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Newsletter for 30 January 2018 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Next Roadside Demo - Toormina Thursday February 8th 2:30pm
Next Market - Valla Beach Sat 3rd February
More refugees sent to the USA
Update on Manus Island 
Make use of our blog

Roadside demonstration report

Just four of us braved the hot sunshine last Thursday for the roadside demonstration in Coffs Harbour. We gave our new banner its first outing and received a lot of support from passing motorists, together with a number of negative gestures from others. There clearly is still much work to do to win the hearts and minds of many members of the public, but that’s what we are committed to doing, given the terrible suffering inflicted on innocent men, women and children trapped in indefinite offshore detention. Our next roadside demonstration will be on Thursday 8th February from 2.30 to 4.00 pm in Toormina. You will find us at our usual venue on Hogbin Drive, just down the hill from the fire station and opposite what used to be the Sawtell nursery. Now that the holiday period is behind us, it would be great to have a good crowd of supporters to help us get the message across about the government’s cruel asylum policy.

Next market: Saturday 3rd February at Valla Beach : 9.00 am to 1.30 pm

Our next market stall will be this Saturday, 3rd February at Valla Beach. We are looking for supporters to lend a hand between 9.00 am and 1.30 pm, so if you are able to help out for an hour or two, then please let Mike know by emailing him at: We have a new open letter to Bill Shorten for people to sign and it would be great if we could collect 100 signatures on Saturday. Our National RAR president, Marie Sellstrom, will be joining us at the market, so please drop by to say hello if you can. After the market, you would be most welcome to join us for a light lunch at 39, Rogers Drive Valla Beach from 1.30 pm. Please let Mike know in advance if you intend to join us for lunch. It will be a good opportunity to relax and enjoy one another’s company.

Another group of refugees flies to the US

In recent days 58 refugees were flown from Port Moresby for resettlement in the US. Another 130 refugees on Nauru have been accepted for resettlement and are expected to leave for the US in the coming days. This will bring the total to 242 so far, though it is more than a year since the Obama government agreed to take 1,250 refugees from Manus and Nauru. No Somalis or Iranians are included in these latest groups as they are banned by the Trump regime from travelling to the US. According to Natasha Blucher from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, there are still up to 2,000 people, including 150 children, in offshore detention, with no prospect of freedom. She states: “The US cannot be the only solution here. It is moving too slowly and people’s lives are being destroyed from the very moment they are stuck in this crushing system. We work with a huge number of people suffering from serious health issues, families who have been ripped apart, and people – including children – who have been living in mouldy tents on Nauru for over four years now.”
It’s surely time to bring them all here!
Malcolm Turnbull: (02) 6277 7700  or (02) 9327 3988
Bill Shorten: (02) 6277 4022  or (03) 9326 1300

Update on Manus: a personal story

Some of you may have read the heartbreaking story in The Saturday Paper by Imran Mohammad about the latest situation on Manus, now that the detainees have been moved into three different detention centres. It is a story of utterly cruel abandonment by our government and is well worth reading. In spite of the crushing hardship of life in limbo on a remote island, Imran tries to end on a positive note: “It may seem like a dream, but if we all dream together we may have a world in which everyone is born into security and freedom. It is my hope that 2018 will be the year of healing, peace and safety, and may there be many peaceful and happy years to follow for every citizen on this earth”. You can read the article by clicking on our Facebook link at the bottom of this newsletter.

Making use of our blog

Please have a look at our blog from time to time if you can, by clicking on the link at the end of this newsletter. You will find a range of information, including letters that have been published in the press or sent to politicians. You’ll also find regular updates from Our National RAR committee, which are always informative. If you write to politicians, or have a letter published in the press, then please forward it to so that we can include in on the blog.

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Three letters to Editor by Dr Michael Blockey

                                             Some facts, Luke
Luke, I fear you have been misinformed about the Coalition's offshore refugee policy. So let me outline four facts in an effort to gain your support for what most Australians want, namely bringing the Manus Men here.
Fact 1. We have never been swamped by boat people, not in 2013 when boat arrivals peaked, or at any other time. We have what is called a Humanitarian Quota (HQ), the number of refugees we welcome here each year. In 2013, the HQ was 20,000. In 2013, 17,000 refugees came here, including about 9,000 boat people. In short, we could have taken another 3,000 refugees. We were not being swamped.
Fact 2. Because we weren't being swamped, we didn't need policies to discourage boat people from coming to Australia. Like, why have turn back to stop the 'hordes' from coming here when the 8,500/9,000 boat people who come here per year can be absorbed in our HQ of 18,000/20,000 refugees/year? 
Fact 3. If we aren't being swamped with boat people, why incarcerate 2000 refugees on Manus and Nauru and treat them cruelly as an example to others who might clamber on board boats?
Fact 4. If we aren't being swamped, why does the Coalition maintain the Rudd policy, the policy that says that those refugees who come by boat can never be allowed to settle in Australia? The thinking behind this policy is that it discourages people smugglers from plying their trade.
The fact that we aren't being swamped should determine Australia's refugee policy. It doesn't, it ignores it!

Dr Michael Blockey, Scotts Head

                               More facts, Luke!
Peter Dutton, your Immigration Minister, should know the UN Convention on Refugees. He either doesn't or does but disregards it.  I say this because just this week he has twice breached a key principle of the Convention Australia pledged in 1951 to uphold. This principle is non-refoulement. Refoulement is the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution. We pledged not to do that.
But Dutton has done it twice in one week! In the first case, 29 Sri Lankan asylum seekers landed near Exmouth in WA. Under the Convention, they can claim asylum in Australia and have their claim heard. This right was denied and they were sent back to Sri Lanka by plane. Dutton breached the Convention a second time by forcibly returning them to Sri Lanka. He practised refoulement, he sent them back to persecution.

In the second case, Dutton ordered a Tamil refugee living in Australia to be deported back to Sri Lanka. His crime? He failed to lodge his claim for protection by 1 October. He couldn't access the necessary legal assistance to fill out a form designed to be impossibly difficult because the waiting list for such  assistance at refugee legal centres was more than a year. He appealed to Dutton saying he lodged the form on 4 October. Instead of showing tolerance and compassion, Dutton took the opportunity to forcibly return him to Sri Lanka, the country he fled because he was being persecuted. He again took the opportunity to practise refoulement.

These two acts of refoulement, Peter Dutton, join all the other breaches of the Convention you and Morrison have committed in our name.

Dr Michael Blockey, Scotts Head

And more facts, Luke
People fleeing persecution in their homeland have the right to claim asylum in another country, say Australia. Our Immigration Department (ID) is obligated, under the UN Convention on Refugees, to be 'just and speedy' in processing such claims. Sadly, it is anything but. Let me give you four examples.
The Tamils fleeing Singhalese persecution in Sri Lanka are met on the high seas or on the WA  coast by our Navy, are asked a few questions, a decision is made they are 'economic' refugees and they are flown back to the persecution they are fleeing. Speedy but hugely unjust!
Before your Coalition came to power, some 92% of asylum seekers coming here by boat were judged to be genuine refugees. Under your mob, Luke, that has fallen to 60/70%. Dutton and Morrison both dislike boat people and want as few as possible into Australia.
Speedy? The people on Manus and Nauru have been imprisoned there for 4 years. Some of them have still not been interviewed by your ID.
Worse still, some asylum seekers are refused an ID interview. You may have wondered, Luke, why people clamber aboard boats and head to Australia knowing that our Navy will detect on the border? They aren't trying to make it to WA. They are just trying to get into our waters because they know that once in our waters they can claim asylum in Australia. Having achieved this, they are sent back to Indonesia, not back to the villages, as Morrison claims, but into concentration camps. There are about 4,000 of our asylum seekers in these prisons. They have the right to have their claim to asylum heard. But over the last 4 years, no claim has been heard because the Coalition won't let the ID into these camps. It fears compassionate ID staff will blow the whistle on these camps, camps it pays Indonesia billions of dollars to operate!
Luke, you might ask Dutton about these four points!

Dr Michael Blockey, Scotts Head