A Generous Offer... not.  

One Man's Web > Politics and Ethics > Australia and the refugees > A Generous Offer

Much of this article is indebted to Julie Mackens report "RUDDOCK'S IRAN DEAL SHROUDED IN DOUBT Australian Financial Review 2 May 2003, by Julie Macken. The article can be read in full at: http://www.afr.com.au/ but you need to pay the fee... around $2.50

As reported in many places the Immigration Minister claims he has signed a deal with the Iranian Government to forcibly return 227 refugees from Australia to Iran. Macken says "There is real doubt whether such an agreement exists. The Iranian embassy in Canberra denies Iran has agreed to accept any forced repatriation."  The government will not release the Memorandum of Understanding with Iran to public scrutiny. 

Immigration Department officials have told Iranian refugees being held in the Baxter detention centre that they had "28 days to accept returning voluntarily or face the dire consequences of involuntary repatriation. " Letters posted by the Financial Review and on the DMIA website are reproduced here, supporting this claim.

The largest group of refugees still being imprisoned in Australia are the Iranians; some have been held for up to four years. Because there claim of refugee status has been rejected and their appeals have failed they have nowhere else to go as Iran has  not accepted forced repatriation, at least until now. 

DIMIA has a new strategy to deal with this. In the document obtained by the Financial Review and reproduced here, there is the ironic heading Encouraging voluntary departures:

10 The Departments experience suggest that, for all but the hard-core of detainees, the key to enlisting voluntary departure lies in the creation of a credible threat of involuntary removal. We have therefore, previously recommended that the offer of a financial incentive for voluntary return to Iranian detainees be withheld until it is clear that the Iranian authorities will cooperate on involuntary removals if required.

The idea is that you bribe people to leave and hit them with a big stick if they don't take the bait.

  "Encouraging voluntary departures" would be done by offering detainees inducements: $2000 per person; waiving the cost of their accommodation in detention; giving them the status of a returnee rather than a deportee; and supplying them with airfares and travel documents. 

Jan notes that this magnificent sum is slightly less than one month's take home pay for him.  The lack of compassion involved in all of this is seen in the following statement:  In particular, we would be seeking to include those who have attempted self-harm or committed acts of violence within the centre.  In other words let's get rid of the ones whom we have driven to the very limits of their survival and to total frustration; that is, the most vulnerable.  A humanitarian society is known by the care it shows for the weakest in its midst; the Howard Government fails again.

It appears a number of people fall within the category of self-harm or suicide risk. The Iranian detainees are amongst the most traumatised and brutalized people within Australia's camps. Having spent the last three to four years behind razor wire, many, particularly women and children, are now in a state described by one former Australasian Correctional Management psychologist as "psychically disintegrated". (Financial Review)

A final comment from Julie Macken:

... the federal government (has) consistently argued that Iranian asylum seekers, while sometimes facing discrimination, do not face persecution in Iran. It appears this is no longer the opinion of many in the UN. A team of UN experts has recently completed its first mission in Iran for seven years. Its findings offer little comfort to Iranian returnees or deportees.
The head of the mission, Louis Joinet, told journalists in the United Kingdom that Iran was detaining dissidents and others without due process on a "large scale" and keeping them in solitary confinement. 

Perhaps the sharpest comment on all this comes from Howard Glenn, Director of A Just Australia today. "Threatening damaged long-term detainees with an uncertain future based on a secret agreement with an "Axis of Evil" regime is just too much." The media release, taken from the Just Australia Website is reproduced below.

Minister Ruddock must explain deal with Iran
02 May 2003

Today’s revelations in the Australian Financial Review exposing the dodgy nature of a deal with Iran to forcibly return asylum seekers is of major concern, said Howard Glenn, National Director of A Just Australia today.

“Threatening damaged long-term detainees with an uncertain future based on a secret agreement with an “Axis of Evil” regime is just too much.

“Just this week it’s clear that one part of the Government does not know what other parts are doing regarding asylum seekers with the announcement that the Australia Council is funding the development of a game concerning Escape from Woomera.

“Apart from the inhumanity of the deal with Iran we ask whether the secret deal negotiated by Immigration officials creates a security threat with the Iranian regime now able to send us their hand picked students.

“We ask why would we want the representatives of Iran here instead of those who fled the regime.

“We call on the Minister to halt the pressure on Iranian detainees until the deal is fully explained and debated in Parliament.


For comment please call Howard Glenn – 02 9310-3900.
Information on A Just Australia at www.ajustaustralia.com


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