I’ve not been blogging recently, though I’ve been tweeting a fair bit, and I’ve been getting more and more disconcerted by what the Australian government has been up to, especially with respect to refugees. We are seeing the emergence of a militaristic approach where the facts about rights to seek asylum are conveniently ignored and refugees are labelled as “illegal” (they’re not) and a threat to our borders (they’re not). Questions are met with silence (unless they happen to coincide with their agenda) to frankly absurd levels.
"Seeking asylum is not illegal under international law and people have a right to be treated humanely and with dignity." – UNHCR #auspol
— Chris Samuel (@chris_bloke) July 4, 2014
We keep them in concentration camps on foreign soil and deprive them of necessities even though they’ve committed no crime and we leave them to go mad from boredom, fear and neglect. We’ve had one person murdered in our care with the prime suspect being a Salvation Army worker, but somehow after 6 months nobody has been charged. Others were seriously injured, but their assailants haven’t been charged either.
Now we have the situation of refugees from Sri Lanka who have boarded boats in India being intercepted at sea and returned, not to Indias care, but to the Sri Lankan navy where on their return to Sri Lanka they are then handed over to the police for prosection (as it’s apparently illegal to leave Sri Lanka without permission, the sentence is “two years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine”).
Eric Abetz says Australia doesn't disappear people. Instead it seems it outsources it to a country that disappears people. Aus called on SL to end "all cases of abductions and disappearances … abuse, torture or mistreatment by police and security forces" 2012
— Chris Samuel (@chris_bloke) July 7, 2014
"Fairfax, Human Rights Watch & the Human Rights Law Centre have all documented cases of returned asylum seekers being tortured by Sri Lanka"
— Chris Samuel (@chris_bloke) July 6, 2014
This seems like a prima-facie case of refoulement and a clear breach of international law. I’m not the only person to think like that, 57 legal scholars from 17 Australian universities have written an open letter expressing the same feelings.
Such summary procedures do not comply with minimum standards on refugee status determination under international law. Holding asylum seekers on boats in this manner also amounts to incommunicado detention without judicial scrutiny.
I cannot stand by and be seen to acquiesce in this abuse of fundamental human rights and so I’ve decided that I must join The Greens as none of the major parties appear to understand international law and obligations.
This is not an easy decision for me, I spent 7 years working in the UK Civil Service and so that ethos of being independent of a political party is deeply ingrained, but the revulsion I have for the policies of this government and my fear of the dark places it is leading us has finally overcome it.
This is not in my name.