Friday September 28, 2007 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
"The fact that Australia holds Burmese asylum seekers captive in the foreign nation of Nauru - asylum claimants who felt they were forced to flee the Burmese regime - makes the Australian government reek with the same rank hypocrisy as at the time that John Howard ramped up the Saddam Hussein 'eye-gouging dictator rhetoric' while holding hundreds of Iraqis who ran away from the dictator captive for up to five years on Nauru," WA Human rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.
"Eight Burmese Rohingya asylum seekers arrived at Ashmore Reef on 14 August 2006, on the day that John Howard's Designated Unauthorised Arrivals Bill 2006 failed to reach the Senate for debate, stopped by the Prime Minister because it would not have the numbers to pass into law, and the Burmese have been imprisoned on Nauru since that time," spokesman Jack H Smit said.
"And to make matters worse, the Burmese had to even lodge a claim in the Australian High Court accusing the Australian government of refusing to deal with their claims and process them under Australian law after the Minister for Immigration first tried to offload them to Malaysia - an offer refused by the men - after which interviews with DIAC officials were refused."
At the time of the High Court challenge, a challenge the asylum seekers won, because the government indicated it would not fight the challenge in the courts, their lawyer David Manne said in The Age:
"They allege the Australian Government is trying to force them to be assessed under a fundamentally inferior, unregulated, unaccountable offshore processing regime that has no legal basis and so no basic safeguards..."
"A few weeks ago, when the plight of the Sri Lankans reached the Australian media, the Minister could complete processing of their asylum claims within one week, but the Burmese claims are even now, after 14 months, not finalised, suggesting that bad media stories reaching Australian voters, make the Minister suddenly capable of processing claims within a half-decent timespan," Mr Smit said.
"Perhaps we need to remind the Immigration Minister of the rank hypocrisy, the fact that Mr Howard may be losing the 'doctors' wives votes' because of the hypocrisy where on the one hand everyone in Australia ramps up their condemnation of the Burmese military Junta, while John Howard on the other hand tries to remain silent about the fact that Australia hides those that flee the Burmese regime on Nauru," Mr Smit concluded.
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]