Operation Sovereign Borders: an @adropex fact check


By Lesley Howard @adropex

21st February 2014

No matter what you think of the ALP or the LNP policy on asylum seekers, regardless of whether you voted for this government or not, the riots, the violence and social unrest, the fear, the death and the injuries happened on our watch. Ours. Us. Australia.

Australia is a signatory to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, a United Nations multilateral treaty that defines the rights of individuals seeking asylum and the responsibilities of nations that provide asylum.

No matter our individual view as to whether the ‘transferees’, ‘asylum seekers’ or ‘refugees’ should be settled in Australia, no matter our personal politics, once our navy engaged and asylum seekers were processed to Nauru or Manus Island, we undertook responsibility for these people, and our government has a duty of care to ensure their ongoing safety and wellbeing.

“Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution” Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14(1) .

Most of the rights crucial to the protection of asylum seekers are also the fundamental rights embodied in the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights. First and foremost is the right to life, liberty and security of person. Up there with the right to seek asylum is the right to freedom from torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

We have failed to ensure both of these rights.

A 118 page report by Amnesty International found that conditions on Manus Island in November 2013 were appalling and the treatment of the asylum seekers humiliating. Months of escalating unrest and violence, unchecked but widely reported on, led to the events on Manus Island this week and the violent death of a 24-year-old Iranian. He was not a martyr or a criminal, he was a young man seeking asylum, held in detention by, and in the care of, the Australian Government. Our government.

Current government policy is to detain anybody who attempts to enter our sovereign borders without a valid visa. Australia is the only country in the world to strictly enforce mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Australia’s policy of mandatory detention runs counter to that of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that detention should not normally be used as a measure to control asylum seekers.

“In view of the hardship which it involves, detention should normally be avoided.” UNHCR ExCom Conclusion no. 44 (1986).

The UNHCR, whilst recognising the use of military forces to deliver humanitarian assistance can save lives in certain situations, takes the approach that humanitarian operations should be of civilian character and appearance, impartial and independent of political considerations.

It’s highly questionable whether this approach is reflected in the Abbott Government’s ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, or the imminent military intervention on Manus Island.

The UNHCR also advocates the right to confidentiality and the safeguarding of personal information of asylum seekers. Once again we see that our government has not acted in accordance with the UNHCR, accidentally posting extensive personal details on the Australian Government website, information that could compromise the security and safety of people in their care.

So can we say that our government has acted in accordance with the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees to which our country is a signatory?

“It is important to ensure that there are no provisions in the legislation that allow any authority to undertake any act concerning refugees or asylum-seekers that may amount to a violation of any of their basic rights and fundamental freedoms under general international human rights law.” Refugee Protection: A Guide to International Refugee Law.

Not on our watch.

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  1. Indonesia and Thailand must sign the convention says

    I get really frustrated when the MSM won’t report this fact, and then No Fibs chooses to either ignore or is not aware of this fact: Indonesia and Thailand are not signatories to the refugee convention! Why can’t they share the humanitarian responsibilities.

    I come from a refugee family (WW2) SO don’t call me a WASP racist. I want the general public to know this fact so they can choose to stop holidaying in Bali or Phuket if they feel so strongly about it. Our country is bone dry and our farmland is declining. Food prices are going up, wages and job security going down. We can’t keep populating. Oh and 485 Class Visas are the biggest issue. OS Students can stay on and work full time hours after their education is finished. Too bad for the local kids wanting to find a job. This is massive social engineering. How many young kids at 25 could have the job security to marry and raise a family? Wake up!

    Oh and Sell Christmas Island to the Indonesians. That way it’s not a short boat trip to Australian territorial waters. Its akin to leaving your front door open on Christmas eve. Open invite!

    We have to look after our own now. The world is a hot bed and we can’t save everybody. That’s life.

    Most of the refugee advocates come from wealthy families where they get $100,000 plus deposits from parents to start their first home, or had the privilege to get a first rate education and a secure admin job. It’s getting hard out there and we have to wake up and stop 485 Visas’ 457 Visas’s rampant education visa scams (more than 20 hours worked)

    • Yes, you’re absolutely right. Lebanon and Jordan (over 100,000 refugees each) have much more space and resources than Australia, let’s keep having them bearing the brunt of the asylum seekers. Let’s be as selfish and heartless as can be, and the heck with people less fortunate than us. You got in as a refugee and therefore you’re not a WASP racist??? Then why should your family have got in but not those people fleeing war and torture? Australia is one of the originators of the Human Rights Convention for Refugees and we are to honour our commitment. We take a pitifully low number of asylum seekers compared to the rest of the world, and Pakistan, the country that takes the most, is probably the one that can least afford it. Indeed Indonesia and Thailand are not signatories to the HR Convention on Refugees, that is precisely why people who are desperate for shelter, protection and safety ask us for asylum. They need to be in a country where they are safe, where their children can go to school, where they can contribute to society. Why is it OK for people coming by plane to claim asylum and why do we torture those who are not fortunate enough to have passports, therefore can’t get visas, because for a Hazara it would be like signing his own death sentence to ask for a passport in Afghanistan. The “massive social engineering” is about 10,000 people, for goodness’ sake. Australia has been prospering for decades THANKS TO the influx of refugees, asylum seekers, people coming from less fortunate countries than us. Who do you think is going to pay your pension and that of your children, if we don’t bring in young families to this country?

      As for where the refugee advocates come from, please attend one of the many rallies organised all over the country this weekend to protest the horrible way we “deal with” refugees in this country. You’ll see whether we “get $100,000 plus deposits” from parents (I have 2 children in their mid-20s but would be quite unable to provide them with that sort of assistance on my meager yearly income). However those who advocate for the refugees have a social and moral conscience and are revolted for what is being done in our name. I wish you to visit Syria, Afghanistan or any war-torn country and then we can resume this conversation.

      • Indonesia and Thailand must sign the convention says

        When my grandparents came to Australia as refugees, Indonesia Thailand etc were still primitive nations without the capacity to absorb mass migration and Australia had enough work and cheap land so that my grandfather could buy 2 houses and raise a family of 3 on Abattoir worker wages. Try do that now!!!

      • rangermike1 says

        Dear chaton, I agree with you entirely. But for the grace of God go I. I have worked in places like Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and others. Walk a mile in my shoes comes to mind to see the desperation of these people.

  2. This government has followed a Fascist agenda of creating an enemy where one does not exist. Refugees are not the enemy of Australia. Given over the last 200 years our country’s new arrivals are all refugees, including our ignominious leader Tony Abbot. Refugees are human people who deserve the right to being treated with humanity. The torture and punishment of refugees by Tony Abbot cannot be condoned or excused. The made up artifice of them being a threat to our sovereignty is a lie used to manipulate the people who will get screwed by the policies of the Liberal National government, which wants to concentrate the wealth to a few people. So the uneducated are given an artificial enemy, when the real enemy to their wealth is the current government. They will cut your health, your wealth, they will subsidise big business, screw you out of decent internet speeds and connection to the modern world. So you can believe the lies and deception and misinformation coming out of Tony’s mouth or you can see through their fake illusionary enemy and see the real one. Tony Abbot, Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop and Rupert Murdoch these are the enemies of your wealth and opportunity to grow.

  3. john921fraser says
  4. Eva Makowiecki says

    I too am deeply concerned about what has occurred in Manus Island. Regardless of your views on asylum seekers, Manus Island has been an eye-opener.

    By the way, my parents also came out after WWII as well. And my surviving parent has great sympathy for the asylum seekers.

    The people in camps on Manus are desperate. They are in a camp with little or no facilities, nothing to do, oppressive weather, no health services, quite likely family members back at home who they cannot contact and have gone into debt to pay for the boat trip to Aus., and have been told they could be spending the next 10 years in this camp. Health, education, employment – now impossible dreams.

    People without hope have nothing to lose – except their lives. They’ve already lost their liberty, their families and their future. And they are not criminals. We treat serial killers better.

    I wanted to stop the boats too. Simply because so many people were dying trying to get here. I thought the “Malaysia solution”, where we send back a few refugees, and take 4,000 refugees who have been sitting in camps in Malaysia for years was a great idea. But Malaysia is not a signatory to the relevant Human Rights convention. And of course the L/NP and the Greens opposed it. Can’t have the Labor Government looking like it had a promising idea. So, does Manus Island and Nauru sound like a better idea? Don’t make me laugh.

    I agree with the fundamental point of the article – that Australia put the asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru in those camps – and we therefore have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment – and dare I say it, a little hope? This is clearly not the case. Just for a start, I would not be relying on the (human right untrained) PNG police, who allow civilians into the camp for the purposes of quelling a protest. Talk about a jurisdictional nightmare.

    I don’t know what the answer is to stopping the boats, but what we have seen on Manus deserves a long hard look by the Government over the hell on earth they seem to have established for these asylum seekers – almost all of whom will be found to be genuine refugees if past results are anything to go by. As for the waste of time, money and effort is having the Australian Navy ‘operating’ against asylum seekers……..

    • rangermike1 says

      Eva, I agree with you entirely. Labor had that Malaysian idea and it was a good one. This current Abbott Govt. has NO idea and NO thoughts about what to do with these people. It seems to be lock them up and forget these people. Not good.

  5. Tony Abbott was an Economic Refugee.

    • rangermike1 says

      diannarat, Tony blinking Abbott is an idea and governance refugee. No Ideas and much ramblings and spittle. Not a great CV to have to govern this great country.

  6. Firm but fair, says Abbott. Was so impressed with David Pope’s cartoon in the Canberra Times showing the “Deterrinator”.
    Cynical and despondent though I feel regarding the tragic death of this young man and the suffering and trauma of the others there including minors and the personnel at the centre, I am genuinely perplexed at the attitude of Tony Abbott.

    I cannot work out what it is that motivates him in his foolish attempt to deceive Australians about the extremity of this situation.
    The information shutdown he seeks is not possible in the contemporary world – not in Australia, not in PNG, not in the Ukraine and not in Egypt.
    I am deeply concerned that he is deluded about being an “Iron Man” inspired by the “not for turning Iron Lady”. It is becoming an increasingly desperate situation. Something triggered this terrible violence and the Australian government may have been the instigator. If it is true that these asylum seekers were informed that they would not be resettled in Australia, had expressed anger, frustration and despair at the idea of being forced to stay in PNG or worse, repatriated, then it is understandable how they would have lost it and how the notorious PNG police called in. What can be more dangerous than people who have nothing left to lose? Appalling state of affairs.

  7. rangermike1 says

    I don’t think Tony Abbott (with all his priest training), has ever opened up his bible. Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not place false Gods before me, come to mind. Abbott has blood on his hands with the shooting of that poor man in detention and the only God that Abbott follows is the money (false) God.

    • rangermike1,

      Contrary to popular belief, the Bible is not a reliable guide to morality. History is full of evil people inspired by the Bible who used it to claim justification for their atrocities. Mr Abbott has certainly read bits of his Bible and one thing he does comprehend is the nature of faith. He offers the Australian people blissful ignorance of the asylum seeker irritation, so that they can maintain faith that the boats have stopped.

      According to the principles of Jesus in the Bible if you have faith that the boats will be stopped then they will be stopped. Believe and it shall be so. If they don’t stop it is because ye are of little faith. And do not ask for signs by which you will know that the boats have stopped, for it is wicked to ask for signs.

      If you think Mr Abbott’s policy is just a confidence trick he’s playing on gullible voters bear in mind that the word confidence literally means ‘with faith’. And I have little doubt that Mr Abbott subjects himself to the same rigours of ignorance he imposes on the rest of us in order to sustain his own faith in the righteousness of his government policies, as well as to provide himself with plausible deniability for their consequences. Knowing the difference between good and evil is after all condemned in the Bible as original sin.

    • Excellent article ‘Churches combine to condemn Abbott’s evils’ by Alan Austin. Catholics are not the only religious group concerned at the Government’s failures and fiascos.

      See also collection of asylum articles at: CASABLANCA’S CACHE. Saturday, 22 February 2014. Churches & MSM begin to question Abbott’s regime http://www.thepoliticalsword.com/page/CASABLANCAS-CACHE-2014-02-21.aspx

  8. john921fraser says