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Letter to Prime Minister concerning treatment of Asylum Seekers at Offshore detention centres

Dear Prime Minister,
It was deeply depressing to listen to you on Radio National on 23rd September, telling the nation that "there will be no resettlement of the people on Manus and Nauru in Australia".
The government has gone to great lengths to maintain a veil of secrecy around the treatment of asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru, and it is clear that there is much to hide.  The available evidence from a number of reliable sources paints a picture of people living in fear and despair, in wretched conditions and with the ever-present threat of physical and sexual abuse. These people, who include some 90 children, have committed no crime and yet they find themselves locked away indefinitely, far from the public gaze and with little access to legal and other professional advice. We don't treat convicted criminals like this. These asylum seekers are our responsibility, and this is not the way that a wealthy, first-world nation should treat some of the world's most vulnerable people. What the government is doing in our name is neither humane, morally defensible nor compatible with our international obligations.  It is simply not acceptable for you to assert that "you could say it is a harsh policy, but it has worked". Locking up children indefinitely in such appalling conditions can never be justified. They cannot be used as the "price" to be paid for deterring asylum seekers from seeking safety on our shores.
I do hope that, in the weeks ahead, you will indeed pay "close attention" to the current policy and that your government will quickly bring to an end this shameful chapter in our nation's history. These offshore detention centres, which are costing Australian  taxpayers billions of dollars to maintain, should be closed as a matter of urgency and those detainees who are found to be entitled to protection under international law should be resettled in Australia.
                                                                                                            Yours sincerely,



Another asylum seeker boat not noticed by Australian Border Control

Asylum seeker boat drifted for three days before washing up on Java Coast.

Border Control did not see it. Do they only find a boat if they get a distress call?

Letter to Nambucca Guardian - "denial of human rights to us all?"

Letter to Nambucca Guardian - "denial of human rights to us all?"

Dear Editor,

There is a book by the famous author, Ursula Le Guin, titled "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas".  In the village of Omelas everyone is happy and fulfilled. There is no war or strife and everyone prospers.

When young people come of age the price of this happiness is revealed. They learn that underneath one of their stately public buildings, or a fine private mansion, there is a cellar with a locked door and no windows. In this room there sits a neglected, malnourished child who spends its days in abject misery. As long as this one child is suffering the rest of the community can be happy. This is the bargain.

At this point in their life the young person learns this and must make a decision: to stay or to leave. If they choose to stay, and remain in the village with a happy and contented life, they have assented that the life of this child does not matter.

If they choose to leave then they have made the decision that this one miserable, dirty, despairing life matters.

Our own lives are like this in many ways. We are told by the government, Labor, National and Liberal, that our way of life, our safety, our security, depends on keeping people locked up in concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Island. 

We are told that we must pay billions of dollars, at a time of budget emergency, to keep people who are innocent of any crime in indefinite detention. This includes 88 children in detention in Nauru.

Omelas is not a place but a state of mind. Walking away from Omelas requires us to reject this Faustian bargain. It requires us to reject the idea that our safety and security depends on denying hope to 88 children. It requires us to act.

If we give our consent to the passage of laws that codify the denial of human rights to some is it really unrealistic to think, given the history of the twentieth century, that it may not lead to the denial of human rights to us all?

Peter Sobey

Monthly Picket outside Luke Hartsuyker's office 24 September 2015

Report from Green's MNC

"On the subject of refugees....Yesterday Richard, Craig and Craig's kids from Coffs Greens joined the rally organised by…/…/ outside Luke Hartsukyer's office in Coffs Harbour. Just like our new PM we are concerned about the conditions these desperate and vulnerable men, women and children find themselves in Australian detention centres - unlike Mr Turnbull we want something to be done about it! 
Greens and many others in our community agree - The time has come to close down these expensive and cruel offshore 'deterrent' detention camps on Nauru and Manus!

During the one and half hour rally people came and went, however It was good to meet others who understand the need and urgency to end this horrible current policy. The media came along and John Pollock spoke about the on-going monthly rally, RAR and the need to continue to raise awareness and provide facts often lacking when discussing asylum seekers. Craig highlighted the Greens stance on returning the humane processing of asylum seekers to Australia. This is both compassionate and a less costly option. It really is quite shocking that there are children already traumatised - as young as my own kids - that are now treated so terribly by our government… surely this is un-Australian!"


Newsletter for 22 September 2015 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Hi everyone

Picket outside Luke Hartsuyker's Office THIS Thursday 24 September 
 Our now monthly picket of Luke’s office will be between 11.30am and 1pm in Little Street, Coffs Harbour on this coming Thursday 24 September. Bring a placard and help us continue to call for a humane treatment of asylum seekers in Australia. Given the events in Europe and the change of leadership in Australia this is a great chance to capitalise on these events. Bring a placard calling on Luke and Malcolm to Close Nauru and Manus now. Coffee and lunch at the Happy Frog after the picket.

Please contact Robin for more detail 

Valla Market: Saturday 3 October

Our next market stall will be at the Valla Beach market on Saturday  3rd October. The markets are a great opportunity for our group to publicise the cause for the humane and compassionate treatment of asylum seekers and to continue our campaign to raise public awareness of the terrible conditions  on Nauru and Manus islands. Asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru continue to be treated harshly in prison-like conditions, though they have committed no crimes.  Many of them have now survived up to three years in these intolerable hellholes , with no end in sight. Not a single refugee has so far been settled in PNG.
Please consider joining us on the market stall for an hour or two on 3rd October. John and Mike will be setting up the stall at 7.00 am, and we would appreciate support from 9.00 am onwards, until 1.00 pm.
If you can join us, then please email Mike on  or phone him on 6569 5419.

This newsletter is stored her for archive purposes. To read the rest please click below


Senate enquiry condemns the Nauru detention centre as “insupportable”.

The five-member cross-party select committee recently  published its report on conditions at the Nauru detention centre and demanded that all asylum seeker children should be removed immediately. The report cites widespread allegations of child abuse, violence against asylum seekers, deprivation and sexual assault. The committee states that “Nauru is not well run, nor are Wilson Security and Transfield Services properly accountable to the commonwealth despite the significant investment in their services”. The committee also found that Australia –not Nauru – is legally responsible for the abuses in the centre, because the Australian government has effective control of it.  The government’s insistence that the problems in the centre are a matter for the Nauruan government are “a cynical and unjustifiable attempt to avoid accountability”. The report goes on to highlight the secrecy, lack of transparency and accountability in the centre, which inevitably lead to detainees being mistreated,  and states that new laws should be enacted to make mandatory the reporting of sexual assault and violence allegations.
Running the Nauru detention centre has cost the Australian taxpayers $1.33 billion since it was reopened in September 2012.  Putting to one side for a moment the moral, humanitarian and international obligations issues, this cannot possibly be a good use of taxpayers’ money. 

This is surely an appropriate time for us to be writing to the new Prime Minister to urge a change in policy.


Young refugee on Manus Island assaulted,injured and forced to buy his own medicine

One of the youngest refugees on Manus Island – erroneously sent to the adult-only detention centre when he was still a child – has been assaulted by a guard at his detention centre and, when injured, was forced to borrow and buy his own pain medication.
Loghaman, now aged 20, was 17 when he was sent to Manus. He is now housed at the East Lorengau transit centre where refugees are being held while Papua New Guinea rewrites its resettlement policy, now more than a year overdue.
A new report from Liberty Victoria (pdf) raises concerns about the fairness of Australia’s age determination process for asylum seekers.
Loghaman told Guardian Australia that this week he had just finished speaking with a Transfield worker about getting more washing powder “because we only have very small amount”, when he was approached by a PNG national security guard.
“He came up to me and said ‘if you don’t think it’s enough, go back to your country. If you don’t like it here, go back’,” Loghaman said. 
“I said to him ‘this is none of your business’. Then he punched me. He punched me hard.
“I cry, and I fall down. I fall to the ground.” He injured his hand in the fall Loghaman said.
“My hand, very weak. Very pain.”
A Transfield staff member took Loghaman to hospital, where he was x-rayed and treated. His wrist is not, as was first feared, broken, but badly sprained and is still in a sling.
At hospital, Loghaman says he was obliged to pay for his own medicines, which he says he could not afford.
Refugees in the East Lorengau centre are not allowed to work, and are paid a stipend of 100 kina a week, about $A50, an insufficient amount, refugees say, in a remote and expensive country like PNG.
“Every week my money is gone on food, on [phone] credit. I have spent all my money, I say to doctor ‘I have no money’, so I have to borrow Panadol Forte from my friend.
“I have to wait until next week to buy more painkillers from City Pharmacy. My hand, still very pain.”
The guard who allegedly assaulted Loghaman is still working at the centre.
Refugees in the transit centre have reportedly been assaulted by staff before.
Three guards at the centre have been charged with assault after they beat another refugee while he was at the Harbourside Hotel in Lorengau town. Those men are all still employed at the centre.
Inquiries to PNG immigration about Loghaman’s assault have not been responded to.
Guardian Australia met with Loghaman on Manus Island last month.
He fled his home country in the Middle East after his cousin was hanged, and his two brothers jailed by the ruling regime there.
“I leave my country, because I come to freedom. But here is the same. I am caged like an animal.”
In 2013, Loghaman was wrongly sent to the men-only Manus Island detention centre as an adult, despite the fact he was carrying a photocopy of his national identity document that showed his birthdate, and told immigration officials he was under 18.
When the mistake was discovered, he was not removed from Manus, but kept on the island, locked in isolation with another child, until his birthday. Of his handful of possessions on the island is a card a case worker made for him for his 18th birthday.
Several asylum seekers have been erroneously judged to be adults by the department.
Leaked documents from Manus Island show up to 14 asylum seekers claimed to be unaccompanied minors while in detention there.
Mistakes in age determination have led to concerns over the way age determinations are conducted by Australia’s immigration department. Many asylum seekers arrive in Australia without documents, not knowing how old they are, or from countries where births are often not officially registered, so they have no official date of birth.
A new report from Liberty Victoria argues that asylum seekers who are potentially children are not given the “benefit of the doubt” in their age assessment interviews, that immigration officials are not properly trained to conduct interviews, and that children are not allowed lawyers or representatives to assist them.
Australia has abandoned wrist x-rays to determine age – the test has been discredited – and instead conducts interviews with young asylum seekers to determine their age.
Immigration officers ask about family makeup, education and employment history, “noting observations about client’s demeanour, behaviour and physical appearance during interview”.
Its guidelines counsel: “there is no right way of conducting these interviews, but there are many wrong ways. It will take only one badly-handled case to undo the whole process. It is not a compliance interview. It is a conversation with a potential minor.”
Interviews are typically two hours long, but the guidelines warn, are “not an interrogation – we are not trying to ‘crack’ clients (they may be children)”.
The department’s age determination overview state that where the age of an asylum seeker is in dispute, they should be treat as a child. “The program ... aims to err on the side of caution.”
Jessie Taylor from Liberty Victoria, who has represented asylum seekers in age determination matters in Australian courts, told Guardian Australia the determination process was “terribly flawed”.
She said final determinations were sometimes made by bureaucrats who had never met the asylum seeker being assessed and that interviewers were not given relevant information such as psychologists’ reports.
The Liberty Victoria report, based on documents released under freedom of information, says that asylum seekers who may be children should always be given “the benefit of the doubt”.
“More than one age determination interview should be permitted where further assessment is required,” the report recommends.
It says all age determination interviews should be conducted face-to-face, not remotely, and that asylum seekers should be able to access free legal representation during the age determination process and to review an adverse age determination.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said departmental officers underwent specialist training prior to undertaking age determination assessments.
“The department is confident in the selection and training processes used for the age determination programme.”
“In addition to the specialist training provided, the department requires age determination officers to have interviewing experience across other programmes, such as protection visa or identity interviewing.”
She also said additional safeguards have been put in place for offshore detention.
“In regard to those transferred to regional processing centres, a process is in place to refer any cases of concern to a senior officer for further consideration.”


Letter to Nambucca Guardian News September 2015

Dear Editor,

It is heartening to see the pictures on the news of Syrian refugees being welcomed in Germany. It gives one faith in humanity to see the way that ordinary people feel compelled to offer help to those in need. Thousands of Australians were involved in candlelight vigils around the country this week to show their support for the millions fleeing a devastating war.

So what should Australia do to meet our moral and international obligations?

Should we accept more refugees from Syria? Of course we should. We are a rich country and a country at peace. We can afford to take many more people above our current refugee intake at this time of need.

Should we become involved in bombing Syria? Since when has a country ever been bombed into peace? Why is it that we can always find money for bombs but not for humanitarian aid? The answer is definitely no.

At the very least the decision to bomb another country, without any mandate from the United Nations, should be discussed in parliament. That is what should happen in a democracy. As it is it will be yet another "Captains pick".

Where can we find the money for more humanitarian assistance? The UN budget for looking after Syrian refugees is $US931 million. This is less than half what is required which means that there are inadequate supplies of food and medicine. This is one of the reasons that so many are leaving the refugee camps and walking to Germany.

The Australian budget for locking up refugees in detention camps in Manus Island and Nauru is $US2,100 million. We recently spent $52 million to "resettle" four, yes four, refugees from Nauru to Cambodia. All that is just a complete waste of our money.

If we resettled all the people from Manus and Nauru into our community we would have plenty of money left over to make a genuine and generous contribution to the crisis in Syria without dropping any bombs.

I find it discouraging that so many people are (quite rightly) moved to action by the images of a little boy lying lifeless on a Turkish beach while at the same time little children are suffering a slow death in Australian detention camps. There they suffer from poor living conditions, inadequate health care and, according to reports, sexual abuse. The difference is that these children are kept out of sight of the cameras by a secretive government. They are Australias shame.

Peter Sobey

Newsletter for 15 September 2015 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Hi everyone

Support for migrants from Syria

There has been an outpouring of support to help with migrants from the war torn area of Syria.  Local vigils have been held in Coffs Harbour and Bellingen. Both the Coffs Harbour and Bellingen Candlelight vigils for the Syrian refugees saw over 100 people of all ages at each event. Everyone expressed their desire for our Federal government and opposition to drop the politics and get on with helping people in need. Both events were arranged spontaneously by individuals from the community and thanks to social media the events were broadcast widely. Hopefully we can build on people’s enthusiasm to maintain pressure on our politicians.

After saying the numbers would not be increased initially, Tony Abbott was forced to agree to a one off special allocation on top of our current humanitarian intake. This was due to pressure from his own ministers and backbenchers but more largely due to the massive public gatherings in support of the Syrians. 

The response will be slow as the government cranks up their settlement support services and there has been some talk of prioritizing Christians. This suggestion has been widely condemned. Several members of the government have sought to use this suggestion to continue their anti-Muslim rhetoric. While our group is encouraged by Tony Abbott’s back down the next day he announced that our Air Force will expand its mission to include bombing of targets in Syria. This can only lead to more misery and movements of people, further worsening this humanitarian crisis. 

There has been some shift in rhetoric with some officials referring to the incoming people as migrants rather than asylum seekers.
The hard line on those held on Manus Island and Nauru has been reiterated. Whilst there are Syrian and Iraqi asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru they will not be included in this assistance. As Germany and other states begin to close their borders it is up to Britain, Australia and the USA, who have largely been responsible for the mayhem in the Middle East since the ill considered illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, to take some responsibility for the massive problems of dislocation that have occurred.

This newsletter is stored here for archive purposes. To read the complete newsletter click below


Newsletter for 8 September 2015 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Hi everyone

A weekly newsletter will always miss some events. There was a vigil in Coffs Harbour yesterday evening. You will need to follow our Facebook to become aware of these events

Susan Doyle writes

"My Grandson Tom in Hyde Park tonight, lighting up for the Syrian refugees. Wanted to know why those boys couldn't come to his place... If only we were all more childlike!"

John Pollocks comments on ABC local stories

Bring Syrian Refugees to Australia - could Border Force cope?

Border Force has an appalling record of achieving anything, so how would they cope with an influx of thousands of Syrian Asylum Seekers.

No asylum seekers languishing on Manus Island have been resettled  despite being in detention for more than 2 years

Only 4 refugees have been resettled in Cambodia despite the National Party Government paying Cambodia $55 million for this ill conceived plan

The legislation for Temporary Protection Visas for existing asylum seekers in Australia, who would move to regional areas was passed by Parliament in December 2014. After nine months nothing seems to have happened?

The Federal Government has ceased processing citizen applications for refugees otherwise entitled  to become Australian Citizens 

This newsletter is stored here for archive purposes. To read the rest of the newsletter click below


PNG removes appeal against negative refugee determination

Refugee Action Coalition


In what seems to be a knee-jerk response to the Supreme Court
constitutional challenge to Manus Island, the Papua New Guinea
Immigration department has summarily removed the right of appeal from
asylum seekers on Manus Island.

At an "open" meeting of Manus Island asylum seekers yesterday morning
(1 September), around 30 asylum seekers from the various compounds
(surrounded by more than 40 security guards) were told that they would
no longer be able to appeal against negative refugee determination

Until now, asylum seekers have been able to appeal against a negative
determination. But yesterday a PNG immigration official told the
meeting, the PNG Minister for Immigration had decided that people who
got a negative result on the first interview would no longer be
allowed to appeal.

The meeting was also told that the Minister said there would be no
more cases in the court to stop them being deported. "There are two
options; either you go back voluntarily by IOM or you will be forcibly
deported by PNG immigration," the official told the meeting, "PNG has
decided not to hold anyone with a negative result."

The Supreme Court however has extended an injunction preventing the
removal of 26 asylum seekers until the next directions hearing of the
Supreme Court on 7 September. The Supreme Court will also consider a
general application for further orders against the refoulement of any
of the Manus detainees.

The meeting of asylum seekers was also told there would be no chance
to see a lawyer. Yet, the constitutional right to have access to a
lawyer is one of the fundamental issues being considered by the
Supreme Court. None of the detained asylum seekers have ever been
informed of their constitutional rights or allowed to have access to a

"The decision to remove appeal rights from asylum seekers is one more
indication of the arbitrary circumstances of asylum seekers on Manus
Island. Around 50 per cent of those who received a negative decision
at their first interview were being accepted on review," said Ian
Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

"PNG Immigration is trying to pre-empt the decisions of the Supreme
Court and violate the rights of asylum seekers. It is a shabby and
transparent attempt to  deprive them of their constitutional rights
and to intimidate more asylum seekers to accept being returned."

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

New Zealand suspends Nauru justice funding - concerns over rule of law

The Abbott Government is facing calls to pull funding from Nauru following a move by New Zealand to suspend cash for the country's justice sector. 
3 SEP 2015 - 4:52 PM  UPDATED YESTERDAY 7:05 PM
The New Zealand Government has suspended its funding for Nauru’s justice sector, citing concerns about democratic rights and the rule of law.
It follows the unanimous passing of a motion in parliament in July, outlining concerns over “the Government of Nauru's alleged interference with the judiciary”.
The move – which will only affect the $NZ1.2 million dedicated to the country’s justice system – has sparked calls for action within Australia, with Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young calling for the Abbott Government to follow suit.
Government urged to remove all children from Nauru immigration detention 
A Senate Inquiry has called for all children to be removed from Nauru’s immigration detention centre after a lengthy investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and inhumane living arrangements.
Senator Hanson-Young said that Nauru was “gripped in the throes of a systemic legal collapse”.
“The Nauruan Government should not be receiving kickbacks from Australia,” she said.
“New Zealand have realised that the Nauruan justice system cannot be trusted with its money, but Australia is so desperate to lock refugees up there that it will apparently turn a blind eye to anything.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she had spoken with President and Foreign Minister of Nauru, Hon Baron Waqa on Thursday.
"I understand that the legal processes involving Opposition MPs in Nauru are progressing and judicial processes are being followed," she said.
"I received assurances from President Waqa that the rule of law will be upheld. We will continue to engage with Nauru until this issue is resolved.
"Australia’s development assistance to Nauru, which supports health, education and public sector management, is not under review."
The push comes just four days after a Senate Committee called on the government to ensure Nauru had sufficient resources to keep its “police, judicial, prosecutorial and other law and justice entities” up to international standards.
In a report published on Monday, the committee said its inquiry had heard concerns over the capacity of the Nauru Police Force to investigate allegations relating to the immigration detention centre on the island.
It stated that since September 2012, a total of 50 matters related to alleged incidents at the immigration detention centre had been referred to the Nauru Police Force for investigation. As of June 2105, only two sentences had been handed down.
Former Chief Magistrate on Nauru Peter Law told the committee that the force had “limited resources and capacity to investigate serious allegations”.
Mr Law said his concerns increased following the removal of the Australian-seconded police commissioner in July 2014.
“They were very reliant on support from the Australian Federal Police,” he said.
 “… The subsequent departure or termination of the contract of Richard Britten, the then commissioner, on 19 July, was a very regrettable fact. I say that because, through him and his predecessor, Commissioner Ced Netto, they were able to offer their expertise and their assurances of independence and proper investigation.
“It was my observation that after their departure those factors were missing from the Nauru police force.”
Another former Chief Justice, Geoffrey Eames, told the committee that “there is a serious question about their independence and about their willingness to investigate allegations against Nauruans who are charged with assaults of non-Nauruans”.
“If Australia is to take responsibility for the welfare of people transferred by the government to Nauru, then the Nauru and Australian public must be assured that allegations of assault and other criminal conduct will be genuinely and thoroughly investigated,” he said.
“Where such thorough investigations might be seen by Nauru police to be unwelcome, so far as the Nauru government is concerned, it is unlikely that they will be undertaken.”