Australian refugee activists plan protest during minister's speech

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sydney refugee activists say that they will rally outside the building where Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone is giving a speech today. The minister will be speaking at the launch of an Immigrants’ Rights Kit.

Mark Goudkamp of the Refugee Action Collective, quoted in a press release, argued that it was ironic that the minister was releasing a rights kit when she was responsible for violating the rights of asylum seekers.

"Vanstone oversees the denial of basic human rights for asylum seekers and refugees," he said. "How dare she offer her services at the launch of a publication advocating a better deal for migrants."

The Immigration Department has always maintained that Australia's immigration detention program and treatment of asylum seekers does not intentionally violate their rights, and in fact benefits a large number of people. On July 22 Senator Vanstone announced figures for the Government's Refugee and Humanitarian program, which included 13,100 visas for the 2004-2005 period.

"This demonstrates the Government’s strong and continuing commitment to providing new lives for refugees and those in humanitarian need under the Refugee and Humanitarian Program," the Minister said.

"Ninety two percent, or 12 096 visas, were granted offshore in 2004-05, ensuring that the majority of our efforts target those in the greatest need of resettlement, as determined by the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees. This represents the largest offshore program since 1995-96"

Mr Goudkamp criticised the minister over recent scandals.

"Vanstone is in hot water over Cornelia Rau, Vivian Solon, the Hwang children and upwards of 200 other cases of wrongful detention," he said.

"Now we hear that Mahabub Alam, a Bangladeshi student with a valid visa, was subjected to a search without a warrant, arrest, interrogation and incarceration by immigration officers."

"Vanstone addressing this forum is sheer hypocrisy. Her reputation as immigration minister is beyond repair. John Howard seems to be the only person in the country defending her."

He also called for the resignation of Senator Vanstone and her predecessor, current Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock.

"She must step down, taking Philip Ruddock, who was the hardline minister when many of these debacles occurred, with her," he said.

The Department also recently released figures on its skilled migration program, emphasising the benefits to the Australian economy, while not compromising other programs such as family reunion.

"The 77,880 skill stream migrants in 2004-05 account for about 65 per cent of the total program. At 120,060, the overall Migration (non-Humanitarian) Program was the largest since the late 1980s," Senator Vanstone said.

"The Government's focus on skilled migration continues to benefit Australia’s economy, while it maintained a sizable level of family reunion," she said.

The rally will begin at the Market St entrance of the Queen Victoria Building at 5:30pm.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.