Afghani refugee chief releases extremely damning report

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

Afghani refugee chief releases extremely damning report

Media Release
Thursday April 22 2004 11:00am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

NOTE: The report is available for reading as well as download in PDF format at http://www.safecom.org/hassan-report.htm

MEDIA contacts below

Hazara Ethnic Society President and appointed representative of Nauru and Indonesian asylum seekers Hassan Ghulam has just released a comprehensive report of his visits to Geneva UNHCR and the various locations in Indonesia where many Afghani and Hazara "pushed-back" asylum seekers await the fate of their UNHCR refugee applications.

Amongst the most urgent of issues raised by the report is the fate of 58 spouses - wives and children - of recognised refugees, currently living in the Australian community. All these 58 family members have been recognised as refugees by UNHCR, yet the Australian government refuses their entry into Australia to join with their fathers and husbands.

The report places serious questions at the feet of UNHCR's refugee protection and assessment procedures - and questions whether any protection at all is evident, in several examples provided.

Asylum claimants also reported to Mr Ghulam about people smuggling disruption operations, stating that "... holes were drilled in the boat and stuffed with a piece of wood. As the pressure of the load on the boat increased, this wooden plug popped out and the ship took on water".

The report also raises extremely serious questions about UNHCR officials in Indonesia "being in league with people smugglers" to encourage and bribe them to slow down the processing of asylum applications - "to build a rich 'pipeline' of customers for the journey to Australia".

The report estimates the extraordinary human cost of foundering asylum seeker journeys to be between 600 and 1000 people; the report asks whether official and unofficial payments Australian officials made to UNHCR in Jakarta, and it raises damning questions such as why the survivors of the asylum boat now known as SIEV X were "dispatched with such unseemly haste".

The report further suggests that Australian government arrangements since the start of the Pacific Solution with UNHCR and IOM "seriously distorted [their] traditional roles", and "raise questions of conflict of interest and serious departures from their mandate and mission."

The report asks whether 'encouragements' were "offered to UNHCR officials by the Australian Government, for them to both refuse granting refugee status and turn the asylum seekers around, and to actively promote 'voluntary repatriation'".

The report states that amongst the asylum seekers were "widespread accusations, allegations and comments which reflected on the fairness and honesty of UNHCR processes in Indonesia".

The report is available for reading as well as download in PDF format at http://www.safecom.org/hassan-report.htm

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For more information:

Hassan Ghulam
President, Hazara Ethnic Society
[phone number posted]

Frederika Steen
Refugee advocate
Chapel Hill Qld
[phone number posted]

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

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