Wednesday March 24 2004 09:00am WST
For Immediate Release
"Yesterday's announcement by Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone that Australia will increase refugee quota is merely a gesture to appease UNHCR Chief Ruud Lubbers who visits the minister this week, and it does not absolve Australia from its ongoing breach of International Conventions", refugee group Project SafeCom says.
Child detention: appalling hypocrisy
"Hundreds of children remain detained in Australia's detention centres in flagrant breach of the International Convention of the Rights of the Child. A few weeks ago Vanstone touted incomplete statistics of children in detention: Vanstone failed at that time to tell Australians about the almost hundred children in the Nauru detention centre."
"If the Minister complains about the thousands of angry letters she gets from Australian children, she clearly has not understood that her continuing government spin needs to be replaced with abolishing child detention as well as its cruel mandatory detention regime."
"Project SafeCom supports and applauds teachers around Australia who make school children aware of the government's consistent human rights breaches - that is simply Australian Human Rights education, and its honesty is something Australia desperately needs."
Not Africa, but the Indonesian Queue
"In addition, Australia's avoidance of the thousands of refugees who have been waiting for years in 'Australia's most appropriate refugee queue' in Indonesia amounts to a scandal the Howard government is systematically covering up. Last year we took just 84 refugees from that queue, and figures of 2002 (39 refugees) and 2001 (2 refugees) are a disgrace, also because it creates queue-jumpers: asylum claimants who can no longer endure the endless wait in Indonesia."
"While New Zealand resettles Indonesian refugees usually 'within weeks' of UNHCR approval, Australia systematically drags its feet - it usually takes Australia from one to two years to take in a refugee it promises to take from Indonesia."
"Instead of taking refugees from camps in Africa, Australia's first obligation is to explore what it can do to help Indonesia, itself not even a UN Convention signatory, by taking thousands more refugees from its 'regional refugee queue' ".
In comments provided to Project SafeCom for its Media Release "Vanstone's refugee quota does not undo systemic child abuse" (reprinted below) The Australian Greens' national spokesperson for refugees Ms Pamela Curr provides the following comment:
VANSTONE SPINS THE FIGURES
On the day that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Ruud Lubbers has come to Australia, Senator Vanstone announces a fifty percent increase in refugee intake.
"The reality is a set of spun figures" says Pamela Curr, Greens refugee spokesperson, "50% in real terms is 2000 new refugee places made up of only 1000 new places and the second thousand are stolen from the humanitarian program".
"Meanwhile adults and children are locked up in detention prisons, many are coming up for their fifth year in "administrative detention" despite pleas from medical and human rights organizations who are documenting the effects of long term imprisonment", Curr continues.
"People in the off-shore island camps who have been given refugee status are denied entry to Australia. Millions are being spent in keeping them in appalling conditions, including the One Man Detention Camp on Manus Island where Aladdin waits for a safe place to live."
"Refugee advocates are seeking meetings with Mr Lubbers to ask him to intervene on behalf of Aladdin and the people on Nauru, to put pressure on the Australian government to fulfil its signed promises to abide by the Conventions on the rights of Refugees, Children and the protocols on Torture. Currently Australia is in breach of these undertakings".
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Greens Spokesperson for Refugees
[phone number posted]