Update on Sri Lankan asylum seekers – flown to Nauru today

At the time I am writing this, 82 asylum seekers are within an hour of being put on a chartered plane, along with 68 accompanying Australian officials. The charter flight the federal government solely to fly 8 Burmese refugees from Christmas Island to Nauru in October last year cost $225 000. I presume this flight is a larger plane. The government’s figures say the average cost of maintaining the facility on Nauru is about $2 million a month, although this will presumably now go up significantly.

I just received the following in an email from a refugee advocate regarding the Sri Lankan asylum seekers, which gives a bit more information:

At 1pm Christmas Island time (5pm Eastern summer time) 82 young men and boys including the underage minor will be loaded on a charter flight in the custody of 68 immigration staff and Australian Federal Police and taken to the impoverished island of Nauru where they will be detained in this island gulag until the Howard regime is over.
In response to the exposure of the Governments action in denying lawful requests for legal assistance from these young men, the department has today issued each person with a letter stating “We will give you lawyers and legal advice on Nauru” and telling them that they can apply for Australia or another country when they are on Nauru.
Naturally the Government will not tell them what they have told us – namely that they will never be allowed to come to Australia or explain where these “lawyers” will come from since there are none on Nauru.
There is no question that many if not all of these young men have strong claims for protection.
• Many have been tortured, beaten, imprisoned, seen family members killed or had friends and family disappear.
• Many have pieces of shrapnel lodged in their bodies from being caught in crossfire or in direct attack.
• All are young men in late teens or early 20’s, a group at risk of being press ganged into fighting or killed by either side.
• All are Tamils from Sri Lanka- a country at war with itself in a violent and bloody conflict
Thank you for your many kind offers of phones but as you have probably guessed, mobile phones are of no use where these young men are going. Even the Telstra phone system has been broken for months. The local phone system is very expensive-1dollar per minute to Australia and there are only 2 phones for over 90 people.

UPDATE: I just found this article about child soldiers in Sri Lanka on the recently initiated Brisbane Times site. It gives a very current insight into how dangerous it can be for Tamils, no matter what position they take on the long running civil war there.

Bus taking refugees to their chartered jet flight to Nauru  -  Xmas island airport, 17/3/07 (photo by Xmas Island Rural Australians for Refugees group.)
Bus taking refugees to their chartered jet flight to Nauru – Xmas island airport, 17/3/07. (photo by Xmas Island Rural Australians for Refugees group)

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  1. they will be detained in this island gulag until the Howard regime is over

    Has Labor guaranteed it will close down the facility in Nauru if elected? And does anyone expect Labor to make any noise about the asylum seeker issue in the lead-up to the election, or is it (as I suspect) not a vote-winner for the masses?

  2. I just watched the ABC news and it’s obviously under political censorship as this story was not even mentioned this evening.

    This is an outrage. What kind of country can call itself “civilised” and do this?

  3. I have always had strong feelings against the mandatory detention policy this country has implemented. Stories like this convince me even more that Howard’s policy is not only an affront against human rights but also an affront against the basic human compassion.

  4. Megan has noted that the ABC is down the tube as to the reporting of “Christian” Kevin Andrews’
    gratuitously extravagant Nauru antic.
    I wonder if readers have noted a similar trend on other issues that go against the government, of late, as to ABC and SBS, or read the comments of the “Australian” media writer Amanda Meade on the appalling sacking of SBS’s Dateline producer as part of that shows “dumbing down”.
    Back to main topic.
    As to the Nauru issue itself, one suspects that Labor might keep Xmass Island, shut down Nauru and generally try to trim the more brutal, irrational, ideological and generally obnoxious facets of the current regime, whilst not risking letting go of basic control over the process by government.
    They would be touchy about changing things too radically, after being burnt so badly during the Hansonist election of 2001. These things leave scars.

  5. This mob say they are good economic managers but they waste these extraordinary amounts to break the law and damage innocent people in the process.

    I wonder how Syria and Jordan must feel with over 1 million new Iraqi refugees each because we joined the coalition of mass murderers and blew up Iraq? Are they like Pakistan were in 2001 and gobsmacked because they had upwards of 6 million unregistered Afghan refugees and we were whining about 433?

    The cost to IOM so far is more than $300 million to lock up people against their own charter. We paid them in Cambodia, Cocos Islands, Indonesia, Keeling Islands and even Christmas Island to lock up innocent human beings – they made more profit from Australia than anywhere else in the world and they are only mercenaries.

  6. There have been reports – for example from A Just Australia – that there is an unaccompanied minor among the group.

    Has anyone been able to confirm this? I though detention of children ‘only as a last resort’ was now written into the legislation.

  7. Marylin Shepherd’s post raises just the point. We know bugger all about what goes on behind the scenes and we are never encourged to see what goes on from beyond a certain trajectory.
    the numbers she mentions are fearsome. And can we rely on the government or UN, or a castrated local media to give us the sort ofinformation we need to know to make informed decisions?
    Instead we get more of Abbott on the one hand and the likes of Piers Ackerman on the other. Sillier than wheels!

  8. Yes Ben there is a 17 year old boy among the Tamil asylum seekers. Efforts to stop him being sent to Nauru failed. Government promises not to lock up “Unaccompanied Minors” (DIAC phrase for underage asylum seekers) must have been a non-core promise!
    This boy was in the compound with the others on Friday during the day. I am told that he was distressed and crying on and off all day.

  9. Yeah well the deranged media are still whining about people smuggling as if it is real. People paying agent’s to leave a place of persecution has happened since the beginning of time.

    Imagine, this government would lock up the person who sold the donkey to Joseph and Mary and call him an evil people smuggler.

    It is cretinous in the extreme.

    Any who want to argue with me on this can find over 2 dozen cases at sievx.com and follow the links to people smuggling.

    IN all the court cases the judges say clearly “this is not people smuggling.”

  10. Coral I can guarantee that I know a good deal more than almost anyone else in Australia.

    Right Andrew?

  11. Coral I can guarantee that I know a good deal more than almost anyone else in Australia.
    that i must agree with marilyn.
    but you are all missing the point.
    the point is as long as we are all consentrating on a few poor buggers who try there luck in a boat we are NOT taking mutch notice of the others who are ariving by other means
    i would sugest that you all take a good look.
    mabe you could give us the numbers marilyn.
    and from what countrys they are comming from.

  12. even though I don’t always agree with the conclusions she draws from all the facts, or the way she sometimes argues the case in regard to them, I would agree that Marilyn knows more of the details in this area that all but a few people.

  13. Andrew I haven’t been wrong too often I think but thank you. Of course I do have an advantage.

    Over the past 16 years over 64,000 asylum seekers have arrived here. Only 15,000 came on the boats, with over 90% of them being refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran and still here as genuine refugees.

    Of the others about half flew from China and were not deemed to be refugees, while smaller groups have come from Russia, Kosovo, Peru, Brazil, Sierra Leone, Iran (stowaways), Thailand, quite a number from Fiji after the 2000 coup, many from Lebanon including Ruddock’s special deal for 200 phalangist collaborator families from Lebanon, Indonesia, India (one of the biggest groups now), Bangladesh.

    By contrast to the groups who came on the boats I think 9% of this lot who flew here are refugees.

    Mostly because if you can travel legally you are not likely to be in major trouble with the government you claim refuse to protect you.

    One shocking case is the Iraqis who were in Iran for years. In 1998 the Iranian government gave them two choices – go back to Iraq or accept a one way visa to anywhere. Same with the Afghans.

    Now of the 5 million Iraqi refugees we got 5,000 and of the 7 million Afghans we got just over 4,200.

  14. marilym.
    do you have any numbers for african,s comming into australia.
    especialy west australia.

  15. Red Crab it is my understanding that the WA Ethnic Community Council of WA quote that Western Australia recieves 15% of the total annual intake of humanitarian entrants to Australia.

  16. Red Crab I also understand that the 2006/07 intake of refugee humanitarian entrants was made up of 50% Africans which is down on the 70% for the 2004/05 period.

  17. This is from DIAC Red – dont know where the people settled initially, although no doubt they could tell you.

    Offshore resettlement programme, grants by region, 2002/3 to 2005-06
    Region 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06
    Europe 1158 354 20 55
    Middle East & SW Asia 4701* 2867*** 3174 4335
    Africa 5616 8353 8486 7100
    Asia 181** 221 415 1260
    America 0 7 1 8
    Total 11 656 11 802 12 096 12 758
    * Includes 311 grants to mainly Afghan and Iraqis in the Offshore Processing Centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
    ** Includes 26 grants to out of region cases.
    *** Includes 90 grants to mainly Afghan and Iraqis in the Offshore Processing Centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

  18. thats interesting ken thank you and ppl are getting upset over a few boat ppl from the middle east and india. i asked about africans because they seem to be everywhere here in the west.
    they seem to have a lot of social problems .

    re 17
    thats a prity good record for w.a. kaye when you consider that w.a. has less than 10% of the population.

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