Monday November 27, 2006 9:00am WST
For Immediate Release
"The Iraq war, organised by the Coalition of the Willing, which soon may just be a war where only, in Filmmaker Michael Moore's turn of phrase "two stupid white men" are involved - Australian PM John Howard and US President George Bush - has claimed another victim, a returning refugee on a Temporary Protection Visa," WA Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning, reacting to a report in The Australian newspaper (transcript below).
"Iraqi Shia refugee Mohammed Sharif al-Saraf was killed in 2003 while suspected by his killers as an Australian spy," the group's spokesman Jack H Smit said, "and his murder shows two things once again; the bankruptcy of Australia's involvement in the Iraq war, and the stupidity and bankruptcy of DIMA public servants following their masters' voice rather than sticking by international country safety assessments by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and other competent agencies in assessing Iraq's safety levels in 2003. It also shows once again how extremely dangerous the notion of a Temporary Visa regime is," Mr Smit said.
"Yesterday Mr Michael Moore wrote to his vast number of newsletter subscribers, that we're now part of the Iraq War for longer than the Second World War, without having achieved anything:
"Tomorrow marks the day that we will have been in Iraq longer than we were in all of World War II."
"That's right. We were able to defeat all of Nazi Germany, Mussolini, and the entire Japanese empire in LESS time than it's taken the world's only superpower to secure the road from the airport to downtown Baghdad."
"And we haven't even done THAT. After 1,347 days, in the same time it took us to took us to sweep across North Africa, storm the beaches of Italy, conquer the South Pacific, and liberate all of Western Europe, we cannot, after over 3 and 1/2 years, even take over a single highway and protect ourselves from a homemade device of two tin cans placed in a pothole. No wonder the cab fare from the airport into Baghdad is now running around $35,000 for the 25-minute ride. And that doesn't even include a friggin' helmet."
"Project SafeCom renews its call for the abolition of the intensely cruel TPV regime, and it also renews its call for Australian troops to immediately be recalled from Iraq. John Howard has presided in the last decade over a bankrupt war and over a bankrupt system of refugee assessment and treatment. It's time Labor raids the coalition at the next election and it's extremely important, that at this time, Labor brings the TPV system to a complete end," Mr Smit concluded.
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Shia refugee sent home killed as Aussie spy
November 27, 2006
AN Iraqi asylum-seeker sent home by Australian officials was assassinated in Baghdad after being accused of being an Australian spy.
Immigration officials refused to allow Mohammed Sharif al-Saraf to stay in Australia when his three-year temporary protection visa expired in 2004, claiming the removal of Saddam Hussein meant it was safe to go back to his homeland.
But The Australian has learned he was back in Iraq for only a few months when he was killed, in Baghdad, in late 2004.
News of his murder was posted on the Shia website, YaaHosein, which said al-Saraf, a Shi'ite, had been murdered because he was wrongly charged with spying for the Australian forces in Iraq.
Last week the High Court upheld the TPV system, ruling that asylum-seekers asking for further Australian protection must prove their refugee status still exists after their initial three-year visa expires.
Iraqi Community Cultural Association of South Australia president Tariq al-Haris said al-Saraf was a Shia whose family came from Najaf, a hotbed of opposition to Saddam's Baath Party supporters.
After fleeing to Iran, where he left his wife and two children, al-Saraf travelled alone to Australia, arriving by boat in late 1999, shortly after the federal Government introduced TPVs for unauthorised arrivals.
He was detained in Woomera, South Australia, for about a year. His claims for refugee status were found to be valid, but under the terms of the TPV his status had to be reassessed at the end of three years. By the time his claims were reassessed in 2003, the regime of Saddam Hussein had been overthrown and he was found to no longer be in need of protection.
Friends say he was under stress from his uncertain status and the separation from his wife and children. He had a heart attack in mid-2003 and was treated at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
"He was deeply lonely and after his heart attack he missed his wife and children even more," said Mr al-Haris.
Mr al-Saraf gave up his battle to remain in Australia and in 2004 returned to Iraq.
"We don't know who murdered him, but at that time, most of these sorts of murders were being committed either by ex-Baathists or by al-Qa'ida in Iraq. Most likely it was one of these two groups that killed him," said Mr al-Haris. "For these people, anybody who comes back from Australia must be a spy and they target anyone who they suspect of working with the Coalition forces in Iraq."
When asked about al-Saraf's case, Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said: "The limited details provided at this point do not enable any comment to be made on a specific individual case".