Wednesday November 25, 2009 7:00am WST
For Immediate Release
(Note: Mr Smit is undertaking post-graduate university studies into Australia's People Smuggling Legislation)
"The continuing mandatory imprisonment terms for the broke, unemployed and often juvenile members of the Indonesian fishing communities who bring asylum seekers to Australia from Indonesia serves no other purpose than self-congratulatory chest-beating by Australian politicians," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.
"This morning, media comments (see below) suggest that the Western Australian government is forced to pick up the financial burden for the imprisonment of an increasing number of crew of asylum boats arriving from Indonesia, under Federal laws that are the harshest in the world for people smuggling, yet on the whole, the Australian Federal police, the Border Protection authorities or Customs is incapable of catching the real smugglers," spokesman Jack H Smit said.
"Instead of catching people smugglers, we are filling West Australian jails with the smugglers' largely innocent 'ferrymen' who most of the time are just Indonesian men and boys, whose livelihood as local fishers has been progressively destroyed by Australian policies since 1976, when Australia first claimed almost the entire seabed north of Australia under agreements between Gough Whitlam and the then Indonesian president Suharto."
"It's time to dump the mandatory sentencing element of the people smuggling laws and start coming to the party with real, considerable and tangible community aid and support for the Indonesian fishing communities we destroyed with our 'colonial' attitude to the seabed claims under Whitlam."
The dire circumstances of the Indonesians was recently exacerbated with severe pollution of the Indonesian coastline as a result of the Atlas oil platform oil leak, this catastrophe even further eroding the subsistence income for the fishing communities."
"The mandatory imprisonment aspect of the smuggling laws serves no purpose: the Indonesian men are so desparate that they will happily go to our prisons just so their families can get the equivalent of between $500 and $800 for food and sustenance in many cases."
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Seven-fold increase in people smuggling prisoners
ABC News Online
Posted Wed Nov 25, 2009 9:44am AEDT
The number of convicted or accused people smugglers being kept in Western Australian jails has swelled since the start of the year.
Almost 120 federal prisoners, who are awaiting trial or have been convicted under Commonwealth laws are being held in WA jails.
47 of them are facing people smuggling charges, a seven-fold increase since January.
The WA Opposition's Corrective Services spokesman Paul Papalia says because of WA's proximity to South East Asia, the state will be forced to house an disproportionate number of federal prisoners.
He wants to know if the Corrective Services Minister Christian Porter has requested additional funding from the Federal Government.
"It is appropriate that our Minister, the State Minister pursue the Federal Government for funding to recompense the state to pay the costs of holding these federal prisoners in our state prison system," he said.
Mr Porter has been contacted for comment.