Australia Day 2003: Refugees deliberately ignored

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130

Australia Day 2003: Refugees deliberately ignored

Monday 27 January 2003 - 10:00 WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

Today, 27 January, is Australia Day, the day Australia celebrates its achievements with much pomp and ceremony, with speeches by the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, and State Governors.

Hundreds of people will become registered and permanent Australian citizens, while the refugees incarcerated in Australia's notorious detention centres in order to keep the Howard government in absolute control and supreme power, undergo daily human rights abuses and torture, away from the spotlight and scrutiny of Australian as well as International media.

On Australia Day 2001, the dreadful plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia's detention centres was graphically illustrated as Mahzar Ali Mahzar, aged 27, flew off the 5 metre palisade fence surrounding Woomera straight into the waiting and lethal arms of the razor wire below.

Mahzar was cut to ribbons and required over 100 stitches to repair the damage, his actions were condemned by many in Australia as an act of "people like that, people we don't want here, people who try to blackmail the government for more favourable outcomes."

In reality Mahzar was highlighting the fact that his sister and her five children had been incarcerated in Woomera for more than a year while their husband and father was free in Sydney.

Murandoo Yanner, ATSIC╣ Commissioner, was one of very few who spoke for Mahzar, but who cared, he was the image of Australia's first great gaping wound, the other R word we dare not speak.

This Australia day, while we sent troops to eliminate Saddam Hussein, or in reality to protect the oil wells, we dare not mention the refugees.

This year we studiously ignore the harsh question which needs to be raised - when the bombing starts and the refugees come, how will we treat them?

We in the refugee advocacy movement suspect we will vilify them, call them baby killers, turn them back to sea, transport them to bird poo islands in the Pacific or lock them in Woomera for "jumping" the minister for misery's "queue".

Before we even consider the notion of "liberating" the Iraqi people, we should now remember this Mahzar, his sister and the five children are now entering their third year of incarceration, whilst we have been "liberating" their country of Afghanistan.

Today, refugee advocates issue a call for the immediate release of the Iraqis who are still incarcerated as part of Ruddock's cruel hoax of both preparing to kill tens of thousands of their country folk, while at the same time denying those in Australia's detention centres recognition as refugees.

At the same time the minister should finally heed the calls of UNHCR, UNHRC, UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, doctors, lawyers, teachers, churches, the Pope and millions of ordinary people and grant a full amnesty to the remaining 480 "boat people". After all records show that nearly 100 are children, and do we really want to have a government that will forcibly return innocent children to places like Iran and Afghanistan?

NOTES: ╣Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the body that looks after the interest of Australia's Indigenous people. Ironically, this government body is also under the jurisdiction of Australia's infamous Minister Phillip Ruddock.


For more information:

Marilyn Shepherd
Refugee Action Collective
phone (+61) (+8) 8332-8310

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
Narrogin/South Fremantle
Phone: (+61) 41 70 90 130

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