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MEDIA RELEASE Australia Day 2003: Refugees deliberately ignored ()
by Marilyn Shepherd & Jack H Smit
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org <jackhsmit (nospam) wn.com.au>
26 Jan 2003
Hundreds of people will become registered and permanent Australian citizens, while the refugees incarcerated in Australia's notorious detention centres in order to keep the Howard government in absolute control and supreme power, undergo daily human rights abuses and torture, away from the spotlight and scrutiny of Australian as well as International media.
MEDIA RELEASE Australia Day 2003
MEDIA RELEASE Australia Day 2003: Refugees deliberately ignored
International Media Release
Monday 27 January 2003
For Immediate Release
Today, 27 January, is Australia Day, the day Australia celebrates its
achievements with much pomp and ceremony, with speeches by the Governor-General,
the Prime Minister, and State Governors.
Hundreds of people will become registered and permanent Australian citizens,
while the refugees incarcerated in Australia's notorious detention centres in
order to keep the Howard government in absolute control and supreme power,
undergo daily human rights abuses and torture, away from the spotlight and
scrutiny of Australian as well as International media.
On Australia Day 2001, the dreadful plight of refugees and asylum seekers in
Australia's detention centres was graphically illustrated as Mahzar Ali Mahzar,
aged 27, flew off the 5 metre palisade fence surrounding Woomera straight into
the waiting and lethal arms of the razor wire below.
Mahzar was cut to ribbons and required over 100 stitches to repair the damage,
his actions were condemned by many in Australia as an act of "people like that,
people we don't want here, people who try to blackmail the government for more
In reality Mahzar was highlighting the fact that his sister and her five
children had been incarcerated in Woomera for more than a year while their
husband and father was free in Sydney.
Murandoo Yanner, ATSIC╣ Commissioner, was one of very few who spoke for Mahzar,
but who cared, he was the image of Australia's first great gaping wound, the
other R word we dare not speak.
This Australia day, while we sent troops to eliminate Saddam Hussein, or in
reality to protect the oil wells, we dare not mention the refugees.
This year we studiously ignore the harsh question which needs to be raised -
when the bombing starts and the refugees come, how will we treat them?
We in the refugee advocacy movement suspect we will vilify them, call them baby
killers, turn them back to sea, transport them to bird poo islands in the
Pacific or lock them in Woomera for "jumping" the minister for misery's "queue".
Before we even consider the notion of "liberating" the Iraqi people, we should
now remember this Mahzar, his sister and the five children are now entering
their third year of incarceration, whilst we have been "liberating" their
country of Afghanistan.
Today, refugee advocates issue a call for the immediate release of the Iraqis
who are still incarcerated as part of Ruddock's cruel hoax of both preparing to
kill tens of thousands of their country folk, while at the same time denying
those in Australia's detention centres recognition as refugees.
At the same time the minister should finally heed the calls of UNHCR, UNHRC,
UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, doctors, lawyers, teachers, churches, the Pope and
millions of ordinary people and grant a full amnesty to the remaining 480 "boat
people". After all records show that nearly 100 are children, and do we really
want to have a government that will forcibly return innocent children to places
like Iran and Afghanistan?
╣Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the body that looks after the
interest of Australia's Indigenous people. Ironically, this government body is
also under the jurisdiction of Australia's infamous Minister Phillip Ruddock.
Refugee Action Collective
phone (+61) (+8) 8332-8310
email: shepherdmarilyn (at) hotmail.com
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
(+61) 41 70 90 130
email: jackhsmit (at) wn.com.au