Wednesday November 6, 14:00 WST
For Immediate Release
Iraqi asylum seeker Abdur Wahab Najim was recently transferred from the Pt Hedland detention centre to 'Stage Two', the less secure section, in Villawood.
Najim reports that DIMIA staff has approached him - as well as other Iraqis - urging him to sign a 'voluntary repatriation agreement', not for repatriation to Iraq, the country he fled, but to Syria.
Najim told how he had been contacted by a DIMIA officer, telling him they could 'help him get to Syria'. It appears all Iraqi detainees are being given the Syria 'option'. This will - as DIMIA well know - mean his immediate removal back to Iraq and (in his case) execution. He was told by the Canberra representative of DIMIA that a number of Iraqis have taken the offer.
Sammy Ringer, a refugee advocate from Queensland, says: "My friend - for the first time - is scared for his life and feeling hopeless. He says Iranians are being removed from Baxter (repatriated) at the moment and there has been unrest, fighting and great despair."
Ms Ringer says: "In the past, Minister Ruddock has stated that Australia's responsibility to deportees stops when the leave Australia."
"I believe our responsibility starts right here and right now and has no 'cut off points'. I would love to get a film crew to Syria to follow the plight of those who have agreed to be sent there - if any have."
Anne Simpson of 'Bellingen Rural Australians for Refugees' reports about Najim: "About 6 weeks ago Najim had a DIMIA official come and visit with him and offer him a passport to Syria."
"When Najim questioned the DIMIA representative further about the offer she said that DIMIA had made arrangements with the Syrian Consulate in Melbourne. Najim asked why this had not been done with the Sydney Consulate, and felt that there was something very wrong with this offer."
"Najim contacted the person in the Melbourne Consulate and after really questioning the person was told that the visa was only for three months. Najim asked so what do I do then - and the man said just go to another country, but Najim said "surely what you are saying is illegal" and was told that these arrangements have been made with DIMIA."
According to Ms Anne Simpson, Najim is still considering this offer - his family are border hopping in Syria and he has been in detention a long time.
Ms Simpson comments: "....but I know that he is really concerned he has no money and said that you must have money to pay bribes to survive...."
Another Melbourne based refugee advocate, Americo, advises: "Non-Syrian nationals must have lived in Syria for more that 15 years for Syria to accept them back in the country. They must also have some immediate family members living there. If this does not apply to an individual, Australia CANNOT send him to Syria. DIMIA has recently tried to deport an Iraqi on a false passport to Yemen. Upon arrival to Yemen the Iraqi man was sent back to Australia, because he was not accepted. He is now in Perth IDC."
Mr Americo further added: "Depending on Najim's case, Dimia may have acted unlawfully by "offering him assistance" to return to Syria. Also, newspapers report that the Federal Court has just ordered the release of an Iraqi from Woomera who cannot be returned. The Court ruled the detention was unlawful. This would apply to other Iraqis still in detention."
Mr Jack Smit from Project SafeCom Inc,, a refugee advocacy group in Western Australia, says: "It's quite incredible, how this government has just one agenda when it comes to asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boats: any method is good enough, as long as we can whisk them away from our shores."
"Never mind a future execution, never mind the promise Australia made under the terms of the UN Convention to ensure safe passage and preventing any form of refugee refoulement."
"This government uses lies, manipulations, deportations by manipulation and stealth, and it even does so to prevent a required presence in an Australian court by asylum seekers."
The recent order by the Federal Court in SA ordering the release of a Woomera detainee on the grounds that his continued detention was unlawful, and the fact that this sets a precedent for the release of another 12 Iraqi nationals, is very likely to be at the background of this drive to deport Iraqi nationals. It is another bit of proof of refugee policies by stealth and deceit in Australia."
"Australian asylum seeker legislation is harsh and inhuman, but its implementation by DIMIA and ACM is corrupt to the core. You know, and what stings me most, is that many refugees tell me what Najim told me this morning: 'You know, even if we do not get granted refugee status, you know, we can in some way accept that, but we just want to go elsewhere, and be able to talk about Australia as a loving country, not this horrible thing we now have.'
Najim told Mr Smit how he is still waiting for an answer to personal requests for review of his status in letters to the Minister. "You know, the last letter I wrote, was for humanitarian discretionary status under Section 417, or for another chance under Section 48B of the Migration Act. That was 1½ years ago. I'm still waiting for an answer."
Sammy Ringer: [media contact details]
Anne Simpson: [media contact details]
Americo: [media contact details]
Jack H Smit: [media contact details]
1. Abdur Wahab Najim has agreed to receive calls from some media representatives. [some media-only information deleted here]
2. [some media-only information deleted here]
3. [some media-only information deleted here]