Australian people smuggling laws victimise poor Indonesian fisherman

"The ongoing protests by the young, broke and often illiterate Indonesian "smuggling mules" who earned as little as $50 for sailing a group of refugees to the Indonesian islanders' age-old fishing grounds of Ashmore Reef needs close, thorough and complete scrutiny and a full review under the next Federal Parliament," according to WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom after the recent protest at Darwin Dentention Centre.

"Most of the elements of Australia's people smuggling laws, which are the harshest smuggling laws in the world, while in 1999 and 2001 Australia was the first country in the world to establish people smuggling laws, are brazen acts of political screams by politicians, bullying voters with the line 'vote for me, I am tougher on border protection than the other side of politics', spokesman Jack H Smit said."

"Australia's smuggling laws have nothing to do with stopping any form of "transnational crime" as they claim, mouthing the United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (the Smuggling Protocol), especially since we scrapped the UN smuggling definition from our Criminal Code in June this year under new federal anti-smuggling legislation."

"The only reason we are so keen to have the harshest smuggling laws in the world, is so callous political law and order interests can bark as well as lie about being tough on border protection to sectional interests in the electorate. These politicians have been deliberately spinning a line on Australia being "invaded" by floods of boats so these marginal voters can be satisfied; so these voters can be manipulated to vote for the party that's toughest at the border, Mr Smit said."

"The young men protesting at the Darwin detention centre are merely at the receiving end of this political pandering to marginal voters, and they are the victims of Australia's politicians' game with misinformed and swinging voters. They are the endgame in our neurotic border protection game, and their innocent lives are in the process of being destroyed on the altar of our invasion-fear politics."

"All these young men have done, is bringing fifty, seventy, a hundred, or five hundred dollars into the kitty of their family's household budget. They have brought a few dozen refugees into the safety and protection of Australia as a nation that signed the UN Refugee Convention, something we perhaps should applaud in the context of our international obligations to do our bit for the world's refugee intake."

"The Greens, the cross-benchers and the independents can bring on a full parliamentary inquiry into the effectiveness of the smuggling laws, and they should, given the fact that these nasty laws since 1999 have not caught any more than one or two of the "real" smugglers, but just victimise hundreds of broke, young and desperate Indonesian fishermen."

"Any inquiry's first conclusion will inevitably become that the "mandatory sentencing" terms of the legislation urgently need to be abolished. Any magistrate in our courts who has had to deal with the prosecution and sentencing of these so-called 'smugglers' will be able to tell us that. The laws are a disgrace."
MEDIA RELEASE: Darwin "mules" protest: People smuggling laws need full review

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312

Office (08) 9881-5651



Lindsay Murdoch
September 9, 2010
TEN Indonesians who helped bring asylum-seeker boats into Australian waters have been secretly flown home without facing people-smuggling charges that carry long mandatory jail terms.

Australian Federal Police decided the ''personal circumstances'' of the crewmen justified the use of discretionary powers to free them.

More than 200 Indonesian crewmen being held in immigration detention in Australia face people-smuggling charges that carry jail terms of up to 20 years.

First offenders face a mandatory five years' jail, with a non-parole period of three years.

But lawyers, judges and the Indonesian government say treating them as people smugglers is an injustice because almost all of them are poor Indonesian fishermen who were duped by the real smugglers.

The Age believes that none of the organisers of almost 100 boats that have illegally entered Australian waters this year are facing justice in Australia.

The AFP declined to comment about the release of the 10 crewmen in the past 12 months. Some are believed to be teenagers.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions said in a statement that the AFP made its decision to free them ''based upon the personal circumstances of the particular individuals and their role in ventures''.

''In making that decision, the AFP took into account the public interest factors set out in the prosecution policy of the Commonwealth,'' the statement said.

Criticism is growing over the way Australia is treating the Indonesian crew of asylum-seeker boats.

More than 100 rioted in Darwin's immigration detention centre last week. Some had spent up to 10 months waiting for their cases to be heard.

Almost all of them were duped by criminals who do not enter Australian waters because they know federal laws stipulate mandatory jail terms that could incarcerate them for periods for as long as for murder.

Most of them remain free in Indonesia, where people smuggling is not yet an offence.

Northern Territory courts have been told that teenage Indonesians have been paid the equivalent of as little as $60 to steer boats into Australian waters.

Australia holds 216 Indonesians who are facing people-smuggling charges.