Scott Morrison should stop wrecking the Immigration Department

Project SafeCom Inc.
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Scott Morrison should stop wrecking the Immigration Department

Media Release
Monday November 18, 2013 4:00am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"Immigration Minister Scott 'it's not Friday' Morrison deserves to be publicly and mercilessly flogged in the public town square over his fanaticism and 'secret instructions' to the Immigration Department - and with that public flogging we mean the merciless flogging he deserves this week across the Despatch Box in Parliament House," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said today.

"As an expected number of at least six hundred refugee advocates and activists are amassing on Canberra's ASIO Headquarters on Monday morning (18/11, 9am) and on Parliament House from 11am today, all attention in the House of Representatives should focus on the "hapless Minister for Immigration" and his other secrets - his secret instructions to staff in the Immigration Department responsible for managing their clients (oops, according to Morrison they're now "detainees"), and he should answer all questions relating to all asylum seeker (oops, according to Morrison they're now 'illegals'), all asylum seeker issues that are now repeatedly arising in the Australian media."

"Not a single elected Member of the Australian Parliament, including - and especially - Scott Morrison, should ever forget the public disgust that arose following the 2005 Cornelia Rau and Vivian Alvarez [Solon] detention and deportation disasters. They should never forget the subsequent Mick Palmer Inquiry and the successful implementation of attitudinal and operational changes in the Immigration Department. These changes resulted in visible ethical changes in especially the branch responsible for managing asylum seekers detained in the various detention centres, and these changes were further consolidated by demands made on the Department and successfully implemented by former Immigration Minister Chris Evans."

"The astounding revelations posted in the Fairfax press over the weekend (see transcript below) testify the as yet most disturbing aspect of Morrison's zealous implementation of the Abbott government's asylum seeker policy. It is one thing to call asylum seekers "illegals" but the impact of a total abdication of the UN Refugee Convention's principles, which compels Australia as a signatory country to that Convention to regard anyone arriving by boat as an asylum seeker with UN rights until - and ONLY until - the Immigration Department's full and undiluted assessment of their refugee claim is complete. None of the disturbing trends reported have any justification under ANY policy in any UN Convention signatory country."

"Scott Morrison should answer each and every question that should arise in the Parliament about what exactly his instructions to the Immigration Department entail, and how exactly he has instructed the Immigration Department's detention branch to implement respect for the UN Convention's principles, and how these principles result in the minimum standard of operations and expressed respect for those detained under Australian laws in each and every detention centre."

"Opposition leader Bill Shorten may well have called the Minister 'Scott 'it's not Friday' Morrison', but many Australians alert to Morrison visible extremist attitude, including dozens of reporters from the Press Gallery and beyond, can think of many more disparaging nicknames for him - and we do not just mean 'The Member for Cronulla Riots', or, as former diplomat Bruce Haigh put it last Friday in the Canberra Times, 'The Reichsführer for asylum seekers'," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"It is up to the opposition to hold Morrison accountable, also in how his instructions are now resulting in an attitude of bullying, intimidation, and - as suggested by the Fairfax material posted below - how he justifies to make children of asylum seekers held in detention his pawns - and whether they are now being used as pawns of his extremist bullying strategies."

"Bill Shorten's Labor in opposition has a choice, right here and right now. It can ignore the disgusting signs of a torture camp mentality that are now arising and act like co-conspirators with Morrison in the heinous deterioration in detention centres, or it can proudly refer back to the Mick Palmer Report and previous reforms implemented by Labor governments following the Cornelia Rau and Vivian Alvarez debacles and hammer the bajezus out of Scott Morrison."

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

Asylum policy of deterrence threatening families

The Age
November 15, 2013
Julie-Anne Davies

Asylum seekers being detained on Christmas Island and offshore on Nauru and Manus Island are being subjected to a regime of coercion and intimidation and living in appalling conditions in a deliberate bid to force them to go home.

Well-placed sources working in the offshore detention system report that inadequate healthcare and, contrary to government policy, forced family separation or threats of separation, has created a toxic mix of despair and fear among the asylum population.

The Abbott government policy of deterrence is being felt in every corner of the detention system from the moment people get on boats in Indonesia right through to the hot, cramped tent camps and World War II bunkers asylum seekers are forced to live in on Nauru and Manus Island.

Children are being used as a bargaining tool to get people to return home. In a letter received this week from an Iranian on Christmas Island, he says he has been told he will be separated from his pregnant wife two months before she gives birth. ''I have requested from the Immigration officers to discuss my situation, however, they keep telling me to go back home if you want to be next to your wife during delivering the baby,'' he writes.

Several sources have described harrowing scenes on Christmas Island last month when Immigration officers forced two unaccompanied Sri Lankan children aged 12 and 14 on to a plane to return home. They were part of a group of 84 Tamils who had arrived on the Coco Islands after 34 days at sea and within 48 hours were put on a plane and sent back to Colombo.

''The children were crying and screaming and begging to be able to stay,'' said a witness. ''One of the security officers realised they were too young and no one was accompanying them and so took them off the plane. Then there was a stand-off while someone rang Canberra and were instructed by someone very, very senior to put them back on the plane.''

The latest figures released by the Immigration Minister show there were 1128 men on Manus Island, 606 men, women and children on Nauru and 2158 people on Christmas Island. The government will not reveal how many children are living inside the Nauru detention centre although child refugee advocate Sophie Peer estimates between 80 to 100.

''The leash is off,'' said Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre. ''The hardliners in the Immigration Department can do what they like. And family separation is the tool of choice. They can say what they like, it's happening,'' Curr said. ''Under the old government it occurred but it was usually incompetence. Now it is deliberate. They are separating families on the wharf at Christmas Island.''

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed revelations of a 31-year-old asylum seeker, Latifa, who is being kept in detention for 18 hours a day in Brisbane while her week-old son is in hospital with respiratory problems. A spokesman said the mother could visit her baby during the day. ''Doctors at the hospital advise it is common practice for mothers not to stay overnight with babies in special care units due to bed restrictions,'' he said.

The revelations come on the eve of the release of what is expected to be two damning reports from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on conditions on Nauru and Manus Island.

One Immigration source on Christmas Island described how much things had changed since Operation Sovereign Borders began on September 18. ''We have been told that we are not to engage with the clients now,'' she said.

''So the only message we are told to give them is to leave. We are deliberately intimidating them, we are told to tell them Nauru and Manus are full up and so their only and best option is to go home.''

The government on Thursday denied it was using intimidation to force people to return home. It was unapologetic for its treatment of Sri Lankan boat arrivals but did not deny the children were sent home unaccompanied. ''Anyone arriving illegally by boat from Sri Lanka faces a stringent process and anyone who is screened out will go back.''

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