Monday May 7, 2007 2:00pm WST
For Immediate Release
"The Immigration policy where Australia would send a number of its "unwashed and unwanted" asylum seekers seeking legitimate protection in Australia to the USA, in return for receiving Haitians and Cubans from the USA is already coming back to haunt John Howard indirectly, and it will rapidly result in the US cancelling this foolish deal," WA Rights group Project SafeCom predicted today.
Haitian AAP reporters state today (full report below), just after dozens of Haitians drowned, that
"An exodus may already be happening. The US Coast Guard intercepted or rescued 704 Haitians trying to reach the United States by sea in April, compared to just five in March. That is almost as many in one month as the 769 Haitians the Coast Guard stopped at sea in all of 2006".
"This foolish policy proposal by the Prime Minister and Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews always was ridiculous, and now it really shows how laughable it was," spokesman Jack H Smit said.
"The Prime Minister has shown himself clearly as someone who lacks the political nause and intellect in this misery refugee policy saga. His greatest and most manipulative political moment may well have been the stubborn refusal to let refugees into Australia at the time of the Tampa standoff, but the Prime Minister has long lost the plot," Mr Smit said.
"Well, on this occasion Project SafeCom has some sound and frank advice for the Prime Minister and for the Immigration Minister: 'Nothing will work better than an open, generous, welcoming attitude to those who seek protection and who arrive without an appointment - a policy in line with what Australia promised under its UN Convention Obligations'."
"If the Prime Minister introduced that as a wedge, he may well start on a track towards winning the 2007 federal election," Mr Smit concluded.
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Haitians look to Australia after deal
From correspondents in La Gonave, Haiti
May 07, 2007 10:29am
Article from: Reuters
Haitians seeking a new life are eyeing up Australia as a destination after it agreed to a deal with the US to swap refugees.
The US and Australian governments agreed to exchange Cuban and Haitian refugees held at the US naval base at Guantanamo in Cuba for refugees detained by Australia on the Pacific island of Nauru.
The deal covers only migrants who have been given official refugee status because they have a proven fear of persecution, and was aimed at deterring people-smuggling. Under the agreement, some refugees who had wanted to go to Australia could end up in the United States, and some who had hoped to reach Miami could end up in Sydney.
The pact could spur more Haitians to flee their impoverished and unstable Caribbean homeland in the misguided hope of being resettled in Australia, critics say, increasing the chance of disasters at sea like Saturday's, in the Turks and Caicos islands, when dozens of Haitians drowned after their sloop capsized.
An exodus may already be happening. The US Coast Guard intercepted or rescued 704 Haitians trying to reach the United States by sea in April, compared to just five in March. That is almost as many in one month as the 769 Haitians the Coast Guard stopped at sea in all of 2006.
On La Gonave, only a few residents say they have a clue where Australia is located on a world map. But many have heard of the Australian-US refugee deal.
"I don't know where it is, but they told me Australia is a rich country," said Virginie Saint-Clair, 28.
"I think if a Haitian like me gets there, life will be better," said Ms Saint-Clair declining to say whether she was ready to attempt the dangerous sea crossing to Florida.
Many of La Gonave's 110,000 inhabitants have relatives in the United States or have tried to get there themselves over the past two decades.
"If I have the possibility I will take my chance," said Jean Leonard, who lives in the La Gonave port of Anse-A-Galets. "We Haitians have the strength to work and we'll make our way wherever on the earth there is life."
Ti Lundi, 34, who called himself "Met lanme", meaning "Master of the sea" in Creole, said he had tried to get to the United States before and would now try again.
"Maybe it is going to be my last try," he said.
US policy toward Haitian migrants has not changed despite the Australian deal. Few Haitians would likely be entitled to be recognised as official refugees fleeing persecution. The vast majority are simply looking to leave the hemisphere's poorest country for a better life.
But Haiti's Minister for Haitians Living Abroad Jean Geneus said that message wasn't getting through.
"Those (people) smugglers who organise clandestine trips to the US might be misleading people about this agreement," Mr Geneus said. "The population, which is not really aware of the situation, might be tricked."
Human rights groups have criticised the US-Australian refugee swap. New York-based Human Rights Watch said it amounted to bargaining human lives while Amnesty International said it feared families could end up being separated.
Haiti's Fusion for the Social Democrats party regarded the measure as immoral, said spokesman Micha Gaillard.
"It is immoral because it is a lure and a trap for people who are led to believe there is a third country solution, when it is not the case," Ms Gaillard said.
US embassy officials in Port-au-Prince were not available for comment.