Friday June 13, 2008 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
"Under the headline "There's an Elephant In My Backyard", WA human rights group Project SafeCom launched an online letter campaign on Thursday morning, aimed at getting attention from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Immigration Minister Chris Evans for idiosyncrasies in Labor's refugee policy.
"The campaign, launched during the lead-up to Australian Refugee Week 2008 (next week) and World Refugee Day (June 20) aims to expose the policy of "jailing asylum seekers" in the "white elephant" detention centre on Christmas Island "that gobbles up 25 million dollars of taxpayers money every year", while it urges revision of the draconian Billing for Detention policy, the "Julia Gillard authored" policy that sees any asylum boats repelled back to Indonesia, a country that's not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, and "John Howard's rather than Labor's Own" 4,600 island strong Excision Zone.
"The campaign also asks questions about the "spin" from Chris Evans surrounding his earlier energetic and vigorous commitment to a Royal Commission into the Immigration Department's politicised practice and questions whether even under the Rudd Government, under the watch of Evans, people have recently been deported to places where they fear persecution, after having been rejected as refugees in a highly questionable "one-man" assessment policy, both on primary determination level and on the level of the "one-man" Refugee Review Tribunal.
"While we're thrilled with many changes brought about since the Rudd government took office, there is a disturbing incongruence between the case-based pragmatism and true graciousness implemented by Senator Chris Evans as the new Immigration Minister and the idiosyncratic maintaining of some shocking policies by the Federal Labor party - even if this goes against the State Convention motions passed since 2001," Project SafeCom said.
"And similarly, while Kevin Rudd since the beginning of 2007 in his bid for the Prime Ministership has marketed himself consistently and convincingly as a 'fiscal conservative' statesman, the presence of the White Elephant Christmas Detention Centre transforms him with one foul swoop into 'Mr Big Spender', who throws away $25 million dollars per year to just have a hugely expensive and remote refugee jail on Indonesia's doorstep - without any asylum seekers inside its fortified walls."
"That's also the reason the petition suggests to transform the Christmas Island facility into a Pacific-Asia Conference Centre, inclusive of a Casino to give the local population back the casino they lost, while attracting Indonesian and Pacific nation tourism to the island."
"Our contacts, members and supporters are responding keenly," Jack H Smit, the group's spokesman, said.
"Within four hours on Thursday afternoon, sixty-five people had sent their letters from our website, where they have the option of writing all proposed paragraphs as they are offered, exclude any paragraphs, or replace the set text with their own personal writing."
Web address of the petition: http://www.safecom.org.au/petition-chris-evans.htm
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]