Thursday March 24 2005 08:00am WST
For Immediate Release
As of yesterday evening, several experienced refugee advocates were in agreement that at the moment, not a single person would qualify for the newly announced "Removal Pending Bridging Visa".
Melbourne's Asylum Seeker Resource Centre community campaigner Pamela Curr wrote of the visa that it is "a stop gap measure to get Dick Smith and the backbenchers off the Government's backs," and she concludes later in writing: "at the end of the day after checking all states - THERE IS NO ONE WHO QUALIFIES FOR THIS VISA tonight."
ChilOut (Children out of Detention) coordinator Ms Alanna Sherry writes this morning: "The new [visa] class won't benefit the 81 children currently held in immigration detention. Their appeals have not been exhausted. Some children - in Villawood and Nauru detention centres - have been in detention more than three years, but most have not. Why should babies have to spend the first 3 years of their lives behind razor wire before they are eligible for release?"
Ian Rintoul of Sydney's Refugee Action Coalition writes: "This is a thinly disguised attempt to get the many long term detainees to give up their applications here and accept that they may be deported when it suits the government. I doubt that many asylum seekers will take up this "offer"."
And spokesman for WA Refugee lobby group Project SafeCom Jack Smit noted: "The visa arrangements for release of long-term detainees are nothing but a set of smoke and mirrors, in effect a very clever set of guises to keep the policy of permanent detention exactly as it is, and entirely in the style of the Prime Minister a masterstroke "con job", in the hope it would silence the backbenchers.
"The cards may have been dealt, but the game is far from over", Mr Smit said. "The ongoing problem with the Prime Minister is, that in his way of dealing with issues, he really thinks that his simple responses to most issues that come up are bought as valid answers to a problem. While in the past many of 'his respondents' have indeed bought his line hook, line and sinker, in this case by the backbenchers it is already clear it is not fixing the issue."
"Simply put, the backbenchers' pressure, as well as pressure from other quarters such as Adventurer Dick Smith and the churches does not get Mr Peter Qasim out of detention, it does not get any of the other long-term detainees out, and the conditions of release amount to an abandonment of one's legal rights and any rights to a future in Australia."
"It appears that Immigration Minister's office has been 'besieged' for some time already, and consequently her workload has amassed with submissions for Ministerial humanitarian interventions, or "417's" and other requests, and I get the impression that she would like to see the long-term detainees drop these requests under the Migration Act, and instead get themselves out of detention into the community under the new visa, thus forfeiting their right for these requests," Mr Smit said.
"It is unlikely that any of the long-term detainees are willing to drop their current processes which are part of the normal claims system, and instead get out, get a job, but leave any prospect for permanency in Australia behind."
"Project SafeCom's advice to detainees will indeed be once again, 'Don't sign anything until you and your lawyer and your migration agent have scrutinised all of the fine print, and know that you're signing away your rights'.
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]