Monday September 5, 2011 12:00am WST
For Immediate Release
"The Immigration Department Staff Memo issued by the Department's Secretary Andrew Metcalfe following the High Court decision last week contains claims of "boat removal" successes of the 1990's where the Immigration Department was found to be in repeated and serious breach of the obligation to hear protection claims of boat arrivals," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.
Mr Metcalfe's memo was released or leaked to the media and is reprinted in full in today's Crikey edition. One section of the memo reads:
"the dramatic effect of past policies involving the very quick removal of people from Australia such as occurred in 1994 with the ethnic Chinese/Vietnamese groups; in the mid 1990s with a number of groups of Chinese nationals; and in late 2001 with the tow back of several boat loads of people to waters adjacent to Indonesia - in other words, to the place from which they had departed."
"Mr Metcalfe does not mention that the Department in the 1990's was, in relation to its treatment of boat arrivals, found to be in serious and repeated breach of the UN Refugee Convention and a number of other UN Human Rights Charters in a report compiled by HREOC, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission," spokesman Jack H Smit said.
"HREOC, under its then Commissioner Dr Chris Sidoti, delivered a scathing 184-page report of complaints investigations to the government and to media representatives in 1998. The report, "Those Who've Come Across the Seas: Detention of Unauthorised Arrivals" detailed dozens of instances where the Immigration Department not only breached the Refugee Convention but even the Migration Act and the rules and regulations in place in the main detention centre for boat arrivals, the Port Hedland Detention Centre."
HREOC (1998), Those Who've Come Across the Seas: Detention of Unauthorised Arrivals. See http://www.hreoc.gov.au/pdf/human_rights/asylum_seekers/h5_2_2.pdf
"The damning HREOC report found that entire boatloads were held "incommunicado" for up to five years, that people were "screened out" in biased and incomplete interviews to clarify the purpose of their arrival, and that their access to lawyers was brazenly blocked wherever the Department could get away with it."
"Although 1994 legislation had prevented Sino-Vietnamese from being able to claim protection in Australia if they had already been settled elsewhere under the UN's socalled "Comprehensive Action Plan", the Department acted like a bunch of cowboys in relation to all boat arrivals from China during the ensuing years. It is a blight on the professionalism of Mr Melcalfe that he cites the treatment of boat arrivals in the 1990's as an example of success, while it is mainly an example of his own Department's callous bastardry," Mr Smit concluded.
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]