PM Slammed 

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It's not just a few 'lefties' saying he's wrong...

The Advertiser January 17 2002 reports that an international human rights watchdog has castigated Prime Minister John Howard over his government's handling of asylum seekers. Human Rights Watch is quoted as saying  Mr Howard used the boat people issue to fan racism to assist his election win.

"Our principle criticism was of Prime Minister Howard himself, who during he re-election campaign was vigorously stoking people's fears of foreigners after September 11 to justify his summary expulsion of asylum seekers who had reached outlying Australian territory." HRW executive director Kenneth Roth. He said asylum seekers had clearly been entitled to consideration of their refugee claims in Australia, "But in blatant violation of international refugee law, he (Mr Howard) summarily expelled them to other places without ensuring their safety from persecution," he said.

HRW said it did not accept the government's argument it had merely been protecting the integrity of Australia's borders. Roth also said  "Everyone understands the desire for orderly immigration, but if reached, as they had reached some of the outlying islands, Australia has a duty to hear their asylum claims."   "If they are sent back to places where they face persecution, Australia is violating one of the fundamental principles of refugee law.  "This isn't even a close call. I understand it was politically expedient for Prime Minister Howard to do so, but it was blatantly wrong and widely and rightfully condemned by the international community."  Cartoon by Nicholson

The Human Rights Watch World Report 2002 mentions Australia at (at this location January 19 2002).  I quote:

Many governments manipulated and incited xenophobic fears for short-term political gain. In Australia, for example, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Phillip Ruddock made a series of inflammatory and xenophobic statements about immigration and asylum between November 1999 and August 2001, suggesting that mandatory detention policies protected the Australian public against communicable diseases brought in by illegals and that whole villages of Iraqis and others were preparing to travel to Australia. The refusal by Australia to allow boatloads of mostly Afghan and Iraqi refugees and migrants entry to its territory came in the run-up to a general election campaign, in which the government sought to demonstrate a tough stance on asylum and immigration and fuelled xenophobic fears among the public with inflammatory accounts of "floods" of refugees on the move to Australia. The rhetoric and tough policies paid off, as John Howard's government won a third term in office at the mid-November elections.



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