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(en) Update on hunger-strike in Australian refugee camp

From "rc-am" <rcollins@netlink.com.au>
Date Sun, 6 Feb 2000 15:25:40 -0500

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Some further information on the hunger-strike at the Curtin refugee camp in
Western Australia, and a form-letter (or you can draft your own) for the
Minister of Immigration to be faxed and emailed, attached below.

- The Minister has disclosed that up to 12 people on the hunger-strike have
stitched their lips closed.  This is from the newsfeeds: "The detainees are
demanding their claims for refugee status be processed immediately. They
also want to be transferred to an open camp in Perth. Mr Ruddock says the
demands are unreasonable and the government will not be intimidated."

- It should be noted that in a report by the Human Rights and Equal
Opportunity Commission some time ago, the practices of chemical sedation of
trouble-makers, force-feeding of hunger-strikers, and the removal of
protest organisers to the regular prison system is not uncommon in the
refugee camps.

- Last week, the Migration Amendment Act (1999) (no.2) (or, "Border
Protection" Legislation) was passed.  This is the latest in a long line of
changes to Australian migration and refugee law which began with the
introduction of mandatory, non-reviewable detention in 1992.

- The "Border Protection"  law not only makes it possible to extend powers
of interception of suspected boats carrying asylum-seekers to outside
Australian waters, but means that even those who are able to gain
acceptance of their refugee claims, if they have arrived in Australia
unauthorised (ie., if they are 'boat people'), they will only ever be
entitled to a 3-year visa.

- Moreover, the President of the Law Council of Australia has noted, "These
new regulations will create a new sub-class of genuine refugees—refugees
with no right to sponsor family or to access some forms of education;
refugees with no automatic entitlement to Medicare or social security, and
refugees who will face extra difficulties in finding employment because of
the visas they are granted."  He also said, "The Convention recognises that
real refugees typically have no choice but to flee from their situation
without complying with the niceties of immigration laws."

- The numbers of asylum-seekers compared to other countries is minute.
'Boat people' gain much media attention, more often than not regarded in
terms of 'flooding', though numbers here are miniscule: since 1989-90,
3,568 people without papers have arrived in Australia by boat.  'Boat
people' invariably signify 'Asian' in the political imaginary.  The
Department of Immigration has a list of countries and categories of people
for whom any kind of entry into Australia is illegal (ie., poor countries
and countries devastated by wars, otherly-complexioned countries) which it
defines as a list of 'those at risk of overstaying their visa'.  This
despite the fact that most of those who overstay visa times are from the
UK, US and New Zealand.  Australia has in fact returned to the White
Australia Policy of the pre-WWII years.

I'm in the process of writing up a longer briefing document on Australian
migration and refugee politics, but the situation of the hunger-strikers
held at Curtin demands immediate attention.

Unfortunately, the relevant Ministers do not have publicly available email
addresses.  I've attached emails adds. for other members of parliament,
including members of the Government party (Liberals) as well as Democrats,
Greens and the Labor Party.

Fax to:

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs
The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP
Address: Suite MF 40, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600
Fax: (02) 6273 4144

CC to:

Prime Minister
The Hon. John Howard MP
Fax: +61 2 6273 4100

The Hon. Daryl Williams AM QC MP
Fax: +61 2 6273 4102

Minister for Justice and Customs
Senator the Hon. Amanda Vanstone
Fax: +61 2 6273 7098

Other email addresses of Australian politicians:







<cut and paste below to fax/email to above>

To Phillip Ruddock,
Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs,

Dear Mr. Ruddock,

The demands of the hunger-strikers held at the Curtin refugee camps should
be met without any further delay.

The treatment of asylumm-seekers, who arrive in Australian without prior
authorization by the Australian Government, is intolerable and

This treatment, including the law of mandatory, non-reviewable detention of
"unlawful non-citizens" instituted in 1992, has reached truly appalling
lows in the recent legislation which grants only a 3-year visa to
unauthorized arrivals, even if they eventually meet the increasingly
stringent criteria for refugee status.  This is contrary to UN Conventions
which prohibit discrimination on the basis of mode of arrival.

These laws should be repealed.

Since the legislation also gives the Minister of Immigration discretionary
powers to immediately override the laws relating to mandatory detention,
the demands of the hunger-strikers should and can be met immediately.

Sincerely Yours,


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