Wednesday March 23 2005 08:00am WST
For Immediate Release
"Yesterday's quashing of a people smuggling conviction against Vietnamese refugee claimant Tol Tran, one in a growing number of failed and quashed convictions against individuals, shows that such convictions are politically motivated," Project SafeCom spokesman Jack H Smit said this morning.
"In its politically driven zealousness, the Howard government would like to let the Australian community believe how fantastic they are in their border protection regime, and how they are catching people smugglers and locking them up, but in reality, Mr Tol Tran, whose conviction was quashed in the Perth Supreme Court, like many others who we tried to lock up, are not people smugglers at all. The reality is that most of the Australian convictions of socalled people smugglers have come unstuck and were quashed."
Mr Tol Tran is an asylum claimant who helped his family flee persecution when he helped organise the Hao Kiet which arrived "nearly" on the shore at Port Hedland two years ago. His conviction was quashed and a retrial has been scheduled in the Perth Supreme Court.
Firstly, Mr Tol Tran was not someone who "profiteered" from the operation, the main clause of the International People Smuggling Convention, and secondly, he promptly, like everyone else on board the Hao Kiet, applied for refugee status - while when the People Smuggling Bill passed through Parliament, the Howard government reserved suave words in speeches during its Second Reading and argued these laws would never apply to asylum seekers or to people simply seeking to help others."
"The Justice Minister Chris Ellison may well self-advertise the laws put in place in Australia to stop people smugglers, but now we would like to see him catch some real people smugglers, instead of destroying the lives of refugees having their names smeared and calling them people smugglers, and having them locked up unjustly in our prisons."
"The quashing of Tol Tran's conviction, mainly as a result of the hard work of Mandurah refugee advocate Kaye Bernard, shows that Minister Ellison is only interested in advertising the Howard government, and not interested in the furthering of Australia's justice system."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Hao Kiet advocate
[phone number posted]