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Wednesday 10 March 2010

Howard Govt. Rudd Govt. Where's the Difference?

I know that I voted for Rudd because I wanted us to live up to our humanitarian obligations. We are a signatory to the United Nations Declaration that people have a right to seek asylum. I wanted asylum seekers not to be imprisoned, not to be treated as prisoners. I wanted us to stick up for Australian citizens imprisoned by other governments for political reasons, such as David Hicks was. I wanted us not to send back people who had spent all of their lives, bar a few years in Australia, to other countries out of convenience. We claim to be a multi-cultural society. We need to take the good and the bad with that.

Many asylum seekers work very hard to start afresh in a new country, and many are highly educated. We lack skilled workers in Australia, in all fields. Abbott (opposition leader) and others are using asylum seekers and immigration as a political hot potato. Yet, I do not believe that I was alone in voting for Rudd with the idea that he would be less draconian in his policies than Howard. He is an opportunist, but which politician isn't? And some things have changed in policy, but the opposition party claims that the prior governments policy of dealing with asylum seekers (lock em up, deny them legal access, send em back) was working and the would revert to it. Apparently Christmas Island detention centre is almost at capacity, and there is still a boat waiting in Indonesian waters. According to mainstream media surveys, the general public doesn't seem to have much sympathy towards asylum seekers, but neither does the mainstream media.

Why are people who have lived almost their whole lives being locked up, though? It is reminiscent of the Australian citizens (originally from Germany and the Philippines) who were locked up in detention centres and deported, under Howard, despite holding Australian passports.

As an aside, according to the UNCHR site, Iraqis, Afghanis and Somalis top the list of asylum seekers in the industrialized world (Oct 2009). Who, until recently, had troops in Iraq, and who still has them in Afghanistan? If we are going to contribute to destabilising the world, then we need to realise that there will be humanitarian consequences. We are a party to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and have been since 1951, also known as the Geneva Convention. We have global obligations, unless we want to become a rogue state and go alone. There is more information here, but that UNCHR site is the best source.

So the news story below shows that nothing has changed. The scary thing is, that this man has been held in a detention centre for 3 years, yet he has lived in Australia for 27 years and went through the Australian school system and so on. If he had become naturalised, I assume that his civil rights (I know we have no bill of rights in Australia) would be greatly abused by him being kept in detention for so long. The policy is misguided. If he has done wrong, try him by the Australian judicial system, which is the system that he has lived under for the majority of his life, anyway. The other thing, he is not alone. There are another five people in similar situations of prolonged detention - one for seven years. This policy of one rule for us, one rule for them - which I know has always been a policy towards immigrants and asylum seekers, and to a degree, some form of screening is necessary - will ultimately backfire. Whether your point of view be humanitarian, religiously humanitarian, in favour of democracy, or you just ascribe to decency, these policies fail those points of view without a doubt.
Man to be deported after 27 years in Oz

14:59 AEST Wed Mar 10 2010

By Karlis Salna

Authorities are seeking to deport a Cambodian-born man, raised and educated in Australia since arriving as a nine-year-old some 27 years ago.

The unidentified man does not want to return to Cambodia where six of his eight siblings are reported to have been killed.

He says he no longer has any family or other contacts in Cambodia.

A report by the Commonwealth and Immigration Ombudsman, tabled in the federal parliament on Wednesday, reveals his tragic past.

It includes time spent in jail, where he had a history of self-harm that continued after being placed in immigration detention.

In May 2009, a noose was discovered in his room at the Villawood Detention Centre where he has been for almost three years.

"He is recorded as having attempted self-harm a number of times when previously in gaol, including at least one attempt at hanging," according to the Ombudsman's assessment.

While the report concedes the man has not responded well to attempts at rehabilitation, it points out that having been in Australia for the majority of his life, he is basically a member of the community.

"It nevertheless remains relevant that Mr X came to Australia as a child of nine, was raised and educated here, and, despite his poor record as a member of the community, has been part of the Australian community for almost 27 years."

But despite having been here for much of his life, he is considered a non-citizen, and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship wants to "remove Mr X to Cambodia".

The ombudsman has recommended the man be considered for a suitable visa until a decision is made about his long-term immigration status.

He is one of seven individuals the Ombudsman has reported on.

Five of those included in the document have been in detention for more than three years, including one for almost seven years and another for five years and nine months.

Four of the detainees are being held at Villawood while the other three are in community detention.

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© AAP 2010
The news stories often disappear from Ninemsn, hence my duplicating it in full. A link has been provided.

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this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr