Thursday March 30 2006 10:00am WST
For Immediate Release
WA Rights group Project SafeCom renewed its call this morning for a Royal Commission into the treatment of refugees, asylum seekers and immigration detainees under the Howard government, upon the next report from the Commonwealth Immigration Ombudsman into the circumstances of the mentally ill Bangladeshi man "Mr X", who has become Australia's longest incarcerated asylum seeker.
But the group also qualified the conditions of such a Royal Commission, and spokesman Jack H Smit said he would not want such an inquiry as long as the Howard government was in power.
Mr Smit said: "We know full well that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General would numb the terms of reference of a Royal Commission into Immigration issues, and what any Royal Commission called by the Howard government would prevent is to ask the hard questions about the authorship of the corrupt Immigration culture.
"We would also want to know how the Prime Minister, for example through his 2001 election sloganeering as well as through his memo's and verbal instructions to the Immigration Department via the former Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock and the former DIMA Secretary Bill Farmer, through his personal refusal to honour the rights of 'unannounced arrivals', has personally caused the corruption in the DIMA culture."
"It would be explicitly dangerous to call this Royal Commission through the hand of the current Prime Minister and the current Attorney-General."
"On several occasions in the last five years we have had contact with a Bangladeshi person in detention who we suspect to be the man named as "Mr X" in the Ombudsman's report. The mental illness of the man can be traced right back to the gross negligence on the part of DIMA, and the ongoing culture of put-downs and inhumane treatment right from the start of his detention - the culture of incarceration especially in the Curtin detention and later Woomera is well-documented."
"The horror of what we do to asylum seekers has followed this man right from the start of his arrival. Right at the start, in the Curtin detention centre, he was "screened out" and was kept with others in isolation for eleven months, without phone calls, without access to radio or television, without visitors, and without legal advice, locked up in a degrading Gulag at the hand of representatives of a fanatic post 2001-election government, intent on torturing unauthorised arrivals and indeed, as many asylum seekers have said, treating them worse than animals."
Project SafeCom launched its Royal Commission Petition in March 2005, and fifteen thousand signatures have already been tabled in Federal Parliament and presented to the Speaker of the House by ALP MP's Dr Carmen Lawrence and Tony Burke.
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]