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June 4, 2012

REFUGEE ADVOCATES CALL FOR RE-OPENING BOAT TRAGEDY INQUIRY AND TO SCRAP PEOPLE SMUGGLING LAWS

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Refugee advocates are calling for people smuggling laws in Australia and Indonesia to be scrapped.

“The recent revelations in the Fairfax press (see here and here) of the degree of AFP involvement in people smuggling networks and monitoring of asylum boats are sufficient to re-open inquiries into the sinking of the SIEV X and the recent tragedy of the SIEV 221 at Christmas Island,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“It now seems highly likely that the AFP had more information about the SIEV 221 than was revealed to the official inquiry. The AFP may also be able to confirm whether or not phone calls were made from the SIEV 221 to relatives in detention on Christmas Island. The inability to confirm that those calls were made greatly influenced the outcome of the inquiry,” said Rintoul.

Refugee advocates are also calling for Australian and Indonesian people smuggling laws to be scrapped.

“It is clear that the people smuggling laws are worse than ineffective. The evidence shows that in at least one case, the AFP were slow to act in a ‘safety at sea’ incident because they did not want to reveal their sources.

“Criminalising informal travel by asylum seekers means that arrangement for boats have to be done underground – creating more dangerous conditions for asylum seekers. It means everyone involved is reluctant to contact authorities when danger arises for fear of falling foul of the laws – being detained in Indonesia or facing prosecution in Australia.

“The failure of Australia to re-settle refugees out of Indonesia is also responsible for pushing people onto boats. People smuggling laws overwhelmingly are aimed at Indonesia crew members and refugee families in Australia.

“The failure of Australia to ensure family re-union is pushing families of refugees onto boats just as Howard’s temporary protection visas pushed families onto the SIEV X.

“The campaign against people smugglers is the excuse for the high involvement of the AFP in Indonesia. It is now clear that the AFP may well be putting its own interests before the safety of asylum seekers. Its time to scrap the people smuggling laws and get the AFP out of Indonesia.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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