Thursday July 29, 2010 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
"The vessel MV Sun Sea with 200 Tamils on board has been told to 'bugger off and move away' by Australian authorities, according to a report in the Toronto Star, making this aimlessly drifting vessel into a repeat of the 1939 St Louis debacle when many countries refused it to land and offer shelter and safety," WA human rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.
The Toronto Star, Wednesday, July 28, 2010: Refugee ship could be boarded by US or Canada
The Sun Sea, previously turned away by Australia and by Thailand according to the Canadian newspaper, may now also be refused landing by Canadian authorities. The spectre of the vessel being on its way to Australia was previously raised by Australian News Ltd outlets.
"Nothing has changed in 'the politics of refugee deterrence' since WWII, and the United Nations Refugee Convention is blatantly ignored when it does not suit our politicians," spokesman Jack H Smit said.
"When it's politically inconvenient, politicians are happy to sacrifice the lives of those on board of vessels when the numbers may be too big for the electorate. Malcolm Fraser and his immigration minister Michael MacKellar brazenly looked the other way when the Huey Fong and four other refugee vessels floated in the South China Sea. While UNHCR issued bulletins that the passengers should be treated as refugees, Fraser denied any assistance, leaving it to Canada, the US, Malaysia and France to process and resettle the thousands of refugees aboard the vessel - none of them were taken in by Australia at the time. Many testimonies later suggested that Vietnamese authorities forced the passengers to board and leave their country."
"Once again the Australian government under Kevin Rudd and now Julia Gillard has failed the test of adhering to the UN Convention and acting with grace and decency. Rather than leading the nation and informing them that refugees seeking shelter need their case heard and that boats need to be welcomed and their passengers processed with openness and regard to their case for persecution, it is already crystal clear that under the Gillard government Australian border protection authorities have a secret brief to stop any boat from arriving on our shores to protect the fat egos of our politicians and the winning stakes of political parties, especially during election campaigns," Mr Smit concluded.
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]