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19 January 2015


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Censorship is real and being imposed by Australia against workers, whistleblowers, journalists and NGOs involved with the Manus Island detention centre.

The Australian Border Force Act passed last week, supported by the ALP and opposed only by the Greens, effectively turns the Department of Immigration into a secret security organisation with police powers.

Although the Act seems to be directed at Customs operations, it also seeks to regulate and control access to information about asylum seekers in immigration detention.

Under the Act, it is a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment of up to two years, for any person working directly or indirectly for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to reveal to the media or any other person or organisation (the only exceptions being the Immigration Department and other Commonwealth agencies, police, coroners) anything that happens in detention centres like Nauru and Manus Island.

Section 24 of the Act requires that any departmental workers or contractors to the department subscribe to an oath. There is no detail about the contents of the oath, and it is possible that the oath will prevent individuals such as doctors and nurses, as well as organisations such as the Salvation Army, Red Cross, United Nations and Amnesty International, from fulfilling their ethical and professional obligations to report physical and mental harm.

Section 26 of the Border Force Act allows the Australian Border Force Commissioner to direct people who work for the department including contractors, consultants and people who work for foreign governments or for public international organisations.

These directions must be followed. This will inhibit contractors from abiding by their professional obligations or from following the generally accepted standards required to fulfil their roles. The Commissioner could, for example, direct that medical staff on Nauru ensure they seek permission from him before accepting a request to provide a briefing on their work to a medical organisation such as the AMA.


There is a good report on The Loop this morning about a man called Reza who has chosen to agree to settle in PNG. He is out of the prison and is being looked after. He is an engineer and hopes to get a job soon.
He has a positive outlook and is willing to try to work out the best way forward from this bad situation he has found himself in on Manus.
Where they is a will they is a way.

This information is just about asylum seekers returns to Sri Lanka. Multiply this by returns to Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen etc.

Sri Lanka arrests 37 asylum seekers sent back by Australia

53 Australian lawyers condemn return of asylum seekers to ...

Fears asylum returnees will face persecution - ABC News ...

Peter, the ABC ran a program on some of these people on Manus. They went back to where they had come from and found that they were not persecuted. Their relatives were wondering where on earth they disappeared to.

I'm glad they stopped the boats. But Australia now has this other huge problem to deal with - the radicalized Moslems.

There are probably millions of people that these ISIL people would like to have exterminated and many are in imminent danger. We really haven't got room for them all as refugees.

Mathias - I agree. But maybe closer to the the South Pole is a better option. We've done it before with Tasmania and Norfolk Island. And don't forget the Australian Antarctic Territories.

I remember an Aussie guest staying with us at the height of the Enoch Powell "Rivers of blood" speech in the UK. Powell was complaining about immigrants from the colonies (and he was an ex-Professor from Sydney Uni.)

Our guest's response was "well Britain and other western countries saw fit to take over hundreds of places around the world. Isn't it about time the chickens came home to roost?"

An island near the north pole may be a better option, and a preferred one for the refugees.

I cannot fathom why Australia had to use Manus Island. Australia is a big open country with lots of barren land. Why can't you built your detention centre in the middle of Australia somewhere.

Why spread your problems around the Pacific? Neo-colonialism? Is it the Aussie money that's doing all that diplomacy?

Cut this rubbish, respect this sovereign nation of PNG and take your problems back to Australia.

These days in PNG, there is so much talk of corruption at all levels of government and society. This Manus saga is also corruption at another level.

Aaron and Barbara - I beg to disagree.

Around 90% of asylum seekers are found to be genuine refugees and would be in immediate danger if returned to their original countries.

And if you were fleeing from persecution and immediate danger, would you have identity documents on you which would give your enemies just the proof they need?

(And try getting a birth certificate in PNG. We don't all have the luxury of a bureaucracy which bothers to register such things).

Check the facts.

And this is from News Ltd, not generally known to be sympathetic to boat people.

Also the Australian Parliamentary Library has some useful info.

Thanks Aaron, for what sounds more like the true story.
The Australian Government is allowing thousands of refugees into Australia but these people chose to try to queue jump and it quite likely they are not genuine refugees in any case.
But I think it is very sad that the Australia Government dragged PNG into this problem. I just wish there was some other island they could be moved to while they wait to find a home.

The detainees have all been offered the opportunity to return to their home countries but refused. They still think the Australian government will back down and let them queue-jump into Australia because "refugee advocacy groups" have led them to believe this will happen if they protest vigorously enough.
Most of them are economic refugees and cannot provide solid evidence of risk of persecution in their home countries and that's why their claims are taking so long to be processed.
Immigration has already explained that the water in the compound was not cut off on purpose but there was a problem with the water system - why play this up to make it look like the detainees are being denied water? Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story, huh? Drinking from the drain? I don't think so, unless purposely to stir up trouble.
I have been inside the Manus centre. The living conditions, though crowded and Spartan, are not much different to what workers at a mining camp in Australia or PNG experience - the accommodation is basic but the food is good, the water is clean, the medical care is Australian standard. Compared to refugee camps in Indonesia, Malaysia etc where the "bona fide" refugees wait their turn to apply to come to Australia, the Manus centre is five star.

Apparently detainees aren't allowed to have mobile phones. The Guardian reports:

"Following a forceful breach of the Delta and Oscar compounds on Monday, detention centre guards have also swept the Manus Island compounds, run by Transfield Services, searching for mobile phones and others forms of communication.

"Seven more men were reportedly arrested for having phones – used to film and photograph events and send images out of the centre – and detainees’ personal property was removed from Delta compound after the barricade there was broken."

Free speech anyone? Not for asylum seekers it seems. Where's Australia's Freedom of Information Commissioner Tim Wilson when you need him?

You might think such reports are from 'bleeding heart liberals' (small 'L'), but I'll tell why I think they are important.

In one of my first jobs (at Albury TAFE) I became friends with and old cleaner. Yes just a cleaner. But I learnt we shared a love of opera.

He invited me to his home one day to hear his Maria Callas records. He said these kept him alive. I asked him why, and eventually after a few beers he explained.

"I was a prisoner in Changi. It was my job to collect the wee in a cup from all the prisoners first thing in the morning. You see we had many men suffering from tropical ulcers, and there were no dressings.

"We discovered that urine was an antiseptic, and washing the wounds in this helped heal many people who might otherwise have died from blood poisoning."

And listening to Maria Callas after this experience kept him sane. God bless him.

A true Australian hero.

A powerful piece in The Guardian. Have we become as bad as the terrorists we rightly despise?

"Everything in our political imagination leads us to see a yawning gulf between the unbridled zealotry of terrorists and the civilised, democratic rationality of our own elected governments.

"But how clear would that contrast be to a complete outsider? How might it seem to a Martian observer." objectively comparing the behaviour of Australia’s political leaders (to Manus Island detainees) to that of Man Haron Monis or the Kouachi brothers?"

This comparison might seem offensive, but take the position of a Martian and look objectively at the West's drone attacks killing innocent wedding parties in Afghanistan, the 'collateral damage' caused by allied bombings in Iraq or Pakistan, or the Israeli response to rocket attacks from Palestine?

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