Darwin "mules" protest: People smuggling laws need full review

Project SafeCom Inc.
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Darwin "mules" protest: People smuggling laws need full review

Media Release
Wednesday September 1, 2010 2:30am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"The ongoing protests by the young, broke and often illiterate Indonesian "smuggling mules" who earned as little as $50 for sailing a group of refugees to the Indonesian islanders' age-old fishing grounds of Ashmore Reef needs close, thorough and complete scrutiny and a full review under the next Federal Parliament," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

"Most of the elements of Australia's people smuggling laws, which are the harshest smuggling laws in the world, while in 1999 and 2001 Australia was the first country in the world to establish people smuggling laws, are brazen acts of political screams by politicians, bullying voters with the line 'vote for me, I am tougher on border protection than the other side of politics', spokesman Jack H Smit said."

"Australia's smuggling laws have nothing to do with stopping any form of "transnational crime" as they claim, mouthing the United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (the Smuggling Protocol), especially since we scrapped the UN smuggling definition from our Criminal Code in June this year under new federal anti-smuggling legislation."

"The only reason we are so keen to have the harshest smuggling laws in the world, is so callous political law and order interests can bark as well as lie about being tough on border protection to sectional interests in the electorate. These politicians have been deliberately spinning a line on Australia being "invaded" by floods of boats so these marginal voters can be satisfied; so these voters can be manipulated to vote for the party that's toughest at the border, Mr Smit said."

"The young men protesting at the Darwin detention centre are merely at the receiving end of this political pandering to marginal voters, and they are the victims of Australia's politicians' game with misinformed and swinging voters. They are the endgame in our neurotic border protection game, and their innocent lives are in the process of being destroyed on the altar of our invasion-fear politics."

"All these young men have done, is bringing fifty, seventy, a hundred, or five hundred dollars into the kitty of their family's household budget. They have brought a few dozen refugees into the safety and protection of Australia as a nation that signed the UN Refugee Convention, something we perhaps should applaud in the context of our international obligations to do our bit for the world's refugee intake."

"The Greens, the cross-benchers and the independents can bring on a full parliamentary inquiry into the effectiveness of the smuggling laws, and they should, given the fact that these nasty laws since 1999 have not caught any more than one or two of the "real" smugglers, but just victimise hundreds of broke, young and desperate Indonesian fishermen."

"Any inquiry's first conclusion will inevitably become that the "mandatory sentencing" terms of the legislation urgently need to be abolished. Any magistrate in our courts who has had to deal with the prosecution and sentencing of these so-called 'smugglers' will be able to tell us that. The laws are a disgrace."

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

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