Monday 30 June 2003 - 00:01 WST
For Immediate Release
WA based refugee advocacy group Project SafeCom is asking serious questions about the silence of IDAG, the Immigration Detention Advisory Group, set up to monitor detention and advise the Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock.
After yesterday's comments by former diplomat and Refugee Review Tribunal member Bruce Haigh, who suggested that RRT members seem to have had pressure exerted upon them by the Immigration Minister, and that renewal of their contracts seem to be 'subject to certain directions and influences' - the refugee group thinks that IDAG may well have been silenced by the Minister.
According to information available from the Immigration Department's website, IDAG conducts "visits to detention centres - members have unfettered access to centres, and all detention centres have been visited by IDAG members - "but it seems that IDAG members have been silent, if not silenced, since the Woomera hunger strikes and the incidences of lip-stitching in 2002", spokesman Mr Jack Smit commented.
"There has been no word from IDAG in the media or in statements when then New Year's fires and unrest occurred in the various detention centres, there has been no comment about the children in detention, there is an eery silence about this group, set up - as reported by ABC Lateline in May 2002 - 'to give independent advice to the Minister about the detention of asylum seekers.'
This week the Afghanistan Minister Mr Enayatullah Nazari visited the Nauru and Baxter detention centres and told Australian journalists 'that he was upset at the physical and psychological condition of many detainees, especially women and children'.
"It seems easier to get someone from Afghanistan to comment on Australia's detention centres than representatives of IDAG, who were appointed for that purpose", Mr Smit said.
According to Lateline's Tony Jones, "Mr Ruddock gave them unfettered access to detention centres, detainees and staff, and as their acting chairman said last year, they 'are probably the best-informed group of citizens in this country on this highly contentious issue'."
"We haven't heard a word from Mr Paris Aristotle, from Air Marshal Ray Funnell, we haven't had any formal reports or comments. As the only body in Australia claimed to be 'independent' and with unfettered access to detention centres, it is highly unusual if not disturbing that they have never commented on the serious deterioration of care on Nauru, as well as about the recent incidents at the Baxter IDC."
Ruddock: TEA WITH REFUGEE GROUPS?
In other news, Project SafeCom has received word that the Immigration Minister has offered a tea gathering to some refugee groups, particularly those who lobby for children to get released from detention. "No doubt about the motives of the Minister", Mr Smit commented. "No doubt the Minister tries to sweeten them up in the hope they make statements agreeing that 'just the children' need to be released, so he can issue a statement that because of the inappropriateness of 'just releasing children', no child release will take place."
"If the Minister were to approach Project SafeCom, we certainly have some comments in store for him, but we do not negotiate with him, not now, and not in the future. All asylum seekers should be released from the detention centres, because they inflict permanent psychological damage."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
former RRT member
Project SafeCom supporter
[phone number posted]
Visa staff pressured in appeals decisions - Sydney Morning Herald June 29 2003
Afghan Minister calls for better conditions for asylum seekers - ABC NEWS June 28 2003
Afghan MP visits detention centres - AAP June 28 2003
Immigration Detention Advisory Group - Outline of Operations
Woomera detention centre getting worse: IDAG - Lateline Broadcast 8/5/2002