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Film screening


The story of detention on Nauru last time

6pm Monday 22 October
NSW Teachers federation building 23-33 Mary st, Surry Hills (walking distance from Central station)

Under the Howard government journalists were banned from entering Nauru. But in 2003, SBS Dateline’s Bronwyn Adcock managed to gain entry to the island nation.

After detention centre guards abandoned the camp following a protest by detainees, she slipped under the wire with her video camera and was invited into the camp by detainees, gaining unprecedented access to film the conditions inside detention.

As the Gillard government reopens the same camp used on Nauru last time, this report gives a unique insight into the conditions faced by asylum seekers on Nauru.

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Asylum seekers recently transferred to Nauru held a peaceful, but very vocal, protest yesterday (Sunday) afternoon to coincide with a rally in Sydney against off-shore processing.

A call from Nauru to the rally said, “Everyone in the camp are in the protest – it is a peaceful protest. We are Iraqi, Iranian, Afghan and Sri Lankan. We are refugees on Nauru. We are holding a peaceful protest to make our complaints about our situation. We are demanding for our processing to be started.”

After the rally, the Refugee Action Coalition later received another message from asylum seekers on Nauru :

“A peaceful gathering of all asylum seekers in Nauru camp started at 2.00 pm and concluded 3 hours later at 5.00 pm with the issuing of a letter signed by all the asylum seekers residing in the Nauru camp.

“The asylum seekers present at this gathering request an end to the transfer of asylum seekers to Nauru and the closure of the camp here.

“We also request the presence of officials from the Australian Department of Immigration to start our immigration processing. We also request was to have the presence of international committees like Red Cross, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights and the Australian Human Rights.

“Our most important request of all is to start our immigration processing. We, asylum seekers declare that we will continue to hold gatherings/protests until we receive our real rights.

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The Refugee Action Coalition has welcomed the decision of the High Court today that it is unlawful for the Minister to refuse a protection visa on the basis of a refugee being given a negative ASIO finding.

“It is a small victory for justice and common sense. These people have already been found to be refugees. Despite them being refugees, some of them have been in detention three years. The High Court has now said that the Minister has not had a lawful reason to deny them a visa.

“The ball is now in the Minister’s court. Adverse ASIO assessments are no reason to deny refugees a protection visa. The Minister must now act immediately to actually grant them protection visas and release them from detention,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“It is also now clear from the court case that a negative ASIO assessment does not mean that a refugee was an actual threat to the Australian community. The Minister has hidden behind ASIO negative findings. The government has allowed an impression in the wider community that ASIO negative findings meant that these people were a threat to Australian society in some way. There was an impression that they could be terrorists. That is not the case, and the government owes them an apology.

“The question of the right of refugees to challenge adverse ASIO findings still remains to be addressed by the government. The Attorney-General must also now change the law that has denied natural justice to refugees and move to allow refugees the same rights as Australian citizens.”

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Building Bridges art exhibition and fundraiser

Important announcement: Event postponed

Unfortunately, the exhibition has outgrown the capacity of the venue chosen to house the event. We will be holding the exhibition at a far larger venue in late November and will make an announcement shortly as to where and when.

Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) and Refugee Art Project (RAP) are jointly hosting this special exhibition of works donated by a diverse range of emerging and established artists who are proud to support refugee activism and refugee culture. All funds raised will be equally shared between RAC and RAP.

Image: Deborah Kelly, ‘And For My Next Trick’, 290mm x 365mm, original collage from vintage and contemporary sources with Swarowski crystal on Italian cotton paper in mid-century Danish frame with convex glass, 2010 – just one of the artworks available at this fundraiser auction.
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The Refugee Action Coalition has received information from Nauru that an Iranian asylum seeker attempted suicide this morning, Thursday, 11 October.

The man was “turning blue” when he was found by fellow asylum seekers. He is now under observation.

The attempted suicide follows the visit of Immigration Chris Bowen to Nauru several days ago. Asylum seekers on Nauru have told the Refugee Action Coalition that the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen had told them that it would be between 8 months and a year before refugee processing would begin on Nauru.

That was the time he said it would take Australia to train assessors and provide interpreters.

There are growing levels of frustration and anguish on Nauru.

The lack of facilities and their hopeless situation was making them depressed. “There is nothing but eating and sleeping, eating and sleeping,” a Nauruan asylum seeker told the Refugee Action Coalition. “We are victims. We have no future; putting us in Nauru is a contradiction of human rights,” he said.

The attempted suicide also highlights the lack of medical facilities for the asylum seekers. The Refugee Action Coalition has been told there is only one doctor for the camp and that an outbreak of what the asylum seeker called influenza, has gone through the camp.

“To have an attempted suicide so early in the history of Gillard’s Pacific Solution is an extremely bad sign,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Delayed processing will inevitably create mental health issues, just as it did under the Howard government. Nauru is ill-equipped to deal with the mental health problems that will emerge. Read more »



There is evidence that the government is deliberately using the “voluntary” repatriation of Sinhalese asylum seekers to cover-up its failure to provide legal advice to asylum seekers arriving after 13 August.

“The six Sri Lankans from Villawood who were flown back to Sri Lanka today (Saturday 27 September) were all Sinhalese. And all of them have been promised money in return for agreeing to return to Sri Lanka.

“The six had arrived by boat just before 13 August, so were not among those who could be sent to Nauru. But doubts remain over what exactly they had been told,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The government has some history of targeting Sinhalese for prosecution as people smugglers although there have been no successful prosecutions. Media reports that one of those returned last week had been denied his $3,300 repatriation package because he ‘took the wheel’ of the asylum boat add to suspicions that these asylum seekers are being misled. Boats from Sri Lanka are routinely operated by asylum seekers themselves, so do not have ‘crew’.

“Unless asylum seekers have independent legal advice, there can be no confidence that they are not being tricked into voluntarily returning.

“The government has already filled its temporary quota of asylum seekers on Nauru. Given the numbers of asylum seekers who have arrived since the 13 August, there is a very good chance that asylum seekers will not be sent to Nauru at all. Yet the government is using the threat to coerce people into returning.

“But, no number of ‘voluntary’ returns can hide the fact of on-going repression in Sri Lanka – for Sinhalese and Tamils. Over 3,600 Sri Lankan, mostly Tamil, asylum seekers have arrived this year. The return of a handful of, mostly Sinhalese, Sri Lankans only highlights the legitimacy of the vast majority of Sri Lankan asylum seekers arriving in Australia. Read more »



The latest transfer of 31 Sri Lankan asylum seekers to Nauru confirms that the government is discriminating against those from Sri Lanka, according to the Refugee Action Coalition.

The lack of transparency in the process and the discriminatory way in which the selection is being made is also creating enormous levels of distress within Australian detention centres.

“Of the 151 sent to Nauru, 127 are Sri Lankan. This is a serious disproportion of Sri Lankans and puts a question mark over the government’s selection procedures. Sri Lankans are clearly being discriminated against. The question the government has to answer is ‘Why?’ Do they think they can coerce one or two more Sri Lankans to go back to the repressive Rajapaksa regime?” asked Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Not only is the government’s policy discriminatory, it is also guilty of inflicting cruel punishment on those who arrived after 13 August but who have not been sent to Nauru. Leaving those people in limbo is creating a great deal of distress.

“The government must immediately begin processing those who arrived after 13 August. The government is only delaying the inevitable. With 150 asylum seekers on Nauru, the government has filled its temporary quota. With over 3000 asylum seekers arriving since 13 August, Nauru is full twice over.

“The government’s policy is simply creating a large pool of people that have the threat of Nauru held over their heads. By refusing to process families or unaccompanied minors the government is making a mockery of its policy of detaining families and children as a last resort. Read more »



Media reports that a Sri Lankan asylum seeker from Nauru is about to be returned to Sri Lanka has raised serious concerns that the Australian government is effectively coercing asylum seekers subject to off-shore processing to “voluntarily” return.

The Refugee Action Coalition is demanding that the Sri Lankan man is given access to lawyers when he lands back on Australian soil and that all asylum seekers threatened with removal to Nauru have access to lawyers and advocates to ensure that they fully understand their rights and they are not subject to pressure to agree to voluntary repatriation.

“We simply do not know what asylum seekers on Christmas Island or Nauru are being told about their rights or what will happen to them. There is no way asylum seekers can make an informed decision as long as they are being denied contact with lawyers or advocates who can give them independent advice.

“The threat of indefinite detention on Nauru may be being used to coerce asylum seekers to give up legitimate protection claims. Read more »



A group of around 50 Ahwazi Arab refugees are holding two protests in Canberra today, on Monday 24 September.

The protesters, travelling from Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne will hold a protest outside the Iranian Embassy from 12 noon to 2.00pm.

This will be followed by a protest outside the Australian Parliament House between 2.30 and 3.30pm.

Millions of Ahwazi Arabs live in an area of south-west Iran, once called Arabistan, but the Ahwazi Arabs are a persecuted minority within Iran. Arabs make up 70 per cent of the population of Khuzestan, but only 5 per cent of important administrative posts are Arabs.

There has long been demands for autonomy and independence for the region.

Arabic language is banned in schools and there are no Arabic language newspapers. Recently four Arab political activists, three of whom were brothers, were executed on June 18, 2012 in Ahwaz. (Reported by Amnesty International). Two months earlier, five other Arab activists in Khalafabad were sentenced to death. In the past year and half, at least five Arab political activists have been killed under torture in the province’s prisons.

Spokesperson for the Ahawazi Arabs, Ahmad Hamid, said, “We are protesting at the Iranian embassy for our human rights. There have been so many people executed.

“And we are also protesting at the Australian parliament about off-shore processing and sending asylum seekers to Nauru. There are many Ahwazi Arabs in immigration detention who are threatened to be sent to Nauru. We want Australia to help them. Read more »



The Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) has condemned the return of 18 Tamils to Sri Lanka on Saturday morning and called on the government to disclose the exact conditions in which they were returned.

“The government has billed the returns as voluntary,” said Ian Rintoul, speaking on behalf of RAC. “But there is good reason to doubt the government’s claim. The asylum seekers have had no independent legal advice, access to refugee supporters, or the Tamil community.

“Most of the people have only just arrived here after a traumatic ocean crossing, fleeing degenerating conditions in Sri Lanka. People who’ve just fled for their lives aren’t in the best state to make informed decisions about their welfare. This is more like coercion than informed consent. The public needs to know just what the Tamils were told about the circumstances of their return. What exactly were they told? ” Read more »



With the arrival of three more asylum boats in the last 24 hours, the total number of asylum seekers reaching Australia since 13 August is now over 2100 – enough to fill both Nauru and Manus Island.

“The Minister’s announcement that asylum seekers will be moved to Nauru is just shabby political posturing,” said Ian Rintoul speaking on behalf of the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Chris Bowen has already said that neither Nauru nor Manus Island will be operational for months – meanwhile Australian detention centres will fill with long-term detainees.

“After capitulating to the Opposition over Nauru, the government’s Pacific Solution 2.0 is already in tatters. Asylum seekers sent to Nauru will be paying a high price for the government’s policy disaster. Condemned to tents for months, they will face shocking conditions as the wet season runs from November to April. Nauru and Manus Island will become long-term refugee prisons.

“The government’s own policies are pushing more people into asylum boats. Despite the announcement that 400 UNHCR refugees would be brought from Indonesia immediately, nothing is actually happening to bring the UNHCR refugees from Indonesia. Tamil refugees who were told in January that they had been accepted by Australia are still waiting in Indonesia. Many of them now believe that the only way they will get to Australia is to get a boat and come via Nauru.”

The Refugee Action Coalition is also concerned at what criteria the Minister and the Immigration Department is using to select the individuals for transfer to Nauru.

“We are looking at a highly selective, punitive and potentially discriminatory process. Without the criteria being made public, we cannot be confident that individual asylum seekers or groups of asylum seekers are not being discriminated against. Read more »



A High Court decision this morning (7 September) has dismissed an application of behalf of five asylum seekers seeking to extend judicial review to discretionary Ministerial decisions.

In a similar application (M61) in 2010, the High Court found that asylum seekers were entitled to judicial review of appeal decisions.

The High Court judgement means that there is now no legal impediment to the government moving to deport a large number of asylum seekers.

Around 180 asylum seekers were attached to the case, but the case will also impact of the fate of perhaps another 100 asylum seekers in detention centres or in community detention.

“We will now be trying to see if there are other possible legal measures that can be taken. But we are urging the government not to see the High Court decision as a green light to return people to dangerous places like Sri Lanka or Afghanistan.

“The dangers of Sri Lanka have been made obvious in recent weeks,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. “A recent report shows that there is a disappearance (mostly abductions) at a rate of more than one every five days in post-war Sri Lanka. There have been 21 disappearances reported just by Sri Lanka’s English media in the 100 days between April 1st and July 9th 2012.

“Dayan Anthony, a Tamil asylum seeker, was questioned and intimidated by Sri Lankan authorities after he was deported in July. Dayan and his family, like the families of other asylum seekers in Australia, are being watched by Sri Lankan CID.

“In June, this year, a British High Court stopped the removal of Tamils because it was considered they were at risk of torture if they were returned. Read more »



The arrival of three boats in the last couple of days brings the total number of asylum seekers who have arrived since 13 August to over 1600.

Nauru is already full. And the quota for Manus Island is likely to be filled in the next week or two at the most.

The government is now confronted with the reality of its Pacific Solution 2.0.

“Both in Nauru and Australia, the Labor government will be warehousing thousands of people found to be refugees but condemning them to uncapped long term detention. The government is creating the same toxic environment that led to the mass protests and fires in Christmas Island and Villawood a year ago,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Hundreds of asylum seekers in Christmas Island and Darwin have now been in detention limbo for a month, while the government does nothing to actually process their refugee claims. There is no prospect of the government shifting these people for months. The anxiety is already creating tensions on the island.

“This is the tragic result of policy on the run and looking for a political fix at the expense of sensible policy and the welfare of refugees. The systematic violation of the rights of asylum seekers and refugees is a recipe for yet another epidemic of mental illness.

“There is no prospect of the boats stopping because even Nauru offers the possibility of resettlement while refugees in Indonesia are left in limbo. Even recognised refugees in Indonesia understand the best prospect of getting protection is to get on a boat.

“Merak Tamils who have been waiting for almost three years for the Australian government to make good on its promise to resettle them have still heard nothing of the government’s announcement to take 400 UNHCR refugees from Indonesia. They are left thinking their only hope is to get a boat. Read more »



No to the Pacific Solution 2.0 Rally Sunday October 14

Around 300 people took to the streets to condemn the re-opening of Nauru and the Pacific Solution. The rally heard from speakers including Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the Uniting Church’s Ian Pearson, Labor for Refugees Convenor Shane Prince, Muslim community activist Rebecca Kaye and RAC’s Ian Rintoul. Asylum seekers on Nauru staged their own protest to coincide with the action, and a protest statement from the detainees was read to the rally (read it here).

ABC TV news ran footage from the rally and interview two of the speakers, watch the report here

We will also be adding further video footage from the rally shortly

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