Tuesday June 21 2005 7:15am WST
For Immediate Release
"The document outlining the Terms and Conditions of the Return Pending Bridging Visa handed to long-detainees in the Baxter detention centre and also in the Villawood centre, as announced yesterday by the Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone does not reflect changes announced by the Minister last week as a result of negotiations with the Georgiou group", WA Refugee group Project SafeCom spokesman Jack H Smit said this morning.
A copy of the document as was given to long-term detainees including a letter from the Minister was sent to Project SafeCom yesterday evening.
It has been placed on the Project SafeCom website for reporters here:
"Contacts inside the Baxter detention centre have already confirmed that detainees will not sign the visa application, with one man saying "I'm not signing a deportation visa", while Iranians in the Villawood detention centre in Sydney reported to advocates: 'the Minister is trying to trick Iranian asylum seekers into signing for their deportation. DIMIA has offered all the Iranians in here and BX the Removal Pending Bridging Visa on the condition they waive all their rights and signing an agreement which could be used by DIMIA to get travel documents from Iranian Embassy.' ", Mr Smit said.
"Minister Vanstone may well have tried to spin the media about the Visa's conditions, when she announced that the clause of 'availability for removal purposes' on the part of those who would want to accept the visa was removed, or reduced in importance, but nothing in the document and her accompanying letter reflects this intention."
"It is also not true that the 7-day acceptance period, which was waived according to announcements made by the Minister, is waived", Mr Smit said, "the letter clearly states:"
"In order to accept this invitation you need to sign the enclosed letter of acceptance and return it to a DIMIA officer within 7 days of this letter being given to you. If you think you need more time to consider, you should discuss this with a DIMIA case officer."
The third aspect missing from the DIMIA communication to detaines, is the fact that they would be no longer required to drop any future legal action in relation to their asylum claims: the document clearly states:
"any visa applications made by the person, other than an application made following the exercise of the Minister's power under section 48B of the Act, must have been finally determined."
"Given this, we must encourage everyone in detention centres not to accept this visa or sign anything at all. Either the DIMIA does not want to change anything while the Minister does, or the Minister simply spins the media and lies to the public."
"This visa is only good for those detainees who deep down know very well that they are not refugees - and there is nobody amongst those who received the DIMIA invitation who is in that category."
"Neither the Minister nor Mr Howard seem to understand that it is UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, who clearly states that refugee status exists independent of, and separate to, the acknowledgment by any of its Member States that someone is indeed a refugee. This visa leaves no room for this essential aspect of the UN Refugee Convention."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]