Sunday August 3, 2008 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
Former diplomat Bruce Haigh, a member of Project SafeCom's Steering Committee, who worked at the Foreign Desk in South Africa under apartheid, in Indonesia and Pakistan, has attacked the Immigration Department over the deported asylum seeker Akram Al Masri who was shot in Khan Yunis last Thursday afternoon, while the organisation's co-ordinator Jack H Smit has stated that an Inquiry as announced by the Immigration Department should have the foregone conclusion that the Department breached the UN Convention, based on what we already know about Mr Al Masri's statements made while he was in Australia in 2001.
Mr Haigh has demanded a full and wide ranging investigation into the Immigration Department, and has attacked the Immigration Minister Chris Evans for being "silly and slow" in the handling of his portfolio.
Mr Smit said:
"Based on the fact that Mr Al Masri was confident that if Australia would send him back to Gaza, he would be killed, even a child would know that we sent him knowingly back to a place he regarded as a place of danger where he feared persecution. Australia knowingly "refouled" Mr Al Masri. No Inquiry is needed for the Department of Immigration to seek to wash its bloody hands off this case."
Mr Haigh, who now lives in Mudgee NSW, stated:
"The Department of Immigration has blood on its hands over the death of Mr. Al Masri an asylum seeker returned to Palestine from Australia and murdered in The Gaza on 1 August. Minister Evans has been silly and slow in continuing to act on advice from a Department politicised by the Howard regime and now fatally flawed.
"The Department must be subjected to a wide ranging and thorough investigation. Reform is long overdue. The former head of the Department, Bill Farmer, and the current head, Andrew Metcalfe, both have blood on their hands, but the malaise and corruption goes a lot deeper than senior officers.
"Any investigation needs to include an examination of the role of the AFP and ASIO, who have officers working in the Immigration Department, in relation to refugees, so called border protection, detention centres and offshore disruption programs.
"Evans needs to toughen up mentally, do his homework, speak to people outside his Department, staff his office with people who have knowledge, wisdom, capacity, courage and compassion.
"Ruddock, Vanstone and Andrews need to be made accountable for their decisions along with Howard who, we recently learned from Immigration officials, was responsible for ordering people who had been found to be refugees to be kept on Nauru.
"Downer should be included on that list for his attempts to return Tamil refugees to Sri Lanka, along with Max Moore-Wilton and Jane Halton for their actions and lies over ' children overboard'.
"The tragedy of Al Masri demands explanations from all those charged with administering such a cruel and flawed policy and requires, as a matter of urgency, reform. 'Eggy' Evans should not be allowed to hide behind his officials. If he doesn't act to reform his department Rudd should sack him."
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
[phone number posted]