Australia attempts to perpetuate its 'Guantanamo Bay Experiment' on Nauru

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Narrogin
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130
Web: http://www.safecom.org.au/

Australia attempts to perpetuate its 'Guantanamo Bay Experiment' on Nauru

Media Release
Tuesday 17 June 2003 - 23:30 WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

The news that DFAT - Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - is currently negotiating a new Memorandum Of Understanding with the new Nauru president Ludwig Scotty marks another dark day in Australia, refugee advocates said today.

Twenty-eight of the more than 400 asylum seekers on Nauru are currently 'on strike', living in a container outside the detention camp, demanding to be accepted by a country.

The striking asylum seekers are part of a total number of forty-nine who were approved as refugees by UNHCR more than 12 months ago. Amongst the asylum seekers are also 26 refugees from the TAMPA. There are, according to Green Left Weekly, 169 children imprisoned on Nauru.

WA based refugee group Project SafeCom's spokesperson Jack Smit called for an inquiry by the Senate into Australia's dealings with asylum seekers on Nauru.

Mr Smit said he was aghast but not surprised that after all the misery and agony experienced on Nauru since the implementation of Howard and Ruddock's Pacific Solution, the government went on in its remarkably intransigent way 'as if nothing is the matter'.

"We have seen reports on international level, by the Dutch Psychiatrist Maarten Dormaar - presented recently at the Hobart Royal Australian and NZ College of Psychiatrists -, we have read the book "From Nothing to Zero", aptly named to indicate the horrendous hell, carefully crafted by a bloodless Immigration Minister, the Hon Ruddock; we have seen the BBC documentary 'Australia's Pacific Solution', brought by refugee advocate and artist Kate Durham and BBC reporter Sarah MacDonald."

"We have seen Ruddock behave like a psychopath in his total absence of compassion, when around Christmas 2002 seven women, incarcerated on an exhausted phosphate mine for years - cruelly separated from their husbands and fathers of their children, who live as approved refugees in the Australian community - started throwing some stones at staff of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) simply to find an avenue for the agony they felt as a result of the human rights crimes committed by this Minister."

"Nothing changes the mind of this government, while the 150-odd asylum seekers shipped to New Zealand live in what is for them 'The Lucky Country'."

"Australia is the 'UN'lucky Country for asylum seekers, and the corrupt and inhuman policies of Ruddock and Howard are currently already seeping into Europe - as if this way of dealing with asylum seekers is at all acceptable".

Project SafeCom's Grant van Riessen added: "What began with Australia's experiment in flouting international law when it comes to vilified Asylum Seekers has become the international abandonment of UN Charters that recognise the rights of a person to seek asylum and be protected from abuse and refoulement in the process. The blame for this deterioration of upholding UN standards, which amounts to nothing less than an international revolt against asylum seekers, rests squarely on the shoulders of Howard and Ruddock", Mr Van Riessen said.

Australia has successfully pressured Nauru not to let lawyers, journalists or human rights workers get to the detainees. While formerly it was possible to stay on Nauru for a three-day stop-over, Australia has recently quietly secured a rescheduling of international flights, and tourist visas are no longer being issued on Nauru.

Mr Smit commented: "There is only one reason for this action - and that is to keep the ultimate scandal of the Pacific Solution out of view from the world - and that amounts to a strategy, only reserved for a dictatorship".

"No other country in the western world allows perpetual detention, not just of asylum seekers, but of UNHCR-approved refugees. In no other 'UN Convention' country we have a government that gets away with the murder of its international agreements in this blatant and immeasurably cruel way."

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For more information:

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
Narrogin/Fremantle WA
[phone number posted]

Grant van Riessen
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

Kate Durham
Artist & Refugee advocate
Melbourne
[phone number posted]

Elaine Smith
Frequent Nauru penfriend and writer
New Haven NSW
[phone number posted]

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ONLINE RESOURCES:

Nightmare refugee prison still holds 437 (Green Left Weekly)
http://www.greenleft.org.au/current/542p6b.htm

Aust in talks with Nauru over Pacific Solution agreement
http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s881708.htm

European Union plans drastic restraints on right to asylum
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/jun2003/asyl-j17.shtml

Compassion fatigue is a stain on the West
http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/Opinion.asp?ArticleID=90437

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