Australia outsourcing violence against asylum seekers

The WSWS website has revealed that Indonesian police shot two Afghan Asylum seekers trying to flee to Australia from a high powered boat supplied by Australia. This is symptomatic of the way that Australia is trying to use its financial and diplomatic muscle to outsource the persecution of asylum seekers trying to come to Australia.

Through encouraging a "hard line" on people smuggling, Australia is now paying and financing camps, providing intelligence, money for police enforcement etc to Indonesia. Indonesia has not signed the International Refugee Convention, allowing them to deport people back to countries where they will be persecuted. Indonesia now plans to send any asylum seeker who is not already a refugee back to Sri Lanka from the port of Merak without allowing them to apply for refugee status.

The "Indonesian Solution" is no better than the Pacific Solution

Indonesian police shoot two refugees trying to reach Australia
By Mike Head
18 November 2009

The real face of the Rudd government’s hoped-for “Indonesian solution” for asylum seekers began to emerge last week. Indonesian police, using an Australian-supplied fast pursuit boat, shot and seriously wounded two men aboard an Afghan asylum seekers’ boat, allegedly for resisting arrest.

The shooting, which has left the two in a serious condition in hospital, occurred last Thursday after police intercepted a boatload of 61 Afghan refugees headed for Australia. According to witnesses, a 17-year-old boy was shot in the hand, while a 30-year-old man was shot in the leg as the boat neared Rote Island, just south of West Timor.

A teenage Afghan asylum seeker on the boat told Melbourne-based refugee advocate Pamela Curr that the police had started shooting without any announcement, after the refugees refused to pay a bribe. Indonesian police chiefs insisted that four police officers had boarded the vessel and shot the pair because they put up a fight to resist arrest.

Whatever the exact circumstances, the incident flows directly from the Australian Labor government’s policy of sub-contracting to Indonesia, and other regional governments, the enforcement of measures designed to prevent asylum seekers from reaching Australia.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wasted no time in endorsing the actions of the Indonesian authorities. While declaring that the shooting “lies within the purview of the Indonesian National Police,” he added: “I just say this: when it comes to people smuggling, we have consistently said we support and are engaged with our friends and neighbours in the region in a hardline response.”

Jakarta’s “hardline response” has been carried out directly at the behest of the Rudd government. Canberra is paying Jakarta to conduct such operations—with the close involvement of the Australian Federal Police and intelligence agencies—and to detain refugees on Indonesian soil.

The pursuit craft is believed to have been patrolling as part of an Australian-funded $15 million joint program between Australian and Indonesian police. As well as equipping them, the program includes training Indonesian police in techniques to combat so-called “people-smuggling”.

The “Indonesian solution” has been discussed in a series of meetings between Australian and Indonesian officials in recent months, some personally involving Rudd and Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Rudd has claimed to be close to reaching a formal agreement with Jakarta to intercept and detain refugees in Australian-funded Indonesian immigration centres.

Refugees can languish for years in these overcrowded facilities, even after being recognised as genuine refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), waiting for another country to accept them.

At last weekend’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Singapore Rudd failed to finalise any compact with Yudhoyono, who has been under intense domestic pressure not to allow Indonesia to become a “dumping ground” for the Australian government’s unwanted asylum seekers. In a significant diplomatic snub, Yudhoyono has now postponed, at the last minute, a scheduled three-day visit to Australia.

For the Rudd government, one of the advantages of out-sourcing its anti-refugee measures to Indonesia is that Jakarta is not a signatory to the international Refugee Convention, which prohibits countries from “refouling” or sending back, refugees to face the governments whose persecution they have fled.

Indonesian authorities are reportedly preparing to detain and deport many of the 250 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers who have refused to leave their boat in the West Javan port of Merak. The refugees were intercepted by Indonesian authorities at Canberra’s request on October 11.

According to Australian media reports, Indonesian negotiations with Sri Lanka involve the forced repatriation of about 130 of the Merak passengers who do not carry UN registration cards certifying that they have been accepted as genuine refugees. Any such deportations without the right to apply for asylum would flout the Refugee Convention.

There is no doubt that Sri Lankan Tamils satisfy the convention’s test of fleeing political or ethnic persecution. Decades of official anti-Tamil discrimination led to the country’s protracted civil war when only just ended in May. The Sri Lankan government is currently detaining more than 250,000 Tamil civilians in military-run camps in breach of the country’s constitution and legal system and preparing for a permanent military occupation of Tamil areas of the island’s north and east.

The Rudd government underscored its “hardline” approach last weekend by chartering a 100-seat jet to Sri Lanka in order to forcibly remove six Sinhalese asylum seekers who staged an eight-hour protest inside the Christmas Island immigration detention centre last month. They were accompanied by 17 guards and immigration officials. One of the men had climbed a 12-metre pole and threatened to jump from it in a desperate attempt to avoid being sent back.

The six fishermen had become the first detainees to be isolated inside the centre’s “red block”, built by the previous Howard government, with small metal cells for supposedly violent or unstable prisoners. They were among 50 Sri Lankans who had been trying to reach New Zealand when their boat hit a reef in the Torres Strait, between Australia and Papua New Guinea, on March 28. So far, only 12 have been granted refugee visas.

Last week, Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith and his Sri Lankan counterpart Rohitha Bogollagama signed a statement in Colombo agreeing to launch a joint crackdown aimed at preventing Tamils from fleeing the island and seeking asylum in Australia. In this instance, the Rudd government is directly collaborating with the regime responsible for the persecution of Tamils (see “Australia-Sri Lanka deal for joint crackdown on Tamil asylum seekers”).

Conscious of the groundswell of public revulsion toward the Howard government’s brutal policies, which played a significant part in Howard’s landslide defeat two years ago, the Rudd government has claimed to be following a more “humane” course. In reality, it is cajoling regional governments to help it carry out a major escalation of the measures introduced by its predecessor.

As the latest shooting again demonstrates, the inevitable logic of that “Fortress Australia” policy is the use of lethal police or military force to deny refugees the fundamental democratic right to live where they choose, with full legal, social and political rights.



by PSC Media Release 2009-11-16 9:31 AM +0800
November 15, 2009 - "The ghastly fact that Indonesian authorities have opened fire on Afghan asylum seekers who were on their way to seek protection in Australia - their unabrogated right under international law - points squarely at Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his equally ghastly attempt to 'farm out' to Indonesia Australia's obligations to let asylum seekers arrive in the safety and protection of Australian maritime zones - the ONLY place for them to find legal protection as asylum seekers," WA human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.
"The breaking news (see below) that Indonesia has opened fire on asylum seekers should wake up Kevin Rudd. His hero, WWII's German Priest (and people smuggler) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, turns in his grave today, and he is the symbol of Kevin Rudd's vile hypocrisy on this Sunday morning," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"The farming out of Australia's obligations under the UN Refugee Convention to Indonesia is a disgrace. Today we're seeing the result of this. Indonesia is incapable of seeing them as asylum seekers, and they will treat them as invaders, they will deal with them as illegals, and they will treat them as criminals and as a nasty group causing trouble to their equilibrium of law and order. Indonesia is incapable of this because it has no obligations under, and no knowledge of, the UN Convention."

"Kevin Rudd is responsible for this shooting incident. Kevin Rudd is responsible for those who have been stuck in Indonesia for up to eight years, and he is responsible for the misery of those who he fiercely, nastily, covertly and miserably, prevents from coming to Australia -the only UN Convention country in the nearest 5,000 miles, the only home for asylum seekers in the region," Mr Smit said.

For more information: Jack H Smit, Project SafeCom Inc.
Office (08) 9881-5651 | mobile 0417 090 130

Shooting asylum seekers 'regrettable'
AAP / - November 15, 2009 09:25am

THE Federal Government has described as "regrettable" the shooting of two suspected asylum seekers whose boat was intercepted by the Indonesian coast guard.

The boat, carrying 61 Afghans, was heading for Australia on Thursday when it was intercepted off the eastern coast of Indonesia. One of the asylum seekers was shot in the foot and another in the hand after ignoring warning shots from police after they tried to escape, Indonesian police said.

The injured men were receiving treatment, while the others were being questioned by police. The Australian Government had yet to receive a detailed report of the incident, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said.

"We don't know what's happened, we don't know what kind of circumstances that's been involved," he told Channel 10 today. "Obviously it's regrettable if anybody's been injured in any kind of situation like this." The Government did not want to cast any aspersions about anybody's involvement, Mr Tanner said.,27574,26352563-29277,00.html

Shooting leaves Indonesian Solution in tatters - pressure mounts on asylum seekers
by Refugee Action Coalition 2009-11-17 9:51 AM +0800
MEDIA RELEASE: "The Australian government did not pull the trigger, but it provided the bullets and loaded the guns that were turned on Afghan asylum seekers on the weekend," said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
"How ironic that in the same month there were celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Indonesian border guards have shot asylum seekers trying to get to Australia. But the stark reality is that the opportunity, the bullets, the guns, the patrol, boat and the training are provided by Australia. Asylum seekers are now fleeing persecution in Indonesia, sponsored by the Australian government.

"Kevin Rudd's policy has made vulnerable people even more vulnerable. The demand for bribes is a common experience of asylum seekers in Indonesia.

"But the shooting of two Afghan asylum seekers has blown a gaping hole in Kevin Rudd's Indonesia Solution and his claim for a humane asylum policy. No-one is going to accept that people fleeing the bullets of the Taliban should be shot in Indonesia by Australian-funded guards.

"Until there is adequate accommodation, reliable processing and a guarantee of re-settlement in Australia, there is no possibility of an Indonesian solution"," said Ian Rintoul.

Meanwhile, Indonesia authorities are steeping up pressure on the 250 asylum seekers in Merak. In what may the first steps to forcibly removing the asylum seekers, Indonesian authorities have restricted access to the port.

On the weekend, the Indonesia navy evacuated a woman who had fainted after the International Organsation for Migration (IOM) refused to call an ambulance and a doctor refused to board the boat to attend to the woman.

The IOM which has been providing assistance to the asylum seekers has now abandoned the group at Merak. There is now no direct medical support for the group.

"The IOM has been pressuring us to leave the boat since it arrived deserted us, and now they have left completely. We are urgently calling for the Red Cross to take responsibility for us", said 'Alex', the representative of the Merak asylum seekers.

On Saturday, a man claiming to be an Indonesian policeman called for 'Alex', to leave the boat, then threatened to shoot him.

"Australia should bring the asylum seekers at Merak and the Oceanic Viking to Australia. Rudd is prolonging the agony to save face, but he has already guaranteed that those with UNHCR refugee cards will come to Australia. One hundred and nine people on the boat at Merak also have UNHCR refugee cards.

"Reports that Indonesia may be considering deporting some of the Merak asylum seekers makes it more urgent that Kevin Rudd intervenes to ensure the safety of these people", said Ian Rintoul.

For more information contact Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul 047 275 713