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Fear, Refugees and Ranjini – Please Explain

How is it that in Australia 2013 a pregnant woman who has committed no crime finds herself in detention?

If you are reading this the chances are you know her name is Ranjini, you know she is pregnant and due to give birth any moment, you know that in detention with her are her two young sons, you know that she has been found to be a refugee (yes, a “genuine” one), you know that she is married to Ganesh and you know that one day they picked up the boys from Mill Park Primary School for a meeting that resulted in Ranjini and the Boys being taken to Villawood Detention Centre where they remain. Ganesh was given just five minutes to say goodbye – “We were happy and the kids were even happier … we wanted to start new life with hope. But now we are shocked…We are separated. There has been too much pain before. Are we going to be put through the same pain in Australia as well?”

And today at this very moment a woman 9 months pregnant and her two little boys are kept out of our community because despite her being found to be a refugee, ASIO says she is a threat to our National Security. We do not know why, we can only guess that it is because her now deceased first husband MAY have been a driver for a Tamil separatist. Guilt by association with no right to appeal, no innocence before guilt and no way of knowing the evidence used.

Ranjini

I want you to look at the picture above you, imagine Ranjini 9 months pregnant, expecting to go into labour at any moment. Imagine her two young son both under the age of 10, imagine them behind the wire separated from Ganesh, who cannot comfort his pregnant wife as she is about to give birth. Now ask yourself this, Do I fear Ranjini? Because ASIO says you should, they say she is a threat to our National Security and nobody, not even Ranjini herself can know why! How is it that a nation like ours, with the decades of peace and prosperity we have enjoyed, an economy the envy of the world and a society the melting pot of so many cultures can be afraid of one woman and her little kids?

The common wisdom goes that the most recent history of fear of refugees goes back to the 2001 election and the cynical manipulation of the Tampa and Children Overboard affairs by the then Government of John Howard. But for the fear of refugees to bite hard enough just weeks out from an election John Howard needed people already afraid that could be tipped over the edge into a state of panic that saw facts lost along with lives. Australian federal elections are generally decided by just a few percentage points nationwide and while appealing to the worst aspects of the swing voter may or may not work a group of people already living in irrational fear were a much surer bet.

To find this group of people we only need to go back to 1996 when newly elected MP Pauline Hanson used her maiden speech to state “I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians”. Race politics and the fear of the refugees was ignited again in Australian politics and the easily afraid, particularly on the conservative side of politics, found a new home in Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party. Hanson of course was so short of knowledge on the issue that when asked on 60 Minutes if she was xenophobic, she famously replied, “please explain?” Here was an individual elected to the Federal Parliament with no understanding of the issue other than she felt afraid, for no good reason, and she was laying the blame at the feet of immigration. It seems she wasn’t the only one afraid, fear of Asian immigration and other ludicrous and ill-informed views gained Hanson and her party 1 million votes in the House of Reps. and Senate at the 1998 election.

The Howard Government had seen it coming and then Minister and now Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott set out to destroy Hanson. Not for any love of those Hanson vilified, but to destroy a political opponent who had taken away the base of fearful voters so important at tight elections. Abbott set up a slush fund ironically called “Australians for Honest Politics Trust” and set about ripping One Nation apart from the inside. He says it was intended to expose the misuse of election funds but would later concede the political threat of One Nation was “a very big factor”. It worked, One Nation started to unravel and leading into the 2001 election One Nation voters (1 Million strong) were looking for a new home. Full of fear, mistrust of boat people and those who supported their rights, like a bucket set to overflow the fear spilled over with the arrival of MV Tampa and the Children who were not in fact thrown overboard. But fear needs no facts and in an election Howard was set to lose half of One Nation’s million strong voters joined Howard to narrowly defeat the Beazley led ALP. The One Nation voters had been more than enough to make the difference, Tony Abbott’s efforts had been rewarded and a decade later a nation still so ill-informed, with racism at the edges and cowardly politics still at play a woman named Ranjini will give birth to a baby in detention because our nation is still afraid.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

In 1933 with the depression ravaging America, a quarter of the population unemployed, confidence stripped from the economy and Hitler recently appointed Chancellor of Germany, newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt used his inauguration speech to tell a frightened nation “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The very next day he called a bank holiday and allowed the nation to exhale, he summoned an emergency sitting of Congress and set about reshaping the American economy and dragging them out of the depression. He would hold “fireside chats” communicating directly to the American people in a calm manner via the radio his message of just how he was going to rescue the country. He came to office with 25% unemployment, a devastated economy, a Germany led by Hitler and the campaign song Happy Days Are Here Again. He died in office having served his nation for 12 years as President, the economy was booming, unemployment was below 2% and Hitler’s Nazi Germany was finished!

When a crisis arrives, even a perceived, one a leader has a choice to make. Exploit it for political gain as Australian political leaders have come to do on the Refugee issue or sit their people down, calm the flames and set about guiding their nation back to Happy Days.  From his first day in office FDR chose to be a real leader, for Ranjini to live free with her husband and children we need the same in Australia. We will protest, we will write letters, make telephone calls and we will organise. But whether Ranjini’s baby is born free or destined to a life of uncertainty behind bars requires simply that ours leaders lead. Otherwise they too can only answer are you Xenophobic and we can only answer why an innocent pregnant woman is detained, with please explain!

*edit* Ranjini has now given birth to a baby boy Paartheepan (16/01/2013)

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/opinion/political-news/birth-behind-bars-for-asio-risk-20130115-2crww.html

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Ten years on from Tampa

For many the Tampa is not a boat, it is not a place their lives changed or even a policy that took Australia outside of International legal norms. It was a defining moment for then PM John Howard in ensuring he would win the coming election. But what about the people? The Sydney Morning Herald’s Ben Doherty examines.

A decade after their disastrous voyage, the Tampa asylum seekers sent  back to Afghanistan are still on the run.

Sarwar had been home a week when they came for him. After more than two years  away from Afghanistan – on leaky boats and in refugee camps, seeking a new  country to call home – he returned to his village in Ghazni province.

“He was at his home for one week when some men, some Taliban, came on  motorbikes. They took him from his house and they killed him. They dragged him  outside and choked him to death with barbed wire.

“His wife and children saw him killed. They fled. I don’t know where they are  now,” Mohammad Akbar Sohrabi says.

Afghan family.Fearful … Mohammad Akbar Sohrabi, fourth from left, with members of his  extended family in their rented home where he remains largely in hiding. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Sohrabi carries a photo of Sarwar. It’s mixed up among the meagre possessions  he has from his time overseas, alongside a flimsy passport with an incorrect  birth date and a Nauru stamp in it.

The shopkeeper and the metalworker were firm friends at Topside, the  Australian-run refugee camp on Nauru. The photograph shows them in happy times,  seated, making preparations for one of the occasional parties the detainees  held. Then, they believed they would be resettled in Australia.

Eventually though, pressured to return to Afghanistan, they flew home  together, “but we faced the same problems, the same people, waiting for us”.

 

The Tampa’s human cargo pictured from the air as a political storm erupts in  Australia. Photo: Mike Bowers

For the complete story visit:-  http://www.smh.com.au/national/bonds-of-hope-and-hardship-20110819-1j2ct.html

High Court says halt! Refugee advocates win first battle!

Last week we accused Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen of being a bad parent. We firmly believe that transferring refugees to Malaysia under the recently struck deal, is both illegal and immoral. In response one well known academic and ethicist accused 1deadlynation.com of being  “totally clueless”. Well it would seem the high court agrees our assessment might be spot on and some people’s ethics don’t stack up to the law.

The High Court has extended its injunction against the federal government’s attempts to send asylum seekers to Malaysia. The government was prevented from sending 16 asylum seekers to Kuala Lumpur today after High Court judge Kenneth Hayne issued a temporary injunction yesterdayJustice Hayne today extended the injunction until the full bench could consider the lawfulness of the government’s policy. Justice Hayne said it was likely the full court could hear the matter in a special sitting in the week beginning August 22.

The issue comes down to an aspect of the law which makes the Immigration minister judge, jury and executioner. He determines who is held in detention, he is the guardian of those asylum seekers who are unaccompanied children and he makes the decision on where to expel those who are no longer permitted, by his rule, to stay in Australia (detention). Further to this he makes the assessment as to the legality of removing all asylum seekers and whether the new detaining country meets the relevant human rights obligations for which Australia is a signatory.

Seems like one MASSIVE conflict of interest and it cannot logically be argued that the guardian of children could be acting in their best interest by sending them to a country such as Malaysia where their human rights are not guaranteed and the minister cannot ensure their protection and well-being.

The Government now faces having to convince the full bench of the High court that this controversial deal is legal, this again raises further questions about this already suspect arrangement.

DAVID MANNE: It certainly does because what the court has said is that the Australian Government at the moment cannot, is prohibited from expelling our clients to Malaysia pending the outcome of this case. 
And this case is about our clients arguing that their claims for refugee protection should be considered in Australia instead of being expelled to Malaysia. 

Now the courts will decide the fate of this ridiculous piece of policy and a ruling that strikes the Malaysia deal down must certainly be another nail in the legality and morality of any and all offshore processing and forced removal of asylum seekers whose claims have not yet be reviewed.

Are we here “totally clueless” or is the High Court, public opinion and common sense swinging the way of where our national ethic of this issue should be?!

For audio of today’s ABC radio PM report – ABC AM Report

What to do with a bad parent?

What sort of parent you ask? What sort of parent sends their child to an unknown country, unaccompanied, to a life in a detention centre. A life without rights, a life without education and a life with no future. It’s hard to watch and it is even harder to know what to do. When it’s the bad parent across the road from home we can talk to the neighbours, say something to the teacher at school and when things really get bad make that annoymous call to the police or community services.

But this is different, who do you call on this bad parent? Who do you call when you know a child is going to live behind razor wire, witness acts of self harm and suicide and potentially face sexual assault. Who do you call when the bad parent is the Immigration minister of Australia Chris Bowen and the child is a refugee?

Under Australian law those children who arrive in Australia unaccompanied, by plane or boat, are placed under the guardianship of the Immigration Minister of the day. Guardian’s just like parents (who are the legal guardian of their children) have a responsibility to the personal and property well being of a child. The law does this because as a society we believe children are incapable because of their age to do so for themselves and understand the need for children to be cared for in a proper and appropriate manner.

Today we learn Chris Bowen has become the guardian for 14 new children who have arrived in Australia by boat. They are unaccompanied, they aren’t with their parents and they have nothing at all. So how will he care for them and protect their interests?

This is where we are sending children, on their own!

They’ll be herded onto a plane by the AFP and sent to a detention centre in Malaysia where they will have no rights to work, access to education facilities most inner suburbs people wouldn’t send their dog and face an uncertain future. These children will have most likely lost their parents to war, famine or disease. They will have witnessed things that are unspeakable and that would have you or I in therapy and reaching for the Xanax by the hour. And now their new parent, their new guardian, Chris Bowen will not assist these vulnerable children rebuild their lives, but send them to a third world country where their life will almost certainly be ruined beyond repair.

For unaccompanied children  there is an extra danger in Malaysia. It isn’t the malnutrition, it’s not the lack of education or health facilities, it is not being locked behind razor wire or having no future. It is the prospect of being forced into the seedy  world of child exploitation, slavery and the sex trade. Malaysia acts as a hub for both the internal distribution of child sex slaves and also the exportation of children from Malaysia to countries both in Asia and Europe for the child sex trade. Children with no guardian, on their own, with no rights and nobody to protect them are easy targets for those who would trade in the most vulnerable of all commodities. What would you do if you knew a parent in your area was selling their daughter to men for sex?

It cannot in any way, shape or form be considered the responsible actions of a Guardian. It is not what a good parent would do and it goes against all the ethics and morals we hold so dear as a Nation. This is not a “fair go”, this is not what a first world democracy does with unaccompanied children. We are talking about lives, lives just as precious as any other child anywhere else on earth. Just as important as our own. What would you think about the trafficking of children into the sex trade being done by your Government, in your name? It is not just what you think, it is what will you do!

We urge you to contact the office of Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and respectfully ask him NOT to send any unaccompanied children to Malaysia.

Tel: (02) 6277 7860

Email: Chris.Bowen.MP@aph.gov.au

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