Bowen "more extreme than Ruddock" in proposed Migration Act changes

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Bowen "more extreme than Ruddock" in proposed Migration Act changes

Media Release
Wednesday April 26, 2011 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"In the reported announcements that new legislation will be introduced to refuse refugee protection to those involved in detention centre protest actions, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has lowered himself to levels of craven idiot-style populism far beyond former Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock, who was often accused of running a cruelty regime," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

"Bowen's proposed Migration Act changes (which look like a direct response to opinion expressed by senior News Ltd Editor Paul Kelly) are a brazen attempt to ignore and undermine the UN Refugee Convention's Article 1F (reprinted below), which defines five grounds under which refugee protection may be refused by member countries, and "expressing fury about Chris Bowen's broken refugee processing system, venting anger about his collapsing detention centre system and screaming in despair about the death of Federal Labor's refugee decency" certainly aren't amongst those five grounds," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"Labor came to power promising to process 90% of all asylum claims within 90 days. It takes a calculator from the two dollar shop to show that if completing 1,000 asylum claims within 90 days takes 40 Assessment Officers, then it takes 80 Assessment Officers to process 2,000 claims, and it takes 120 Assessment Officers to process 3,000 claims within 90 days."

"Clearly, the Immigration Department's efficiency and processing capacity has broken down, and Chris Bowen's capacity to direct his department is down the gurgler," Mr Smit said. "We are clearly witnessing that it's not Chris Bowen who runs the Department, but it's the Department that runs the Minister - something that has happened all too often in the last 35 years since boats with asylum claimants first started arriving."

"Chris Bowen shows extreme stupidity and callousness in his latest move. Rather than fix up the ungodly mess he has created and the mess the Department is in, he wants to blame the victim of his "failure to process and protect". If Bowen can only respond to the cruelties of a failing detention centre system by doling out legislated cruelties that undermine the Refugee Convention, than he shows he hasn't got what it takes. If those people he wants to target under the proposed Migration act changes start committed suicide and start killing themselves, faced with their worst fear - to be returned to places where they fear persecution - then we know who to blame for their deaths," Mr Smit concluded.

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

Article 1F of the Refugee Convention excludes from refugee status any person who has:

• committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, as defined in the international instruments drawn up to make provision in respect of such crimes;

• committed a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge prior to his/her admission to that country as a refugee; or

• been guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

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