Wednesday May 18 2005 12:00am WST
For Immediate Release
WA Refugee advocates Project SafeCom expressed its abhorrence this morning after announcements by the Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone that a Memorandum of Understanding was reached with the government of Afghanistan in Kabul which provides for deportation, also forcibly, of refugees who fled Afghanistan four years ago.
"We have still some time before Mr Howard dominates the Senate, and right now Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett is visiting Nauru for the third time as the only parliamentarian, and this whole debacle is an excellent opportunity to fry DIMIA over its latest and shonky mishandling of the poor folks on Nauru."
"This new 'Only in Australia' phase in undermining of the UN Refugee Convention is almost unbelievable," spokesman Jack H Smit said today. "First, we had in 2001 the Australian government engaging in a project of people smuggling, where those who fled the Taliban, seeking Australia's protection, while unbeknownst to them, they get secretly carted off to Nauru, out of sight and out of mind of Australian voters prior to the election."
"Next, the Howard government engaged in stand-over tactics and blackmail, forcing an agreement with a bankrupt government - and a government that engaged for decades in very questionable procedures and money-laundering, well recorded by international media and known to the Australian government."
"Then, the Howard government embarked on a concerted campaign of accusing hundreds of Afghanis of lying about their nationality by trying to paint them as "Pakistani economic migrants", a campaign led by former Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock, who used the now well discredited example of Mr Ali Bakhtiari."
"Next, for a full year, dozens of refugees on Nauru, already accepted on assessment as genuine refugees, were left to rot on the island, while the Department of Immigration did nothing in terms of case review and assessment, leaving everyone on Nauru to go mad in sheer agony, while when some women on the island protested over it by throwing some rocks around, Philip Ruddock came out with statements in the media that they 'were seeking attention' with their protests."
"And now, while Ruddock's vilification campaign is entirely discredited and they're all proven to be indeed from Afghanistan, the Minister would like to make them disappear from Australia - in the process ignoring that they are refugees, who remain as Hazaras and members of other minority groups in fear of persecution, and while Afghanistan remains a country nobody should be forced to return to, according to repeated statements by UNHCR."
Hazaras in Afghanistan have just recently reported that in the region where they live, they are 'hunted like rabbits'. Just yesterday an advocate in Australia received an email from someone in the region (text not edited, inserted 'as is'):
"i just went to afganistan. i could not go to my own home land but i went to some other districks there were many of pashtoons ruling on our area. then i went to state of (UROZGAN) there were a lot of taliban. every day i have been caught by them. thay keep asking me different kind of questions. like why r u here? whom do u work for? where r u from? where do u stay in here? many like this in these days. they have big fights with americans. the day when i was ther american had killed 15 locals in different places. there was not a good situation. i went to look for a job with americans but in that time it extreamly risk to work with them. i came back to Pakistan. i have no future."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]