Monday March 8, 2010 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
"The Opposition spokesman on immigration, Scott Morrison, is engaging in gross misrepresentations around the 'myth of success' of the Howard government policies of around 1999-2001. The policies included sending boats back to where they came from and intercepting them, diverting passengers to Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Nothing provides any evidence that these policies actually 'stopped the boats'," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.
"Mr Morrison spoke on ABC2 Breakfast this morning, and he alleged that Howard's border protection policies stopped the boats. The reality is vastly different from Mr Morrison's claims. First, boats intercepted and diverted to third countries, as well as those sent back to Indonesia, do not appear on the Australian Immigration Department's public record of annual boat arrivals in Australian waters."
"Second, UNHCR figures show that an estimated number of 1,600 asylum seekers attempted to reach Australia throughout the time of the 'Pacific Solution'," spokesman Jack H Smit said. [Source below]
"During the period, four boats (SIEV 5, 7, 11 & 12) were returned to Indonesia in 2002, and at least three boats sank (SIEV 4, 6 and 10)."
 "We may never know whether the sinking of these boats was related to the brazen pushbacks of boats by John Howard, who sent them back on the ocean while they may have been too rickety to make an unexpected additional maritime voyage." 
 Correction: the three vessels sank while intercepted by Australian Border Protection in northern waters.
"We do know however, that the pushing back of refugee boats trying to reach Australia is a blatant breach of the United Nations Refugee Convention and of International law. It does not make any difference whether the boat is owned by P&O Cruises, the Sea Shepherd organisation, by a nasty or shonky boat operator, or by someone who is called under Australian law a 'people smuggler," Mr Smit concluded.
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]