Tuesday September 21 2004 14:00pm WST
For Immediate Release
"Australia, under its current mandatory imprisonment of so-called people smugglers, would lock up the priest who assisted the Von Trapp family across the Swiss Alps to Australia, as well as the man who sold a donkey to Mary and Joseph who ran off to Egypt, Project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit said today."
"Mr Smit was responding to the imprisonment of Mr Al Jenabi, who was convicted on "people-smuggling" charges by a Darwin court, but who, according to the judge Dean Mildren as reported by AAP, "was not primarily motivated by money, but by bringing his family to Australia".
"The case of Mr Al Jenabi resembles the case of the imprisonment in Perth of two Vietnamese men associated with the arrival of the Hao Kiet, the boat that brought Vietnamese asylum seekers almost into the Port Hedland harbour last year. In this case the Crown also admitted that Mr Tran and Mr Nguyen did not benefit [financially] in any way."
"This case will soon be contested in an appeal on behalf of the two men, and already, government ministers such as former Attorney-General Chris Ellison and Hon Don Randall have admitted that the jailing of the two men may have been a mistake.
Hon Don Randall, in communication with supporters for the Hao Kiet refugees, has stated that "... [Chris Ellison] has conceded the law (Migration Act section 232A) is out of whack with the [People Smuggling] Convention".
"A hundred years ago, thousands of people "just came" on boats, exploring a new country, both in Australia and in countries such as the USA as well as Great Britain. They often came without papers."
"Prior to the Second World War resistance against an influx of people into Western countries overtook laissez-faire attitudes, and rules were crafted. And now, who call everyone "illegal" and "law-breakers"."
"People smuggling laws in Australia have been put in place, not to halt people smuggling, but to trump up "the Prime Minister's War Cry" of the 2001 election, a line doggedly implemented by his ministers and lawmakers, no matter what the financial and human cost would be."
"The government has deliberately avoided completion of the implementation of the laws conforming with the People Smuggling Protocol into the Migration Act, so it can also lock away innocent people by classifying them as 'people smugglers'.
"Australian people smuggling laws are a disgrace, for they fail to distinguish between those who may well belong to "people moving rackets" and people who assist their friends and relatives to flee from danger."
Mandurah-based supporter for the Hao Kiet refugees Kaye Bernard comments: "If the Justice Minister is not prepared to adopt the general principles of Conventions and wishes to ignore the rights of Refugees than he should be known as the Minister of Injustice and a new portfolio commissioned to that effect."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Spokesperson for the Hao Kiet refugeess
[phone number posted]
Bett Buthbert and the Hao Kiet refugees:
Joint Media Release 21 June 2004, Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer & Minister for Justice and Customs Senator Christopher Ellison: Australia joins UN Convention to strengthen fight against transnational organised crime
Australia's obligations under the Protocol can be implemented administratively or under existing Commonwealth legislation, in particular through the Migration Act 1958, the Criminal Code and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.