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Tag Archives: Reza Barati

Dutton has lost control.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has well and truly lost control of his portfolio. The past year alone provides a rich field of examples of Dutton’s incompetency. There are many instances which highlight the absurdity of his excuses, claims and justifications for the Coalition’s appalling policies. Yet despite a growing list of clear failures, there is a noticeable absence of demands for accountability. Dutton continues his awful attempts to defend the indefensible and the general public laps it up, convinced by the Government’s lies that it is all for the greater good.

Dutton has demonstrated many failures. A man with his level of ineptitude and incompetency in the private sector would have been fired a long time ago. A man in his position in any other institution, would be loudly condemned, and subject to a fiercely independent investigation at a minimum.

The latest in the string of absurdities must be Dutton’s reaction over the recent death of a person under his care and the following riot on Christmas Island. Dutton brushed off the seventh known death of an asylum seeker since early 2014, with little more than a ‘meh’, followed by loud accusations of violent, hardened criminals causing trouble for no reason at all in the remote prison. Not only does Dutton fail to recognise or even faintly appreciate the duty of care he owes to asylum seekers detained under this watch, but he loudly refutes the provable fact that violent criminals, minor offenders and asylum seekers have all been mixed together and none would be there at all if it wasn’t for him and his party’s policies.

The totally preventable death of Fazel Chegeni is the doing of Dutton. The riot, which looks to cost the Australian taxpayer $10 million dollars, on top of the $100 million dollar blowout in the billion dollar cost of offshore detention, is the doing of Dutton.

Dutton is responsible, and in being responsible, must be the most incompetent Immigration Minister since the equally appalling performance of former Minister Scott Morrison.

If Dutton was an employee in any private organisation, he would have been sacked long ago for gross incompetence. If any individual person was paying Dutton’s remuneration, he would have been sacked long ago. Yet the Australian public, every individual tax payer is paying for Dutton, and yet he continues, unchecked, with calculated, deliberate lies to try and cover up his incompetency. And Australia does not hold him to account.

The mysterious death of Fazel Chegeni, a refugee whose body was found after being chased through the Christmas Island jungle by guards, follows other preventable and inexcusable deaths. In October, out of fear of being returned to detention and dying a slow death at Dutton’s hands, Khodayar Amini doused himself in petrol and self-immolated. Leo Seemanpillai did the same last year. Asylum seeker ‘Reza’, fearing deportation on Dutton’s orders, was found dead at Brisbane airport. Earlier, Nasim Najafi was attacked while under Dutton’s care, placed in solitary confinement, and committed suicide.

Dutton is responsible for these deaths. Just like former Minister Scott Morrison was responsible for Reza Barati’s murder on Manus Island, and for Hamid Kehazaei who died from a septicaemia after a treatable infection on his cut foot was ignored.

Dutton holds the power to giving these people hope, freedom and a chance of a life. Dutton refuses.

Dutton, whose actions are slowly killing the people under his care, is doing his best to convince asylum seekers that it is better to return to their own countries and risk death in a warzone, than die a slow and lingering death under his watch. ‘Khaled’, who saw his own father murdered after they both worked as military interpreters for the US, was coerced into returning to the very city he fled from in Iraq. Officials from Dutton’s Department coerced another man, Eyad, to return to Syria, where he was tortured for twenty days by government officers, before finally making it to his home. A short time later he was injured in a shell attack, which killed his father on the spot. Dutton is responsible for this.

If any other person was responsible for so many deaths, so many atrocities, so much harm, they’d be imprisoned themselves. Not Dutton. No, he is being paid by the Australian tax payer to continue his torturous regime.

Who can forget the boatloads of Tamil asylum seekers Dutton returned to Sri Lanka, despite being subject to persecution? And his refusal to help rescue Rohingya refugees stranded at sea? Or the Vietnamese asylum seekers who were returned by Dutton, some of which were arrested and detained immediately on their return to Vietnam?

And of course there is Dutton’s implied admission that his Department paid people smugglers, in a clear breach of international law, backed up by an Amnesty International report finding enough evidence that it happened.

Dutton is determined to continue to expose children to sexual abuse, assault and torture. The Government-commissioned Moss Report, the Forgotten Children Report from the Australian Human Rights Commission, and a Senate Committee Inquiry found that offshore detention is not safe for families and children. Earlier this year Dutton ordered the transfer of a five month old baby, Asha, to Nauru, where her desperate mother is still gravely concerned for her health. Fully qualified, professional Australian doctors have labelled the Government’s treatment of asylum seeker children as torture. Dutton is unrepentant. Instead of addressing the shocking claims, he made it illegal for ‘entrusted people’ to report the abuse, threatening doctors, nurses, councillors and teachers with two years jail.

The Australian tax payer is financing this abhorrent situation. Every Australian is paying for Dutton to put in place laws to incarcerate anyone who tries to hold Dutton to account.

Dutton refused for months to help a woman who had been brutally raped while under his care. Abyan, another refugee who fell pregnant after being raped, was also denied treatment in Australia until a mass public outcry. Dutton, insistently lying to the Australian public and the world about the poor woman’s situation, despite even the Coalition’s biggest supporter, Chris Kenny, backing up her advocates, has not been held to account for his lies. Dutton only acted after a scathing press statement from the United Nations, yet he still insists that denying a traumatised woman access to a counsellor and expert medical care is appropriate treatment.

Dutton deliberately seeks to expose vulnerable men, women and children to further harm.

According to Dutton, pregnant women under his care who request to give birth in Australia are trying to blackmail him, are taking him for a ‘mug’, and are partaking in a racket to get to Australia. According to Dutton, it is acceptable to force women under his care to give birth in a third world hospital on Nauru, where a newborn baby is seven times more likely to die at birth, and the mother is fifty times more likely to die during childbirth. Dutton has ignored medical professionals and the Australian Medical Association who insist Golestan, a diabetic woman, must be immediately flown to Australia to give birth. Golestan is suffering a complex pregnancy, and despite medical staff expecting her baby will require specialist care, Dutton insists on risking the baby’s life. Will Dutton sacrifice the life of an innocent baby in his race to provide crueler conditions than those which the asylum seekers have fled from?

It is not just asylum seekers Dutton treats with loathing and contempt. A freedom of information request by Fairfax media revealed that Dutton deliberately misled the public when he said there was no way his Border Force agents would be doing random spot checks on unsuspecting and law-abiding Melburnians in August this year.

Spooked by a backlash to the press release that Government agents would stop and speak with anyone they came across during Operation Fortitude in Melbourne’s CBD, Dutton’s kneejerk response at the time was to deny all knowledge of such a planned venture.

What kind of Minister thinks it’s acceptable and lawful to expect people to carry, and produce on demand, their ‘papers’ while out shopping on a weekend? What kind of Minister then lies to say it was never planned? Obviously one who mistakenly thought Australia was a police state, or one who is grossly incompetent. Dutton forgets he is an elected representative paid for by the Australian taxpayer to represent the Australian people, not treat the very people who elected him as criminals.

Speaking of taxpayers, voters, and Christmas Island, Dutton demonstrates yet again his inability to tell the truth. Despite deliberately, unrepentantly and viciously detaining and deporting any non-citizens who have suddenly become socially undesirable, no matter how minor their wrong-doing, or the absence of any actual offence at all, Dutton is adamant only the most violent and hardened criminals are subject to section 501 of the Migration Act. Many of these people have lived in Australia for their entire lives. They have voted in elections. Many have paid their taxes and contributed positively to the community for decades. They have families, wives, husbands, partners, siblings, parents and children in Australia.

According to Dutton, a decorated New Zealand soldier, Ngati Kanohi Haapu, known as Ko, must be banished forever, despite having no criminal convictions whatsoever. Ko’s ‘character issue’ is that he is allegedly a member of a one percent motorcycle club. Despite no motorcycle club being proven to be a criminal organisation, and police and law enforcement agencies being unable to produce sufficient evidence of such, Ko has been detained and set for deportation.

Ko has committed no crime. Not like Dutton, who has paid people smugglers, enabled and condoned child abuse, rape, and torture, and is responsible for at least five of the seven known deaths of asylum seekers.

According to Dutton, a New Zealand born mother of six, who has served her time for minor drug offences is a violent, hardened criminal. If this woman had been born in Australia she would serve her time and move on with her life. But no, according to Dutton, she must be banished from Australia, despite serving her sentence, because a faceless bureaucrat has applied a mandatory provision enacted on Dutton’s command, that she be deported.

According to Dutton, a single mother of two, charged with shoplifting is such a threat to the Australian public, she should be incarcerated, away from her young child and teen daughter – banished forever from Australia, because of Dutton. There is no such thing as rehabilitation or having ‘done one’s time’ under Dutton’s watch.

According to Dutton, a quadriplegic man, who served time for self-medicating with painkillers, is such a threat to the Australian public, he must be deported, never to return to the land he called home.

According to Dutton, a British man, who has lived in Australia for fifty of his fifty-one years, who in a moment of stupidity lit a scrub fire in which no people or property were harmed, is a violent and hardened criminal. Because according to Dutton, only violent and hardened criminals are being held on Christmas Island.

Where are the cries for Dutton’s resignation? Why is the Opposition silent? Why is Bill Shorten not calling for Dutton to stand down or be sacked? Why is the mainstream media not demanding more answers?

No person in anything other than a criminal organisation, a fascist, police state or dictatorship would get away with such criminal behaviour, and wilful and deliberate lies to the domestic and international community.

How many more families will be ripped apart by Dutton’s arbitrarily applied laws? How many more people must die a violent, painful and preventable death under Dutton’s watch? How many innocent children will lose their parents, and how many parents will lose their children at Dutton’s hands? The Government and the weak opposition, the detention centre contractors, and all the faceless bureaucrats, are complicit in the deaths, torture, and inhumane treatment of people under Australia’s care. Every Australian who does not make a stand against the cruel regime, is complicit.

Enough is enough. Rape, murder, suicide, torture, child abuse, violent assaults, death from medical neglect, and wilful destruction of families is all in a day’s work with Dutton in charge. And every Australian is paying for it.

 

A Failure of Moral Leadership

Reza Barati - mourned by many Australians (image from abc.net.au)

Reza Barati – mourned by many Australians (image from abc.net.au)

The recent review into the events on 16th-18th February at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre that led to the death of 23 year old Iranian Asylum seeker, Reza Barati, raises several questions about the responsibilities incumbent upon the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and its minister, Scott Morrison.

But, more importantly, it also raises questions of political leadership generally.

Commissioned as it was by the Department, the report has been criticised as short on detail and containing little that had not been reported already by New Matilda, the ABC, the Guardian and Fairfax. According to Max Chalmers of New Matilda, the report by former Robert Cornall is a farce.

Despite acknowledging serious deficiencies in the treatment of detainees including the overcrowded conditions, failure to process claims and failing to give adequate answers to questions raised by detainees as to their future, the report offers little by way of corrective action. It does, however, demonstrate a direct correlation between the tension, anger and frustration which led to the riots and the Australian Government’s asylum seeker policies.

Those policies include being sent to Papua New Guinea in the first place and having no chance of being resettled in Australia. It also cites the length of time taken to determine their status as refugees, the length of time spent at Manus and information concerning their resettlement in New Guinea as contributing factors. “Cornall’s most recent review indicates that the frustration and uncertainty faced by asylum seekers awaiting processing, as well as their despair at the prospect of never being resettled in Australia, led to protests and an antagonistic relationship between asylum seekers and locals employed in the centre,” Max Chalmers writes.

Let us consider that prior to the riots, not one of the 1340 detainees’ claims had been processed. Consider that detainees had no idea how long they would be kept in the overcrowded compounds. Consider the heat, humidity, inadequate hygiene, the mental anguish, the depression and the likelihood of racial tension both within and outside the camp. Consider the lack of information being provided. Any one of these factors was enough to cause disquiet. Put together, they became a ticking time bomb about which warnings were issued to the department.

Cornall’s review is disturbing on several levels. It confirms earlier media reports of the involvement of GS4 staff, PNG Police, PNG nationals and Australian expats. It confirms that detainees not involved in the riots were dragged from their beds and beaten. Eyewitness reports confirm Reza Barati was set upon by up to ten people including one PNG Salvation Army staff member and beaten mercilessly. The PNG police are still conducting their own investigation into the riots and now claim they are hamstrung by a lack of cooperation “from all involved.”

The role of the previous government in this tragic event cannot be ignored. Kevin Rudd’s decision to reopen the Manus Island detention centre was political. He acted in a manner consistent with a leader trying to deflect criticism from an opposition that smelt blood. He was trying to deny the opposition traction on a highly toxic issue in an upcoming election. He decided on the policy to permanently deny asylum seekers who arrived by boat, settlement in Australia. That decision was also political. But the then opposition, now the government, were happy to go along with it. They would have done it themselves anyway. The transfer of the first detainees was swift and poorly prepared. It was a failure of moral leadership.

This was not the first time Rudd acted in haste. The present government is conducting a Royal Commission into the pink bats fiasco which led to the death of four workers. That earlier decision to set up the roof insulation programme was also poorly prepared. The present government is now spending millions of dollars designed primarily to embarrass the previous government.

The parallels between the Manus Island riots and the pink bats fiasco where four young men died cannot be ignored. Former ministers Peter Garrett, Mark Abib and Kevin Rudd have been called to account at that hearing. Similarly, a man has died while under the protection of the Immigration minister, Scott Morrison. Why is he not being called to account? The best ‘mean culpa’ Scott Morrison has been able to offer is his ‘great regret’. Morrison added that it was, “terrible, tragic and distressing.”

By any reasonable measure, ministerial responsibility demands Scott Morrison’s resignation. In his statement following the release of the Cornall review he acknowledged the delay in setting up CCTV, better lighting and fencing that he had approved in November last year. Even here, he could not resist firing off a broadside at the previous government who he claimed had done nothing. He too, was playing politics. He has given no explanation as to why, as late as February, still no asylum seekers claims had been processed. Why was there such a long delay? Was the Department of Immigration and Border Control deliberately delaying the process? Were they deliberately leaving detainees to believe that they could be in detention for years as a means of encouraging them to return home? Are not the actions of the department worthy of an inquiry that puts them under the spotlight? This too, is a failure of moral leadership.

Each of the recommendations that have been made in Robert Cornall’s review begs the questions: Why is it there? Why has it not been shut down? Why do we have offshore processing?

For a government so obsessed by waste and so keen to save money, the economics alone should tell them this is bad policy. The inhumane treatment should tell them this is immoral. History will record this period as one of our lowest, rivaling our treatment of indigenous Australians over the last century. Media attention on the pink bats Royal Commission will eventually subside, regardless of the outcome. It is a cheap political exercise. The issue of asylum seekers in offshore detention will not subside. It will remain a ticking time bomb.

Those in the broader community who have supported the policies of both governments should also accept their share of the responsibility. Politicians are weak and feeble people who thrive on what they perceive to be the mood of the people. They are opportunists ever ready to seize upon, and exploit, issues they believe will further their interests. The people who support offshore processing should hang their heads in shame. They, along with John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott are all indirectly responsible for the death of Reza Barati. Bill Shorten’s failure to raise one question this week in parliament about Robert Cornall’s review indicts him as well.

They have all failed in moral leadership.