Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Australian High Court rubberstamps “fast track” denial of refugee visas

By Mike Head World Socialist Web Site
30 April 2018
On April 18, Australia’s supreme court paved the way for the federal gvernment to speed up the deportation of up to 30,000 asylum seekers who managed to escape to the country by boat between August 2012 and January 2014.
Five judges unanimously sanctioned the government’s “fast track” system of rejecting protection visa applications, taking the overturning of the basic legal and democratic rights of refugees to a new level. The case was the first time the system’s legality had been challenged in the High Court.
The judges endorsed the 2016 refusal of a temporary protection visa to an Iranian man, identified only as Plaintiff M174/2016, who had arrived in Australia in 2012. Despite a flagrant violation of procedural fairness, the court backed the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA) in confirming his rejection by then Immigration (now Home Affairs) Minister Peter Dutton.
The court’s decision will help the Liberal-National Coalition government more quickly send thousands of asylum seekers back to the countries they fled, regardless of whether they face persecution, that is, the risk of death or serious harm.
Over the past year, the government has been trying to remove a “backlog” of an estimated 30,000 refugees who arrived and were detained within Australia before the last Labor government reopened Australia’s offshore detention facilities on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island in 2012.
The government’s measures have included de-funding legal advice services and threatening to cut off the limited work and welfare rights of asylum seekers, who have mostly lived in the community on insecure bridging visas while waiting for their applications to be decided.
The IAA was a fig-leaf review body established in 2015 under “fast track” amendments to the Migration Act that gave the immigration minister arbitrary power to deny visas, abolishing previous rights of appeal to a tribunal.
The minister may, as a matter of discretion, permit some applicants to seek review by the IAA, but it has no power to reverse a rejection, only to possibly recommend a ministerial reconsideration. Moreover, the IAA decides cases “on the papers” without the applicant having any right to a hearing, or even to produce new evidence.
The IAA affirmed a decision by the minister’s delegate to refuse Plaintiff M174 a visa after the delegate phoned the reverend of a Melbourne church in order to try to refute the Iranian man’s claim that he faced harm if returned to Iran because he had converted to Christianity.
The reverend reportedly told the delegate that Plaintiff M174 had not attended church regularly for a while, whereupon the delegate concluded that the man had faked Christianity “in order to falsely strengthen his claim for protection.” In reality, the Iranian refugee had moved to another suburb.
The delegate gave the man no opportunity to respond to the reverend’s accusation. This clearly breached the long-established principle of procedural fairness, or natural justice, that an applicant must be informed of, and given the chance to address, any adverse information.
Moreover, the Migration Act states applicants must be made aware of all “relevant information,” including information that may be part of the reason for refusing to grant a visa.
Nonetheless, the High Court found that the delegate and the IAA had not failed to comply with the Act, nor acted “unreasonably” by not giving Plaintiff M174 the particulars of what the reverend said. Perversely, the judges concluded that the reverend’s information actually supported the refugee’s claim, “so far as it went.”
The plight of the 30,000 refugees is the direct responsibility of the previous Labor government, which was kept in office by the Greens from 2010 to 2013, as well as of the present Coalition government.
After their arrival, the Gillard Labor government declared that all future asylum seekers would be sent to Nauru or Manus. In July 2013, the second Rudd Labor government then shut the border permanently, saying no refugees who arrived by boat would ever to be permitted to settle in Australia.
The Labor governments also pioneered the “fast track” system by initiating the “fast track” processing of Tamil refugees, which they sent back to Sri Lanka in their hundreds without even the right to apply for asylum.
Last September, the High Court also approved the forced removal of asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, even though it was proven they faced appalling conditions of imprisonment in that country, including “torture, maltreatment and violence.”
The court has a long record of rubber-stamping the tearing up of the fundamental legal and democratic rights of refugees by successive Labor and Liberal-National governments. This has included dismissing challenges to Australia’s indefinite detention of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island, including in defiance of a Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruling that the incarceration on Manus violated the country’s constitution.
This political and judicial record is doubly damning because most of the thousands of refugees who have brutally detained and/or deported have fled the catastrophes created by repeated invasions and military interventions in the Middle East by the US and its partners, including Australia.
Ever since the first Persian Gulf War of 1990–1991, Washington and its allies have been engaged in endless wars to establish their dominance over the oil- and gas-rich regions of the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa. These wars have shattered entire societies, fomented sectarian conflicts and produced human misery throughout the region.
Having devastated cities and towns, turning millions of people into refugees on a scale not seen since World War II, the Australian ruling class has barred all entry to asylum seekers and gone to ever-greater lengths to overturn core legal rights. It has set a lead that has since been followed by governments across Europe and the US.
The precedents being established are also a threat to the basic rights of all working people. They validate powers, such as detention without trial and deportation without due process, that can and will be used more broadly as the military, economic, social and political situation worsens in Australia and globally.
The author also recommends:
Thousands of Australian asylum seekers face deportation
[31 March 2017]
Oppose the persecution of immigrants and refugees
[3 May 2017]

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Guns, Racism, and Mimetic Theory: Disarming Fear With Love
Lindsey Paris-Lopez March 2, 2018

Recent developments in the gun control debate make me cautiously hopeful that our nation may be on its way toward curbing and maybe even transforming our violence. But that means there is a special urgency in this moment that we must channel toward understanding, compassion, and repentance.
A New Hope
First, the hope: The amazing students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School of Parkland, Florida, have made more progress on the issue of sensible gun restrictions in the past two and a half weeks than I have ever seen in my lifetime. Their indefatigable spirit has ignited the nation’s conscience and stirred our passion…………….
The Mimetic Elements of the Gun Debate
…..I would not characterize the gun control debate as a strict mimetic rivalry, because there is a spectrum of ideas concerning gun rights and restrictions, not just two opposing sides. However, the national conversation on gun control tends to polarize people on different sides of the spectrum, and there are mimetic elements to this conflict. Though parties on either side of the gun debate want different policies enacted, they share a desire to shape the narrative on guns and the role they play in the vulnerability and security of society. And parties on either side of the gun debate characterize the other side as ignorant, naïve, or even dangerous. The call to arm teachers has polarized those who believe that such a measure would be the ultimate protection against those who see it as an invitation to disaster, with both sides accusing the other of failing to do what is necessary to protect children…………
As long as fear and enmity fuel the gun debate, guns will win.
Changing the Narrative
It may seem naïve to bring compassion to a gun fight, but compassion, empathy and understanding are essential for disarming our fears and transforming our culture of violence………
There is a deeper truth, the truth that life is grounded in Love and humans are made in the image of Love. While this is not a universally acknowledged truth, those who believe it because of their faith in God, humanity, or both, have a responsibility to live according to that faith………..
Steps for Transforming Our Violence
1. Recognize the history of racism, xenophobia and fear behind both gun rights and gun control. ……
2. Understand the mimetic nature of guns themselves.
3. Curb our militarism.
4. Love our enemies.
These steps will take time. In the meantime, there may be quicker elements of gun control that can be implemented, and they can make a difference, but they will still be enforced by a violent government with a history of disarming the marginalized and therefore subject to skepticism, and they will most likely be offset by counter-movements by gun rights activists. The most meaningful changes will not occur until we change the nature of fear and enmity that drive our nation to war and to arms. It is time to disarm fear with love.
Read more https://www.ravenfoundation.org/guns-mimetic-theory-disarming-fear-love/

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Open letter from ex-detainee and torture survivor condemning Wheelers Centre for their questionable decision to invite Human rights violator Phillip Ruddock to speak Today on “Human Rights”

Event details – Today (Tuesday, 12th July 2016) 6.15pm 7.15pm http://www.wheelercentre.com/events/human-rights-with-philip-ruddock

I am writing to complain about your forthcoming event featuring Phillip Ruddock. My name is Abdul Baig. I am a former refugee, now Australian citizen, and I was detained in immigration detention for three years during Philip Ruddock’s time as immigration minister.
The decision by the Wheeler Centre to invite Phillip Ruddock lends undue credibility to him as a human rights spokesperson. By inviting him to speak on human rights, you downplay his reprehensible human rights record, and add to the continued trauma and suffering of refugees like myself.
In the biography of Phillip Ruddock on your website, you distort by omission and through the use of euphemism, his human rights legacy. The words you use to describe his time as immigration minister are ‘turbulent’, ‘controversial’ and even ‘transformative’. I would like these words to be placed in their true context.
Woomera detention centre
I would like to remind the Wheeler Centre of the chaotic scenes that occurred at Woomera detention centre between 2001 and 2002 when the department was under Ruddock’s control.
Events at that centre included:
Mass suicide attempts involving the swallowing of detergent
Mass hunger strikes (the worst lasting 16 days)
People sewing up their lips
People digging their own graves
The centre being set on fire (this also occurred at Port Hedland and Baxter in November 2002).
Ruddock argued that the ‘behaviour’ of detained people in these centres was due to ‘alien cultural practices’ and that their acts were done with the intention of blackmailing the government into making positive visa decisions.
Up to 50 people were involved in a shocking 16-day hunger strike at Woomera in mid-2002. It was only when Ruddock feared that these people might die, that an emergency special advisory group was established to negotiate. The refugees at this centre asked for improved living conditions, better treatment and an open, transparent processing system.
Detained children
Between July 1999 and June 2003, 3,125 children were imprisoned in immigration detention. Shayan Baidrie was one such child, detained at Woomera. Having witnessed some of the sights I’ve mentioned above, he became unresponsive, paralytic and would not feed.
Over a three month period Shayan was hospitalised seven times in order to be rehydrated. Ruddock’s response to Shayan was to blame the child’s parents for ‘coaching’ the boy. He also said that the child had not witnessed a suicide, as had been claimed, because the trees at Woomera were too short to hang from.
Ruddock’s position on the necessity of detaining children remained fixed throughout his tenure.
Deaths in immigration detention
In a three year period from 2000 to 2003, 17 people died in immigration detention; these deaths were from suicide and medical neglect.
A further 730 people died in this period at sea, 353 in one day alone in the SIEV X disaster. A Senate Committee report into this incident held that it was “extraordinary that a major human disaster could occur in the vicinity of a theatre of intensive Australian operations and remain undetected until three days after the event without any concern being raised within intelligence and decision-making circles.”
Deportation of refugees
A report by the Edmund Rice Centre, a catholic organisation, tracked the fate of refugees deported during Phillip Ruddock’s tenure, in contravention of Australia’s non-refoulement obligations. In 2004 they released a report on 40 deported asylum seekers.
They found that 35 were living in conditions of acute danger. The report also argued that the payment of money and falsification of documentation by the Commonwealth government in the deportation process ‘invited accusations of corruption’.
The report noted that deportation practices under the period in which Ruddock was minister showed disrespect ‘for the standards of civilised behaviour and disregard for the human rights obligations imposed on Australia by various international treaties and declarations’.
The imprisonment of Australian residents and citizens
Under Ruddock’s leadership up to 200 cases emerged of Australian residents and citizens being falsely imprisoned in immigration detention, the most famous cases being the detention of mentally ill woman Cornelia Rau who was imprisoned for 10 months, and the detention and deportation of Australian citizen Vivien Alvarez Solon, who had been seriously injured in a car accident before she was picked up by immigration.
Architect of the Pacific Solution
Ruddock is the architect of the Pacific Solution. For three days, 438 shipwrecked asylum seekers were left aboard the Tampa, without adequate food, water or medical care as the government refused to allow the vessel into Australian waters. Up to 1,615 people were detained on Manus Island and Nauru between 2001 and 2008.
The Children Overboard affair
Ruddock was at the centre of the children overboard affair; he stated that parents had thrown their own children overboard when this had never occurred. Reports suggest that Ruddock was aware that this was not the truth.
Legislating to deny people asylum
Under Ruddock’s watch legislation was introduced to prevent people from seeking asylum. This was done though excising Australian territory from the Migration Act, interdicting boats on route to Australia and pushing them back into Indonesian waters, freezing refugee application claims and introducing temporary protection visas. Making conditions unbearable in detention centres through the systematic abuse of detained people was another well-known strategy.
Human rights organisations criticise Phillip Ruddock’s record
Australia’s detention centre policy has been resoundingly criticised throughout Ruddock’s tenure by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The United Nations Advisory Group on Immigration Detention, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Working Group on Immigration Detention, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the Australian Ombudsman.
I struggle to understand how a person with this legacy could be invited by your esteemed organisation to speak on the topic of human rights.
The Wheeler Centre suggests its programs are politically neutral; it argues on its website that views which are presumably abhorrent to one section of the community can be ‘balanced’ at a later time, by events featuring people with different views. Yet this fails to recognise the profound harm and injustice caused to the victims of human rights abuses, when perpetrators are invited to speak on human rights topics.

Abdul Baig – RISE member and ex-detainee
Link to the post : http://riserefugee.org/open-letter-from-ex-detainee-and-torture-survivor-to-the-wheelers-centre-on-their-questionable-decision-to-invite-human-rights-violator-phillip-ruddock-to-speak-today-on-human-rights/
RISE Admin
Refugee Survivors and Ex-detainees
level 1, Ross House 247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Victoria 3000
T:(03)9639 8623|M:0430 007 586|F:(03)9650 3689|web:www.riserefugee.org/

RISE acknowledges that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the original owners and custodians of the land that we live and work on.

RISE is a unique organisation governed by refugees, asylum seekers, and ex-detainees to enable refugees to build new lives by providing advice, engaging in community development, enhancing opportunity, and campaigning for refugee rights.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A prayer for the mothers of people in Australia’s offshore detention centres

Creator God,
Who was with the Mother of Moses as she suffered the loss of her missing child,
Who was with the Mother of Jesus as they fled together through the desert,
And who loves the mothers of the young men who have been treated so cruelly on Manus,
See the fears they carry in their bodies,
See them tossing in their sleep.
Creator of Justice and Mercy,
Who inspires in the heart of every person a desire to be good,
Who weeps about the violence of our collective sins,
And who loves our politicians who are responsible for those young men.
See the fears they carry in their bodies,
See them tossing in their sleep.
Creator of Community,
Who is the embodiment of perfect community,
Who challenges everyone to love their neighbour and their enemy.
And who invites everyone to eat together at the table,
Grant us the vision to see all those mothers who are not in front of us today,
Grant us with courage to welcome the stranger.
(Prayer from the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce) ‪#‎MothersDay ‪#‎refugees ‪#‎Manus
From Catholic Religious Australia website)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

PNG's Supreme Court rules detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal By PNG correspondent Eric Tlozek and political reporter Stephanie Anderson

Updated earlier today at 4:58am
Asylum seekers stare at media from behind a fence
Photo: The court ordered PNG and Australia immediately take steps to end the detention of asylum seekers in PNG. (AAP: Eoin Blackwell, file photo)
Related Story: PNG Government says refugee assessments on Manus Island completed
Related Story: Iranian refugee on Manus hopes PNG will reconsider his case after tree protest
Related Story: Manus detainees say they will be allowed to leave centre during the day
Map: Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court has ruled Australia's detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal.
Key points:

Judges say detention on PNG breached asylum seekers' fundamental human rights
Lawyer says PNG ignored it own laws when taking in Australia's refugees
Dutton says no refugees will be resettled in Australia
Greens pushing for detainees to be brought to Australia

The five-man bench of the court ruled the detention breached the right to personal liberty in the PNG constitution.

There are 850 men in the detention centre on Manus Island, about half of whom have been found to be refugees.

The Supreme Court has ordered the PNG and Australian Governments to immediately take steps to end the detention of asylum seekers in PNG.

"Both the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments shall forthwith take all steps necessary to cease and prevent the continued unconstitutional and illegal detention of the asylum seekers or transferees at the relocation centre on Manus Island and the continued breach of the asylum seekers or transferees constitutional and human rights," the judges ordered.

In one of two lead judgments, Justice Terence Higgins said the detention also breached asylum seekers' fundamental human rights guaranteed by various conventions on human rights at international law and under the PNG constitution.

"Treating those required to remain in the relocation centre as prisoners irrespective of their circumstances or status … is to offend against their rights and freedoms," Judge Higgins said.
'Disgraceful' decision to take in Australia's refugees

Media player: "Space" to play, "M" to mute, "left" and "right" to seek.
Video: Julian Burnside on PNG Supreme Court finding Manus detention is illegal (The World)

Loani Henao, the lawyer for former PNG opposition leader Belden Namah, said the decision showed the PNG Government had ignored its own laws when it accepted Australia's asylum seekers.

"The gist of the ruling is the arrangement between the governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia is unconstitutional from day one," he said.

Mr Henao said PNG was influenced by Australia in amending its constitution, to the benefit of Australia.

"That is disgraceful," he said.

The centre operators and PNG's immigration authorities have recently been trying to move refugees out of detention and into a so-called transit centre.

They are also offering them the chance to leave detention during the day under certain conditions.

The asylum seekers whose applications have not succeeded are unable to leave detention and are being told they must go back to their country of origin.

The Supreme Court decision means both groups — refugees and asylum seekers — are being illegally detained, because their freedom of movement is curtailed.

Media player: "Space" to play, "M" to mute, "left" and "right" to seek.

Video: Explainer: What does the ruling mean? (ABC News)
Refugees won't be resettled in Australia: Dutton

But Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said no detainees would be resettled in Australia.

In a statement, Mr Dutton said the ruling would not alter Australia's border protection policies.

The Government has no other option but to bring the people left there to Australia and allow them to apply for an Australian visa
Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young

"No one who attempts to travel to Australia illegally by boat will settle in Australia," he said.

"Those in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre found to be refugees are able to resettle in Papua New Guinea. Those found not to be refugees should return to their country of origin.

"People who have attempted to come illegally by boat and are now in the Manus facility will not be settled in Australia."

Mr Dutton said the agreement with PNG to establish the Manus Island centre was negotiated by the Gillard Labor government, but Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles told the ABC the former government had only signed a 12-month contract.
Fact check: Australia's responsibility

Is Australia responsible for asylum seekers detained on Manus Island? ABC's FactCheck investigates

Mr Marles said Mr Dutton needed to travel to PNG to sort out the issue as soon as tomorrow.

"We negotiated a 12-month agreement with Papua New Guinea for the use of Manus Island as an offshore processing facility in the expectation that the vast bulk of people would be processed and settled in that period of time," he said.

"Instead, we've seen a complete failure on the part of the Turnbull Government."

Mr Marles would not be drawn on whether remaining detainees should be transferred to Australia, saying instead it was important the people smuggler trade did not restart.
Greens say the 'game is up'

Greens immigration spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young has called for all remaining detainees to be brought to Australia.

Senator Hanson-Young told the ABC "the game was up" and Mr Turnbull has to listen to legal and humanitarian experts.

Australia must … promptly shut the centre down and transport all of the detainees to Australia for processing of their claims for asylum
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie

"Really the Government now has no other option but to bring the people left there to Australia and allow them to apply for an Australian visa," she said.

"They've seen two of their colleagues in the detention centre die, one at the hands of guards and another because he had an infected foot which became septic. These are people who have already suffered."

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has backed her calls, describing offshore processing as "a gaping hole in Australia's soul".

"Australia must immediately respect the court ruling, promptly shut the centre down and transport all of the detainees to Australia for processing of their claims for asylum," Mr Wilkie said.

PNG's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill last month told the National Press Club in Canberra that he wanted the regional processing centre to close.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

In Remembrance of Me A Poem for Maundy Thursday

Stained glass window depicting Jesus and the apostles at the Last Supper in the cathedral of Brussels. by jorisvo / Shutterstock.com
By Lindsey Paris-Lopez Sojourners March 24, 2016
I am this broken and bleeding world.
I am Brussels, blown apart, the strewn limbs, the piercing wail of a mother for her baby.
I am Yemen, at the marketplace, charred bodies of children face-down in the dust.
I am Syria, families cramming into boats as guns and missiles chase them from the shore.
I am Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, pockmarked by bomb blasts, orphaned children hiding away from clear blue skies.
I am the growling of empty bellies drowned by the sound of gold pouring into the bottomless coffers of the war machines as they devour their sustenance and spit out death in return.
I am generation upon generation of silenced and vanished victim buried in the ground and trampled.
I am slain from the foundation of the world.
Absorbing the fear and hate of thousands of years,
I clothed myself in flesh and vulnerability
And came back to my plundered home.
I walked among those whose pain I had shouldered from the beginning of time,
The cast off and thrown away.
I took the leper into my arms.
In my eyes the used and exploited found their humanity reflected back to them.
I opened the eyes of the blind.
I fed the starving with bread and wisdom.
I took the children on my knee.
As I walked, I scattered the Love in which I was born before time began.
A sick and aching world takes time to heal.
And in that time, fear moves fast.
The Powers that build their empires by exploiting divisions –
Only to reign in the sprawling chaos by uniting the deceived people against someone –
Have named me the enemy.
So now I come to you, my friends,
As we gather around this table.
And you quarrel about who among you is the greatest.
Don’t you see, it is this me-against-you attitude
That has brought me here, to the brink of my destruction?
For one evening, let us put aside the bitter bickering
And enjoy one last feast, one final fellowship.
If you want to be great, cast off the shackles of self-doubt that choke out your love for each other,
If you want glory, make it manifest in acts of service.
I come among you, I come below you, washing your feet,
To show you love you’ve never known.
You will never know how blessed and beloved you are,
Until you let the love within you pour out to others.
From the beginning of time, I have seen brother set against brother,
Nation set against nation,
Selfishness erupt in violence, converging upon victim after victim
All sprung from the same seed of desire for greatness against someone else.
If you want to be great, be for others,
Even as I am for you.
I am this broken and bleeding world.
This bread is my broken body.
This cup is my spilled blood.
As it has been done to victims from the beginning of time,
So it is done to me.
I give my broken self to you.
Take in my life.
Let me nourish you with my love
Until the spirit of compassion bursts the old wineskins of your brittle hearts …
Until you become a new creation.
Let the body of my work become the work of your body.
Embrace the outcasts,
Reconcile enemies,
Feed my sheep.
Unite in me, with me in you.
I give my broken self to you –
Only in coming together can the fullness of my life be manifest again.
Let this bread bind you together,
Let this wine wash away your divisions.
I am broken for a broken world
A world that needs your love
To be made whole again.
Take me into you and become my body.
Eat this bread.
Drink this wine.
Do this in re-membrance of me.
Lindsey Paris-Lopez
Lindsey Paris-Lopez is editor-in-chief at the Raven Foundation, where she uses mimetic theory to provide social commentary on religion, politics, and pop culture.