Wednesday December 10 2003 09:00am WST
For Immediate Release
For background information on Latham's use of statistics see:
As the ALP Federal Parliamentary party prepares for its January 2004 National Conference, with changes to its asylum seeker policies on the agenda, refugee advocates claim that the Federal ALP's new leader Mark Latham defends mandatory detention using seriously flawed, if not misquoted statistics about the absconding rates of asylum seekers in the community.
"Mark Latham defends mandatory detention using topsy-turvy statistics", Project SafeCom's spokesperson Jack H Smit said today.
"In communication with Project SafeCom last year, as well as in email exchanges with other refugee advocates, he claimed a 90% absconding rate for failed asylum seekers in the UK. On other occasions he quoted the same percentages in more general termms, claiming it was 'an international experience'."
"Latham went public with his claim on ABC's "Australia Talks Back" in October 2003. He stated on that occasion:
"Overseas experience is that 90% of refugees who have their applications rejected abscond, and later work illegally, making life difficult for organised labour". (Mark Latham on ABC's "Australia Talks Back", 8/10/02).
"When pressed by Project SafeCom to reveal his sources for this stark claim, Latham wrote us back, stating that "government sources" claimed this, however, he did not reveal his source - and we told him we weren't too happy with this."
"Rural Australians for Refugees members were also not happy with his claim, and they wrote to several agencies, amongst them the UK Refugee Council Information Line, the Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace and the Refugee Council of Australia."
"The UK Refugee Council was pretty clear, and thought the claim was entirely false - probably a misquote resulting in misrepresentation: they wrote that 90% of asylum seekers are not removed from the country - because they're in the process of getting their asylum claim assessed .... while in Melbourne, Marc Purcell of the Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace quoted a USA research study which revealed that in a supervised program about 90% of asylum claimants fully complied with requirements."
"It seems that Mr Latham grabbed some statistics and thought he had understood what was the case - but that he has it all wrong. The upcoming January ALP National Conference seems a good environment for Latham to find his own "third way" on this issue."
"Now that he is the ALP's leader in Parliament, and after he has already courageously expressed with boldness that all children should be out of detention by Christmas, Latham would do good to no longer use his erroneous claims."
For more information call
Jack H Smit - phone: 041 70 90 130
Background to this media release: