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May 8, 2011


by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney


Julia Gillard’s announcement of a deal to send asylum seekers attempting to arrive in Australia by boat to Malaysia is just the latest chapter in Australia’s attempts to dodge its international obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, according to the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Let’s be clear who the Australian government has chosen to do a deal with,” said Mark Goudkamp from the Refugee Action Coalition. “Malaysia is a repressive authoritarian state and a human rights pariah which is regularly criticized by groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. It treats refugees and asylum seekers as illegal undocumented workers, so they are the targets of particular maltreatment.”

“They are often brutally arrested and held in filthy, insect ridden and overcrowded detention camps. There are no beds, only wooden boards without mattresses. When found guilty of immigration offences, asylum seekers are tied up and caned until they bleed. This is the sort of regime the government has chosen to do business with.”

“Gillard refused to deal with Nauru since it hasn’t signed the UN Refugee Convention,” Goudkamp continued. “But Malaysia hasn’t signed the convention either. Australia will be directly involved with the violation of asylum seekers’  human rights. Australia’s will become an even bigger pariah among the international community.”

“An Amnesty International report released last June (Abused and Abandoned: Refugees Denied Rights in Malaysia) revealed that the tens of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia are refused legal recognition, protection, or the right to work.”

“As well as caning, they are subjected to arbitrary arrest, and deportation back to the persecution that they fled. Meanwhile, the Malaysian volunteer police force RELA operates in a climate of impunity in their treatment of asylum seekers. The approximately 10,000 refugee children have no access to formal education.”

“There’s no freedom of the press in Malaysia, and there’s widespread use of preventive imprisonment, Goudkamp continued. “Writers and journalists are often bullied; peaceful protests and opposition meetings are broken up.”

“Reports in Malaysia’s Sun newspaper that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation Migration (IOM) are co-operating to ‘operationalise the arrangement’ are deeply troubling. The UNHCR should have nothing to do with a deal that is designed to deny the rights asylum seekers have under the UN Convention,” Goudkamp concluded.

Ian Rintoul, also from the Refugee Action Coalition said, “Rather than make a complete break with the failed offshore processing policies of John Howard’s government, Labor is resurrecting them.”

“The Timorese have rejected the relentless pressure applied by Australia. Within a day of the announcement that PNG’s Manus Island detention centre might re-open, it was roundly condemned by human rights groups, churches, the Governor of Port Moresby, and Bruce Baird, who formerly held Scott Morrison’s seat for the Liberals.”

“Gillard’s ‘Malaysian Solution’ will send desperate asylum seekers to a country that is one of SE Asia’s most infamous human rights abusers. Eight hundred asylum seekers will be arbitrarily selected and sent to Malaysian hell-holes,”  Rintoul added.

“After three and a half years of Labor government, we are back to the anti-refugee policies of John Howard.  Hundreds of recognized refugees are still in Australia’s detention centres waiting for ASIO security clearances,” added Rintoul.

Along with ChilOut, RAC is holding a forum on Monday 9 May at 6pm with speakers who’ve recently been inside the Curtin and Christmas Island detention centres.

RAC is also holding a lunchtime protest on ‘Friday the 13th’ of May against the ‘Return of the Liberal Dead’ at the Immigration Department’s offices in Lee St, Sydney, in reference to Chris Bowen’s plan to re-introduce temporary visas for refugees convicted of criminal offences in detention, and relentless pursuit of offshore processing options, offloading its international obligations onto impoverished neighbours.

And along with a large variety of refugee groups, RAC groups across the country are holding World Refugee Day rallies on Sunday 19 June.

For more information, call Ian Rintoul 0417275713 or Mark Goudkamp 0422078376, and visit

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