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<nettime> Refugees in Australia [3x]

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   Woomera reverts to pre-UN policy on visitors                                    
     Dave/Ross <>                                               

   Re: <nettime> Children Placed in Punishment Compound                            
     Plasma Studii <>                                         

   Worst I've seen, says UN asylum inspector                                       
     "ben moretti" <>                                         


Date: Wed, 5 Jun 2002 09:08:56 +1000
From: Dave/Ross <>
Subject: Woomera reverts to pre-UN policy on visitors

Woomera Reverts to Pre-U.N. Policy on Visitors

The ACM and DIMIA staff at the Woomera Detention Centre have returned 
to an obstructionist approach to visitors once again, following the 
departure of U.N. investigators.

To our knowledge, the most successful visitor in the history of the 
centre, Matt Damon, succeeded in getting three visits on successive 
days:  the day of the U.N. visit, and the day before and the day 
after.  However, the next person to ask permission to visit detainees 
was told that one of the two women she wanted to visit flatly refused 
to see her, even though the visitor had a letter from the detainee 
requesting a visit.  The visitor then asked for permission to return 
to visit other detainees who had requested a visit from her, and she 
was told that the staff at the centre were "too busy" to be bothered 
with visitors until the following weekend.

When a member of the ACM staff was asked how many visitors had 
arrived during the week to see the more than 200 people being 
detained there, she replied, "Only you."  In other words, a centre 
which gets almost no requests for members of the public to visit 
detainees is operating on a policy of no visitors at all being 
allowed in during the week, on top of the usual excuses for denying 
access on the weekends.

Requests by mail from other people have either not been answered, or 
they have been answered with confusing arguments and questions which 
appear to be aimed at finding excuses to deny access.  People are 
asked how they managed to make contact with the detainees in the 
first place (and we already know that alleged associations with any 
of the 2,000 or so refugee advocates who attended the Easter 
demonstrations has been used as an excuse to deny access).  In other 
words, if they admit that they got the names and numbers of the 
detainees (which are a closely guarded secret within ACM and DIMIA 
circles) from activists who are campaigning for refugee rights, then 
it may be enough to warrant them being barred from visiting, as is 
the case with the Refugee Embassy staff based in Woomera, who would 
like to visit detainees on a full-time basis.  (Connections with the 
Refugee Embassy must also be hidden, which is why this report is not 
being too specific about the sources of information used in preparing 

People who list more than one or two people that they would like to 
visit are treated with suspicion.  And those who wish to return the 
next day to see the same people get a similar grilling about why they 
should need more than the one visit.  If you forget a name or 
mispronounce it, this is given as evidence that you must not really 
know the person you are visiting.  And the staff all insist that this 
is being done to "protect the rights of the detainees".  This, in 
spite of the fact that more than seventy detainees have filled out 
forms stating that they would like a visit from ANYONE who will make 
the effort to travel to Woomera to see them.

This policy of obstructing visits from friendly Australians is one of 
the cruellest tricks of the Ruddock-Howard administration, in their 
efforts to keep the public from seeing the human face of the 
detainees, and to keep the detainees from receiving any hope or 
encouragement from Australians.  It is no wonder that angry 
Australians would think of tearing down fences, and desperate 
detainees would risk their lives to escape, when legal visits 
(something freely available to the worst criminals in Australia) are 
blocked consistently, week after week and year after year.  Most 
detainees at Woomera have never received a single visit from a 
friendly Australian, apart from their lawyers.

Something must be done about this.

Dave McKay
Refugee Embassy

Phone: 0407-238805
- -- 
for the moment, mail to will be automatically 
forwarded to, so you may reply to either 
address and it will reach me. 


Date: Wed, 5 Jun 2002 15:22:56 -0400
From: Plasma Studii <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Children Placed in Punishment Compound

>Children Placed in Punishment Compound

If they took the children away from the mothers that were going to be 
punished, would that make anyone any happier?

>The much vaunted program to put refugee women and children into
>community housing in the township of Woomera is suffering from a
>philosophy of punitive action byACM staff, according to a report from
>the Refugee Embassy at Woomera.
>Women and children who misbehave while living in the township are not
>only being returned to imprisonment behind razor wire, [ ... ]

If you had to isolate some "misbehaver" from the rest of a refugee 
camp would you put them up in a hotel?

>but in some
>cases, they are even being placed in the dreaded Oscar Compound,
>which is used as a punishment area for the most troublesome

Like the "misbehavers" that do something that deserves imprisonment?

Sounds like a case of just looking for some issue to get outraged 
about.  Which would be harmless by itself.  but has the effect that 
if there really is a greater issue (evil prison system), the decision 
makers will have this protest to site as proof that they are 
justified because this opposition is so trivial and misdirected.



223 E 10th Street
PMB 130
New York, NY  10003


Date: Thu, 6 Jun 2002 09:08:14 +0950
From: "ben moretti" <>
Subject: Worst I've seen, says UN asylum inspector

[What, so the Government spruce up of the detention centre 
*didn't* fool the UN inspectors? I mean they probably spent a 
couple of thousand dollars putting in lovely trees and murals 
of happy refugees, they even built them a children's 
playground. It is no wonder that the ruling Coalition 
government wants to block moves for Australia to ratify a 
convention for the establishment of an International Court - 
they would probably be up on charges within a year or two. Ben]

Worst I've seen, says UN asylum inspector

By Michael Millett
June 6 2002

The United Nations has expressed its disgust at Australia's 
mandatory detention system, describing the Howard Government's 
policy of locking up asylum seekers for long periods as a 
gross abuse of human rights.

The stinging condemnation came yesterday from the head of a 
special UN delegation during private talks with two senior 
Government ministers.

The Herald has learnt that the head of the UN Working Group on 
Arbitrary Detention, Louis Joinet, warned the Government he 
would declare his objections at a press conference today.

It is understood that Mr Joinet privately told welfare groups 
he had not seen a more gross abuse of human rights in more 
than 40 inspections of mandatory detention facilities around 
the world.

The UN's dismay was conveyed in separate meetings with the 
Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, and the Foreign 
Minister, Alexander Downer.

Today's public condemnation will be a severe embarrassment for 
the Government, given its repeated assurances that its 
treatment of asylum cases - notably its rigid adherence to a 
policy of mandatory detention - does not breach international 

Mr Ruddock has touted the system as a model for other 
countries to follow in dealing with mass people movements.

This week he told Parliament that a number of European 
countries, including Britain, had begun implementing elements 
of the Australian approach. 

But Mr Ruddock has been in conflict with the judiciary over 
his handling of immigration, and the detention system was 
criticised by another UN representative, Justice 
Prafullachandra Bhagwati, in private talks with the Government 
last week. The judge, an envoy for the UN High Commissioner 
for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, and Mr Joinet's team have 
just finished inspecting a number of detention centres.

The tours - tightly orchestrated by the Government amid 
accusations that millions of dollars were spent sprucing up 
the centres - included visits to Port Hedland, Woomera and 

The UN inspectors spent several hours interviewing detainees 
about camp conditions.

Mr Joinet's meeting with Mr Downer was delayed until late last 
night, giving the Government little time to prepare for the 
political fallout. 

But Mr Downer told Mr Joinet the mandatory detention policy 
was deemed to be very successful and there was "no reason to 
modify it".

The Government had been bracing for an adverse finding since 
it gave grudging acceptance earlier this year to the 

The visitors' findings bring the Government into direct 
confrontation with the UN.

But the mandatory detention policy has strong public support. 
While Labor is split over the issue, the Opposition Leader, 
Simon Crean, has vowed to retain mandatory detention.

- -- 
ben moretti

(*)/ (*)


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