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April 15, 2011


by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

A phone call this afternoon (Friday 15 April) from Curtin detention centre has confirmed that at least 40 Tamil asylum seekers have been told that they will not have their security clearances by the end of April.

The anger is building at the detention centre – over the broken promise – and over the refusal by the immigration department to meet and explain the situation.

The tensions over the security clearances are being compounded by on-going concerns that 125 Tamil asylum seekers are sleeping in three shipping containers.

A 27 year old Tamil asylum seeker in Curtin detention has begun a protest hunger strike after being told by his case officer, last Wednesday, that because he was from Sri Lanka, his security clearance would not be finalised by the end of April. He has been in detention 18 months.

A second Curtin Tamil asylum seeker was also told the same thing on the same day.

“It will be a grave breach of faith with asylum seekers if the government does not live up to its end of the agreement. One thousand refugees are hanging on the undertaking they got in writing from the government. If the government reneges, potentially all hell could break loose,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The Tamil man has asked to see someone from the immigration department, but Serco has told him that immigration has refused to see him until he ends his fast.”

“The Minister, Chris Bowen, must immediately confirm that the security clearances will be finalised by the end of April. A simple ‘yes’ would be enough to bring the hunger strike to an end and to put thousands of minds at ease.”

The commitment to finalise security clearances was a major outcome from the Christmas Island protests. It was given in an immigration department letter to all asylum seekers in detention.

Around 1000 people presently in detention have been found to be refugees but are waiting – some, like the Tamil hunger striker, for longer than a year. The ASIO security clearances are required before they are finally granted a visa.

The length of time in detention and for this processing is a major reason for the anxiety and unrest inside Australia’ detention centres.

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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