Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Govt attacked on 'asylum' boat issue

Amnesty International: deeply concerned with the government's policy of taking boat people to Christmas Island.

Human rights groups have attacked the federal government over its treatment of a group of suspected asylum seekers intercepted en route to Australia.

An Australian naval patrol boat intercepted a vessel carrying 14 people near the Ashmore Islands, 320 kilometres off Australia's north-west coast, on Monday.

The group, including one woman, was being transferred Tuesday to Christmas Island for processing. The boat is the first to be intercepted off the coast of Australia this year.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said it appeared the boat had come from Indonesia but it was unlikely those on board were illegal fishers.

"We haven't identified their country of origin as yet. They'll be processed and interviewed on Christmas Island and it'll become clearer then," Senator Evans said.

Amnesty International said it was deeply concerned with the government's policy of taking boat people to Christmas Island.

"The detrimental impact of detaining individuals in isolated centres has been well documented and Amnesty International remains concerned for the physical and mental health of any asylum seeker taken to Christmas Island," refugee spokesman Graham Thom said.

"It is completely inappropriate to treat this group differently from other asylum seekers and it is certainly not in keeping with our international obligations to protect people who are fleeing persecution."

Senator Evans said people were continuing to seek refugee status due to ongoing unrest in the Middle East.

"There's pressure around the world with refugees seeking to find asylum, large numbers of people particularly out of Afghanistan and Iraq because of the troubled situations there."

Senator Evans said the federal government was working closely with the Indonesian government to strengthen border control and stamp out people smuggling.

Project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit attacked Senator Evans for his "bullying" comments on border protection.

"It's time Minister Evans stops acting like (former prime minister) John Howard, and it's time he stops uttering the nonsense lines of the widely reviled former immigration minister Philip Ruddock."


Christmas Island like a prison: Amnesty
Our refugee coordinator Graham Thom, along with our national director Claire Mallinson and board vice president Jim Sharp, has just visited the new Christmas Island detention centre.

Detention centre staff 'cracked'
There were 62 cases of mental illness among former guards at the Woomera and Baxter detention centres in South Australia.

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