Monday April 26 2005 6:00am WST
For Immediate Release
"The Australian Prime Minister's 'final solution' of sending all boatpeople, whether inside or outside the migration zone, to the to be completed Christmas Island detention centre should cause one mighty revolution in Federal Parliament as has rarely been seen in Australian politics, and not just because this constitutes another breach of what Australia promised with its UN Convention signature," WA Refugee group Project SafeCom said this morning, upon rumours about this plan 'slowly leaking' through an AAP Wire report and from reports about the SBS Insight program to be aired tonight.
"With this news there is no doubt that we're close to John Howard's next step in this slowly leaking news, which represents his final step, one that should follow as soon as it is politically convenient, and that is that all unsuccessful asylum seekers from the Baxter detention centre, who either don't qualify for the most recent 'Removal Pending Bridging Visa' or who don't accept it, will be shipped to Christmas Island also to be detained and spend the rest of their lives."
Christmas Island Shire president Gordon Thomson also has no doubt that this 'leak' is John Howard's preparation for the next step of shipping all Baxter residents to Christmas Island. He says, when asked: "There is absolutely no doubt that this is the plan."
Mr Smit said that "the recently announced Removal Pending Bridging Visa is a complete failure and an utter flop, and the only purpose it served was a coldhearted attempt by the Prime Minister to silence his Liberal party backbenchers in what was uncovered by them as a "con-job" within days of its announcement."
"Perhaps today is the day that the small group of decent and "real" Liberals on the backbench take their next step and prepare their Private Member's Bill. Perhaps today is also the day that the other small group of decent Labor Party backbenchers join these decent Liberals and join a public block together with The Greens and the Democrats around this Private Member's Bill, also because the Federal ALP cannot be trusted either with their asylum policy".
"John Howard does not like it at all that the news keeps being filled with appalling stories from the suffering he has caused with his hardline asylum policies, and he hopes that Christmas Island will provide the Final Solution for a problem that is entirely of his own making."
John Howard's Final Solution is the ultimate in cruelty, and the ultimate in wedging decent MP's in his own government, and it would also double the costs of a useless imprisonment of failed asylum seekers that serves no purpose. Instead of issuing just 100 humanitarian visas, which would allow an end to this torture and end their suffering, Howard thinks he can 'save face' by making them 'disappear' from the unwelcome spotlight."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Christmas Island Shire president
[phone number posted]
Detention role for island to expand
By Paul Osborne
April 25, 2005
THE federal government plans to use Christmas Island to detain asylum seekers who reach Australian shores by boat, according to a local government official on the island.
Currently only those who reach an area specially excised after the 2001 Tampa incident are detained offshore.
But Gordon Thompson, the shire president of Christmas Island where Australia is building an 800-bed immigration facility, said today he had been told the government had changed its policy.
"It's the government's intention that all refugees who come by boat to Australia, whether they make the migration zone such as Port Hedland or they get to the area that's excised from the migration zone, such as Christmas Island, they will be detained on Christmas Island," Mr Thompson told SBS TV's Insight program.
Mr Thompson said the policy had been spelled out at a meeting between the government's immigration detention advisory group (IDAG) and island officials.
He said it was distressing that some asylum seekers could be detained for years.
"We could well become Australia's Guantanamo Bay," Mr Thompson said.
The government has previously said the facility on Christmas Island was being built just in case there is another wave of asylum seekers similar to 2001.
In 2001, during the Tampa crisis, the government changed migration laws to ensure refugees detained on Christmas Island could not apply for a visa and were denied access to refugee services.
Mr Thompson said the $336 million cost of the centre seemed like a lot of money to spend with the number of asylum seekers falling steeply in recent years.
"It's a colossal amount of money for mere contingency planning," Mr Thompson said.
"So it does beg the question, what's it really about."
Parliamentary secretary Christopher Pyne, who represented the immigration minister on the TV program, would not confirm the policy change.
"I don't have any advice that is a government policy or decision, but all I'm saying is that would be an obviously logical thing for future unlawful boat arrivals to be processed in a facility of that kind," Mr Pyne said.
"It sends a very powerful message to people smugglers in Indonesia or Malaysia or elsewhere."
Mr Pyne said the government's border protection policy had been successful but there was no guarantee that a new flood of asylum seekers would not occur.
"People smugglers have stopped making a grotesque profit out of other human beings by trying to bring them to Australia because the policy worked," Mr Pyne said.
"But in the future, if they do resume this evil trade, then Christmas Island will be available so it would be mad for it not to be used."
Opposition immigration spokesman Laurie Ferguson told the program Labor supported the Christmas Island facility, but wanted to ensure it used a United Nations-standard processing system.
Australian Democrats immigration spokesman Andrew Bartlett said the government needed to clarify how it intended to use Christmas Island.
"To build a 700 or 800 bed facility when there's no arrivals is madness," Senator Bartlett said.
"There's barely been a boat arrived since 2002."
Senator Bartlett said it was not too late to stop the construction of the new centre.
He said there was no doubt that being isolated on the island added to the trauma of people already traumatised in their former homeland and by the dangerous journey to Australia.
Senator Bartlett, who visited the island late last year, said the 35 remaining Vietnamese detainees at Christmas Island should be relocated to the mainland.