9.30am Tuesday August 24
Outside Law courts bldg, Cnr Phillip St and King Sts, City
Refugee Action Coalition Sydney
The Australian government is preparing to deport hundreds of asylum seekers back to danger. The refugee campaign must organise to stop these deportations, and expose the callous anti-refugee politics behind them.
The government claims the “rejection” of asylum seekers by its refugee processing system justifies sending them back. But its system has been shown to be politically compromised and arbitrary. Most asylum seekers arriving recently by boat are from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Until June, 99 per cent of Afghan asylum seekers were being accepted as refugees. But as soon as the government announced its freeze on processing claims, the rate of rejection soared. About 70 per cent of Afghan claims are now being rejected in initial determinations. Why? Because the government made it clear it believed conditions in Afghanistan were “improving” so more people could now be sent back.
The visa freeze was simply driven by nasty politics, to show how “tough” the government could be on refugees. Afghanistan expert William Maley responded that, “the consensus among experts is that the security environment has been deteriorating.” He described the claim that conditions have improved for persecuted minority groups like Hazaras as “frankly bizarre.” On June 24, 11 Hazaras travelling by road in Afghanistan’s Oruzgan province were captured and beheaded for being Shia Muslims, a minority in Afghanistan.
The government also plans to send back Tamil refugees to Sri Lanka. It has used a new report on conditions there by the UNHCR to justify this. But all the report says is that the fact of being a Tamil from Sri Lanka no longer justifies automatic refugee status. It states that the arbitrary arrest, torture and forced disappearances of Tamils suspected of links to the LTTE, journalists, human rights activists and LGBT people continue, and that anyone at risk of this remains in need of refugee status.
Refugee determinations made under the offshore processing system at Christmas Island, which the government has proposed to extend to East Timor, deny asylum seekers the right to a court appeal if they are rejected, unlike those who apply for refugee status on the mainland. This makes refugee determination even more risky and subject to political manipulation. Offshore processing should be scrapped.
On August 24, a case will be heard in the High Court challenging the legality of off-shore processing. If the case fails, there will be no further legal barrier to deporting refugees currently being held in Sydney’s Villawood detention centre and elsewhere. Join the protest outside the court hearing, and stay in touch for details about further protests if these deportations start happening