigration detention."
The mentioned Senate Hansard File:
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]