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Why wasn't the Prime Minister told about the Refugee Convention?
For the Prime minister to suggest consulting Indonesia over West Papuan asylum seekers demonstrates either appalling ignorance or arrogance on the International Refugee convention to which Australia is signatory. This is a dangerous move that will place lives in jeopardy as it increases Australia's convention breaches. Although in effect such a move will be further formalising what has been done behind the razor wire and electric fences of our camps for years" says Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) Melbourne.

Examples of these breaches of the Refugee Convention protocols are listed below.

    a.. The Iranian embassy staff were given access to Iranian asylum seekers in detention when Minister Ruddock was attempting a deal to forcibly deport asylum seekers. In Villawood the Iranian detainees turned their backs and refused to speak to the delegates.

    b.. The Immigration department refined the process in Baxter by calling detainees to offices on other pretexts where they were then confronted by representatives of the government from which they had fled.

    c.. The same process happened to their great distress, with the Chinese and the Afghani detainees.

    d.. We know that the names and details of asylum seekers were handed over to the Iranian government because Iranians who were deported were shown lists by Iranian security agents during interrogation on their return. These lists contained the names of Iranians held in Baxter.

    e.. When the asylum seekers who arrived in November off the Kimberly coast from Indonesia, disappeared in Immigration custody, it was the daily visits from the Indonesian consulate which enabled them to be traced to a down market motel in Darwin. While the department was denying that these people were seeking asylum, they were facilitating access by Indonesian representatives who endeavoured to persuade them not to seek asylum.

"All Asylum seekers should have access to legal advice on arrival otherwise there is no independent scrutiny of the process" says Martin Clutterbuck, ASRC Legal team Coordinator. "An example of the failure of the current process occurred when the Kurdish asylum seekers arrived on Australian soil. The department denied that they were seeking asylum and sent them back to Indonesia where they confirmed to the media that they had clearly expressed their desire to seek asylum as refugees."

"The Howard government has demonstrated decreasing commitment to the International Refugee Convention and the human rights it seeks to uphold. This latest move to ingratiate Australia with the Indonesian government is a further breach in a litany of breaches, breaking our word on an international human rights promise." says Pamela Curr.

Contact Pamela Curr 0417517075 Campaign Coordinator Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

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