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Issue #1667      December 3, 2014

Pregnant refugees refuse to get off bus in Darwin

Two refugee families flown from Nauru to Darwin last Saturday around 10pm, have refused to get off a bus that was transporting them to Wickham Point detention centre.

One family, Adnan and his wife, Maryam travelled with their 10 year old son, Amir. The other couple, Hossein and his wife, are Kurdish Iranians.

Both women are around eight months pregnant.

Before they left Nauru, the families were told that they would be accommodated in the community in Darwin. But on arrival were told they would be taken to detention at Wickham Point.

The families have told Immigration officers they would rather take the risk and be sent back to Nauru than spend one night in detention. Both families endured around 15 months in detention on Nauru and have been living “freely” on Nauru since being found to be refugees.

The families have offered to pay for their own motel accommodation, rather than be sent to detention. “We are calling on the Immigration Department to immediately arrange community accommodation for the families. There can be no excuse for trying to place them in detention. They could be accommodated in the community in an instant,” said Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition.

“They are recognised refugees and should be afforded every protection; leave aside the unnecessary stress and anxiety that is being inflicted on the pregnant women. Adnan has a brother living in Melbourne who is more than willing to support and accommodate them.

“This is just one more example of the cruelty and bureaucratic madness of [Immigration Minister] Morrison’s refugee policy.”

Nauru will not permanently settle refugees. People on Nauru found to be refugees are being issued only with a one year visa.

Recently, Nauruan refugees have been the subject of violent vigilante attacks. One refugee, Merhzad, has been blinded in one eye as a result of a vigilante attack a few weeks ago and is still waiting to be properly treated.

“Merhzad and his family should have been brought to Australia along with the families of the two pregnant women. The treatment of all the asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru has recently drawn international condemnation from the UN Committee on Torture.”

Meanwhile, Scott Morrison continues to use the simplistic slogan “Stop the Boats” to add new layers of cruelty and abuse to men, women and children who have a legal right to seek asylum in our country. He is now attempting to use Parliament to give him unprecedented powers that can be exercised without Parliamentary, or judicial scrutiny.

If passed, the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 will empower Scott Morrison to:

  • stop boats at sea, to detain them and take people anywhere, anytime he chooses, and to do so in complete secrecy and irrespective of the international obligations and domestic laws of other countries. Nothing is to be published. The High Court will be prevented from deciding the legality of the “turn back policy”; something presently before the High Court. The only condition is that actions taken will be in the “national interest” which the Minister alone will decide. This is tantamount to piracy and a version of people trafficking.
  • deny asylum seekers natural justice in determining any claim for asylum. The department will arbitrarily determine claims for asylum by enforcing the Minister’s guidelines to “fast track” claims, with no right of appeal to an independent tribunal. This measure will enshrine administrative “screening out”, meaning asylum seekers will not even be allowed to make a protection application. It would directly violate non-refoulement obligations and dramatically increase the risks that asylum seekers would be returned to danger.
  • render stateless children born to asylum seekers in Australia and potentially condemn them to indefinite detention.
  • cap numbers of protection visas issued thereby subverting recent Senate and High Court decisions insisting that asylum seekers found to be refugees are entitled to permanent protection.
  • require asylum seekers to “modify behaviour” to avoid persecution when being returned to their own country. This is one measure among many others designed to circumvent recent court decisions and restrict refugee rights. Such a measure could mean that Christians or gay asylum seekers, for example, could be returned to danger. It could mean gays being expected to hide their sexual orientation or Christians hiding their faith or face persecution and punishment for apostasy. The purpose of the refugee convention will be undermined and Australia will be complicit with the actions of repressive regimes.

The Refugee Action Coalition broadly supports the dissenting reports regarding the Bill by the Senate “Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee”.

“We condemn the recommendation that the Bill be passed,” said Ian Rintoul. “All Senators should beware of blindly accepting reassurances from Morrison’s department, and take note of the wide ranging criticism regarding the Bill’s elimination of fundamental rights.

“If passed into law, the Bill will entrench the secrecy that surrounds Morrison and the Immigration Department and give Morrison unbridled authoritarian power over the lives of people who need, and have a right to, protection.”

Stop the Bill; Stop Scott Morrison!

Next article – Vale Alan Miller

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