Saturday April 30 2005 9:30pm WST
For Immediate Release
"This week's events around the 30-year Vietnam war commemorations should include reflections on Australia's role in refugee resettlement at that time, and an acute awareness amongst all Australians about how we treat Vietnamese refugees on Christmas Island right now," WA Refugee advocacy group Project SafeCom said today.
"The flood of refugees resulting from the Vietnam war spawned a conscious effort from our nation - especially through the work of Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who travelled twice around Australia with his immigration Minister, and who urged the nation to accept Australia's obligation to the Vietnamese, and as a result Australians jumped to aid him and help welcome the Vietnamese - just like Australians jumped to assist in last year's earthquake and tsunami relief."
"Yet in recent years, the former Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock travelled the globe to try and sell Australia's "refugee warehousing policy", trying to 'promote' what amounts to a policy that seriously damages people and traumatises them for life."
"During the fall of Saigon, Operation Babylift in April 1975 took care of infants, yet since 2003 we have locked away children and babies on Christmas Island; while other countries can process refugee families mostly within weeks, Christmas Island functions by deliberate design as a "remote warehousing centre", with the purpose of keeping refugee claimants out of view, out of the media, and out of Australians' minds."
Without a single word from the Prime Minister and with a despicable "don't mention the refugees" attitude from Opposition Leader Kim Beazley, the lives of dozens of Vietnamese are discarded and forgotten on Christmas Island. In the case of the Hao Kiet refugees on Christmas Island sons, daughters, grandchildren and the widow of a Vietnamese soldier who fought and died alongside Australians and others in the Vietnam war are deliberately out of the mind of politicians and the Australian public.
"Both Prime Minister John Howard and Kim Beazley stain their lives and careers in terms of the atrocities of hiding relatives of Vietnam war heroes, by their deliberate actions and their policies and by their silence and passive approval about what happens on Christmas Island. Both leaders should be condemned for it."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]