Tuesday December 31 2002 17:30 WST
For Immediate Release
"Australia's much criticised policy of mandatory detention that
violates international human rights conventions has gone up in smoke
this week", says Jack H. Smit of refugee advocacy group Project
This week has seen several fires at the Baxter detention centre,
the Woomera detention centre, the Port Hedland facility, trouble in
the Perth detention centre, and now also on Christmas Island.
The West Australian country-based refugee advocacy group calls for
immediate community release of all detained asylum seekers, currently
living in the burnt-out shells of remote and isolated detention
centres after this week's fires. "It would be foolish to rebuild
the burned out detention centries in denial of the failure of the
mandatory detention policy", Mr Smit commented.
In response to this week's events, Mr Smit urged the Howard
government to act courageously for once, announce a New Year's
resolution, and close the remnants of the outback centres,
releasing people into the community, and provide access to all
welfare facilities in addition to trauma counselling services.
"We need an immediate action plan to house asylum seekers in
humane environments, also for those who did not meet the UN
requirements and who cannot be safely returned to their country of
origin," says Mr Smit, who lives in Narrogin.
"Western Australia is the largest State-bound landmass on planet
earth, and we have 'boundless plains to share'," said Mr Smit,
who coordinates an association promoting a community farm-based
alternative to detention.
"If China knows the meaning of the term "amnesty", if Saddam
Hussein can do it, then Australia can do it too - and we should
enact this Christmas and New Year's tradition much more generously
than any other western country so we can heal some of the
psychological damage Australia has inflicted upon asylum seekers."
"In the Netherlands asylum seekers are accepted for further
consolidation of their visas within 48 hours. Every day the Howard
government digs in its heels about the intolerable situation in our
country, it aggravates both its ongoing guilt towards these human
beings, and its standing in the international community."
Mr Smit further said: "The government has had one year to practice
its Fortress Australia policy. It has cost billions of dollars, with
the government spending 3800 times more on its socalled "border
protection" than on its contributions to the United Nations Refugee
"The policy, because it is not based on good care for human
beings, but on xenophobia, isolation and incarceration, is bankrupt,
and we need an immediate change of direction before Australia's
Treasury becomes bankrupt as well."
"Community release, even with all the associated costs of medical
and social provisions, costs a fraction of what the government is
spending. It also halts the staggering human cost, currently
inflicted upon human beings who have committed no crime."
"Within this context, this week's shortsighted media reactions
from acting Immigration Minister Daryl Williams as well as some
State Premiers, who just want to blame detainees and deport them,
is another boring example of the broken record of Australia's divisive
policies", Mr Smit said.
For more information call Project SafeCom Inc.
mobile: 041 70 90 130
international: +61 +41 70 90 130