asylum seekers

Sanction Australia

Dear Prime Minister,

I wholeheartedly support the work of the members of RISE: Refugee Survivors and Ex-detainees who have called for the international community to punish Australia for our treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. This is an excerpt of RISE's media statement yesterday:

Today RISE: Refugee Survivors and Ex-detainees launches the Sanction Australia Campaign. Initiated and driven by a group of ex-detainees, Sanction Australia calls for international human rights bodies and the United Nations to sanction Australia for its inhumane mandatory detention policies and explicit refugee boat push back policies and to exclude Australia from participation in international humanitarian and human rights decision making processes until mandatory detention and refoulement of asylum seekers and refugees by Australia is abolished.
For the past 26 years, Australia has been progressively implementing punitive and cruel policies against people seeking asylum by boat. These policies have been maintained by successive Australian governments resulting in systemic torture and abuse of refugee/asylum seeker adults and children, and deaths in custody. Since RISE was launched in 2010, we are aware of at least 36 people who have died in Australian detention centres and many RISE ex-detainee members have witnessed deaths in detention well before this time period. “How long,” asks Abdul Baig, RISE director and ex-detainee, “do we have to continue to face such cruelty in front of Australia’s eyes? Where is the justice?”

Of all the groups of people calling for Australia to change its policy towards asylum seekers, the voices of the former refugees who have directly experienced Australia's detention regime and who still endure ongoing persecution are the most compelling.

Amnesty now for all detainees on Manus Island and Nauru, and full support and compensation for all offshore and onshore detainees, past and present.

Gunshots on Good Friday

Dear Prime Minister,

Today, Good Friday, the detainees on Manus Island are being shot at. Behrouz Boochani reported:

This evening some of the refugees and local people fought each other near the soccer ground. The PNG navy started firing shots and all of the refugees came back to the centre to their rooms and tents. The Navy shot more than 100 times and some of the bullets hit rooms. The refugees and Australian officers are extremely scared and are in the centre now in the rooms and tent. I have not heard that anybody is injured. In the past hour no shots fired.
— https://www.facebook.com/behrouz.boochani.7/posts/725333864305390?pnref=story

Prime Minister it is horrifying that people who have fled war, violence and threat of death are now trapped by Australia, unprotected, and today being shot at. It is urgent that Australia 

  1. brings all people in offshore detention to Australia;
  2. establishes a Royal Commission into Australia's regime of indefinite detention including the effects it has had on the people of Manus Island and Nauru who have also suffered;
  3. compensate the asylum seekers, refugees, Manusians and Nauruans.

 

We welcome refugees

Dear Prime Minister,

What is your response to Ai-Lene Chan's article in today's Guardian titled "The Waiting Game of refugee claims: the policy doesn't reflect community values"?

...it is the philanthropic strength of the community that fills the gap that the government has created and offers the safety net to those at their lowest.

There is no doubt that most Australians want their peers to have the opportunity to live safely and thrive. So beyond giving money and empathy, we should be asking our government
– why is there a backlog of 30,000 people’s refugee claims?
Why aren’t these refugee applications processed within 12 months, or even two years?
We should demand the department of immigration and border protection do what they are paid to do: process the applications, make a determination and let people get on with their lives.
— https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/15/the-waiting-game-of-refugee-claims-the-policy-doesnt-reflect-community-values

Like Ai-Lene Chan I also demand DIBP do what they are paid to do. Process the applications. End the suffering.

See you in court, Australia

Dear Prime Minister,

What is your response to the document titled "The Situation in Nauru and Manus Island: Liability for crimes against humanity in the detention of refugees and asylum seekers" which has been submitted to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court?

For the 214th man on Manus island

Dear Prime Minister,

In the second letter written to me by an employee of DIBP (despite the fact that I address my letters to you and expect a response from you) there is the following paragraph:

The orderly resettlement of refugees will take time and will not be rushed.
— https://www.ruthhalbert.com.au/dear-prime-minister/2017/1/6/the-second-reply-from-dibp

And yet you, Minister Dutton and DIBP enforce a 'fast track assessment' process, after defunding legal and translation services, so that asylum seekers and refugees in Australia are set up to fail the onerous process of trying to make a refugee claim in a very tight deadline. Will that mean thousands more asylum seekers in indefinite detention?

For the 187th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of all immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers and citizens of Australia I am afraid of the increasing power that has been given to the Immigration Minister. The minister can cancel non-citizens' visas for numerous trivial reason and without any proof of wrongdoing (in 2015-2016, the Immigration minister Peter Dutton cancelled 983 visas on character grounds). It has been reported that your government wants to expand these powers to punish non-citizens further. Our democracy is threatened when unchecked power can be exercised by an individual. When will you remove these powers from Minister Dutton and restore fairness and justice to our system of immigration?

Letters to Tyranny #70

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the 70th asylum seeker on Manus Island, Mr XXX XXX, aged XX from XXX, it is increasingly urgent that you move the men from detention on Manus Island to Australia and expedite their applications for asylum. Papua New Guinea is moving to close the detention centre and Australia must finally take responsibility for the men we have illegally abandoned there.

Bring them here

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #64

Dear Prime Minister,

My focus in writing these letters has been on:

  1. the illegality of Australia's offshore detention system;
  2. the inhumanity of our treatment of asylum seekers;
  3. the cost;
  4. the damage being done to Australia.

You have not responded to any of these issues. While I wait for your answers I will ask you a further question, one which is directly related to the function of government in Australia. As Prime Minister, where do you believe power needs to reside: with parliament, with government. or with the executive? How does this power relate to constitutional, human or civil rights? Can this power supersede these rights? If so, under what circumstances?

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #63

Dear Prime Minister,

Who in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection directed Wilson Security to hire a private investigator to spy on journalists and activists? If Australia's offshore detention policy is such a success why must such extreme measures be used to keep its details secret?

On behalf of Mr XXX XXX from XXX, the 63rd asylum seeker on Manus Island, close the camps and bring them here.

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #62

Dear Prime Minister,

In previous letters I have written to you about Aziz, Shazad, Junaid, Imran, Aadil, Amir, Mamud and Nayser.

They are eight of the brave refugees whose stories are published on www.bringthemhere.org. Even the bare details completely contradict your government's emotive and false language of asylum seekers as "threats", "illegals", "queue jumpers". The asylum seekers are in fact victims, what they have done is not illegal and there is no queue for them to jump because Australia takes fewer refugees now that it did in the 1980s.

Can you start telling the truth, change the language and close the offshore detention camps?

Bring them here.

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #57

Dear Prime Minister,

Minister Dutton said in New York "we've been able to bring a record number of refugees in through the right way". A record LOW number. Why is our refugee intake only 13 750 per year when in 2012-13 it was 20 019 and in 1980-81 it was 22 545?

Bring them here.

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #54

Dear Prime Minister,

As your back bencher, Russell Broadbent, argues indefinite detention is against fundamental liberal principles. How can you claim that Australia's border protection policy is the best in the world when it condemns 2000 people to cruelty and violation without end?

On behalf of Mr XXX XXX of XXX, 54th man trapped on Manus Island, bring them here.

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #43

Dear Prime Minister,

I have been writing to you for six weeks and I have not yet received a reply. Today I am writing about asylum seeker #43 on Manus Island Mr XXX XXX from XXX. On behalf of Mr XXX and all the other detainees on Manus Island and Nauru, please respond to the following questions:

  1. Will you oversee change to our laws by inserting a legislative requirement that Australian law must be made according to International law (including refugee and human rights law)?
  2. Can you lead the change in our language and policy from hostility to compassion?
  3. When will you act to meet Australia's international obligations to resettle the offshore detainees in Australia?
  4. How quickly can you act to reverse the damage done to Australia by the Pacific Solution?
  5. Can you work with the Labor opposition and government of Papua New Guinea to provide the asylum seekers on Manus Island with immediate plans to resettle them in Australia?

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #39

Dear Prime Minister,

The 39th asylum seeker is Mr XXX XXX from XXX. He is only XX years old but he has been on Manus Island for three years.

On behalf of Mr XXX I ask the same question as Professor Jane McAdam does: "How can we create a more sustainable and humane policy that accords with international law?" What is your response?

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert

Letters to Tyranny #36

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the 36th asylum seeker on Manus Island, Mr XXX XXX, aged XX from XXX, I urge you to show leadership by changing Australia's policy on refugees to one of proactive compassion. As Ben Doherty concluded in his study of the change in rhetoric about asylum seekers:

The issue of mass irregular migration - of people seeking sanctuary in a country not their own - will be one of the planet's great challenges of the 21st Century. Already, more people are currently displaced from their homes than at almost any time in human history, and continued political instability, widespread poverty and climate disruption insist the issue will grow rather than diminish. Discussion of asylum seekers is discussion of some of the most vulnerable, disenfranchised and voiceless communities on earth. Governments should speak dispassionately when they discuss the policies and politics of asylum seekers. The media should report critically, objectively and factually. Their publics, whom they both exist to serve, will be better served for it.

Please bring the people in off-shore detention to Australia and lead the change in our language and policy from hostility to compassion.

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert