Wednesday July 30, 2008 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
"While we fully applaud many of the changes to Australia's detention policies as announced by the Immigration Minister, asylum seekers who will be forced to destroy their identity papers while fleeing their home country, or those who were born but never had their births registered in any country, will still be very likely to remain in detention forever under Chris Evans' new method of putting the onus for continued detention on departmental officials, while holding them in a restricted rights and court review situation on Christmas Island in Australia's excised zone," WA Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.
"And secondly, all it takes is a future calculating opportunistic Prime Minister who desperately wants to win an election, who then puts a nasty Immigration Minister in charge of some vilifying policies, to undo the welcome changes announced by Chris Evans yesterday", spokesman Jack H Smit said.
"Now that the dust of initial enthousiasm over the news of the Rudd government's initiatives starts to settle, we can start to see how "paperless asylum seekers" - like in many, but not all, other UN Convention countries - will still be caught between ship and shore, where arguments about releasing them from detention will bounce back and forth forever between Immigration officials and the Immigration Ombudsman or other review bodies, especially where they are honest in their case stories and relate how they have been registered in the country they fled from as individuals who have committed a crime, a very likely situation in many oppressive countries or dictatorships. Their honesty will then trigger a "state security clause" like it did for the two Iraqi asylum seekers who received an adverse ASIO assessment while on Nauru."
"While Chris Evans' new onus of detention policy can be applauded in many ways, also because it forces a change of culture within what is still a politicised Immigration Department, unless Labor legislates for these changes and incorporates in the legislation full court review and access to every asylum seeker, people without identity papers, and even more so, asylum seekers who have become "stateless" like Peter Qasim, are in danger of falling between the cracks."
"As the Minister confirmed yesterday, no Bills or legislative changes are needed to implement his Onus of Proof detention. In Evans' model, there will be an essential requirement of good bureaucrats, a decent Immigration Minister and a goodwill government. This is not good enough."
"Australia needs rocksolid legislation that enshrines the right to freedom and dignity also for the most vulnerable of asylum seekers arriving on our shores. Chris Evans can help this process by fully legislating detention limits and by having a greater statutory and authoritative decision making role for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner in the review process while Australia does not yet have a Bill of Rights."
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Chris Evans has repeatedly noted in public how he has dealt with hundreds of long-term detention "legacy" cases, but Peter Qasim is still in visa limbo living in the community - his case remains untouched by the Minister.
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]