The case of Hakeem Al-Araibi vs Behrouz Boochani and countless genuine refugees (assessed by UNHCR) in Australian offshore detention on Manus Island and Nauru
By Jon Chesterson
Can someone, anyone tell me what makes Hakeem Al-Raibi’s case so special and different from say Behrouz Boochani or any of the other refugees on Manus Island and Nauru?
So what’s the go here and is it even safe to raise the question after the Australian hype and popularity of what is undeniably a fabulous outcome for protecting the right of one refugee today, save Dr Phelp’s ‘Urgent Medical Transfer’ refugee Bill currently going through Parliament a second time, having once already been denied passage before Christmas by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Before I go any further let me first iterate without any ambiguity or misunderstanding, I fully applaud Hakeem’s release from Thailand, I applaud his alleged claim and right to seek asylum and the integrity of his actions as I understand them, and I applaud Australia and our government for pursuing and defending his case and rights under international law. So in mounting my questions and argument I am in no way diminishing his right to Australian or international justice and human rights. I wish he and his family the success they or anyone else in similar shoes deserve, that said which by reason brings me to the point of the matter.
But what makes Hakeem Al-Raibi’s case so special and different from say Behrouz Boochani or any of the other refugees on Manus Island and Nauru? They are both genuine humanitarian refugees, Hakeem has fled his home country, Bahrain and Behrouz from Iran. Neither have any criminal record or history within their own country, overseas or in Australia. Both individuals have a respectful manner and integrity any reasonable and fair minded Australian or citizen of any country would rightly be proud of, as do many others in our offshore detention centres, and yet what makes them so different they should be treated so differently by our incumbent Australian Government and Parliament?
Is it because he is a precious footballer while Behrouz is a suspicious journalist?
Is it because he came by plane and not by boat, and of course people who come by boat must be punished to keep others from coming, even though they have broken no law? Punishing a person for someone else’s possible future behaviour that has not yet happened, nor a crime, but simply to use as hostage and deterrent is ominously ‘thought police’ Orwellian. What kind of law, political or religious fanaticism is this?
Is it because he just happens to have got to Australia, had access to Australian and international law and acquired a protection visa; while Behrouz was prevented from landing, denied natural justice and international protection as a genuine refugee and consequently imprisoned on a remote Pacific island, where the international community and Australian justice system could not defend him?
Or is it because this desperate Liberal-National Coalition government are looking for propaganda, a show case, a good news twist to claim they take their international relations, laws and obligations for refugees seriously, while with the other hand flout international law and justice in their own country and offshore? And just when there happens to be a general election looming – how convenient!
Both men, like many others on Manus and Nauru have fled a country and regime that has threatened or attempted to torture them. Neither have committed any crime in their own country nor by virtue of seeking asylum in another country and making their way to Australia to do so. So what is the difference in matters of law or justice?
Clearly this must be political and by that I mean one of them magically strikes gold, the other is demonised, incarcerated for five years indefinitely on Manus Island. Paradoxically one is the unintended hero or nemesis of the other.
In Hakeem’s case he was allowed to enter Australia on a passenger flight, subsequently claimed asylum and in due course was granted a protection visa. He joins a football club and later obtains a visa to holiday and honeymoon in Thailand. it was reported that the AFP, working as locally based Interpol, had notified Thailand of his arrival and did not flag his refugee status, however the Australian Government have subsequently denied this. But was this a blooper, it would not have been the first time?
it was reported on 30 January 2019 that the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had called upon his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-o-cha a few days earlier in a letter, stressing that Hakeem Al-Araibi had been issued a permanent protection visa by Australia after a deliberate and considered process and that returning the footballer to Bahrain would infringe his rights under international human rights law. A somewhat strange position to take when Australia has been as ardent in the refoulement of refugees in violation of international law as Thailand, except that Australia is a sworn signatory to the UN Convention, so not to do this, while Thailand is not.
In late January, the office of Marise Payne said that her government was making “extensive efforts” on behalf of Hakeem Al-Araibi and yet no effort is made to appease the contradiction of enforced incarceration of others in our offshore detention centres. In fact Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison have gone to extraordinary and excessive lengths to demonise, deny justice and freedom, to the extent of repeated and direct combat and opposition in the Federal courts on the provision of appropriate lifesaving emergency medical care, unsuccessful in every case.
Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, has a history of returning alleged criminals to their countries of origin, and has strong economic links with Bahrain.
The Australian government has bent over backwards, twice over and beyond to advocate Hakeem’s rights as a refugee to Thailand, Bahrain, the international community and back at home to the people of Australia. The Australian government has gone to extraordinary lengths to publicise this, create, fan and ride the tide of public sentiment – subscript ‘what a compassionate, humanitarian and just country we are’… the Prime Minister never coy in pulling out his plum.
In Behrouz’s case, like many others on Manus Island and Nauru, he has been intercepted by a Border Force boat without any due process or hearing, transferred and dispatched to a remote island offshore where he has subsequently languished with 2000 others for the past 5 years alongside many others (not nearly as many who come by plane from overseas). He has been tortured and abused by security officers and private companies acting on behalf of the Australian Border Force and Government, denied his freedom, access to reasonable medical care, denied a protection visa, denied legal representation, denied entry to Australia, demonised and held indefinitely offshore against his will illegally according to Australian, PNG and International law.
What makes these two cases so different, that one is hero worshipped and the other demonised? Both were fleeing their country of birth for the exact same purpose and reasons as the other. What kind of legal, social, moral or arbitrary justice is this?
Is it really football that softens the hearts of our politicians and the masses (cricket having had its own recent fall from grace) or is there some hidden agenda, some magical reason or cause we don’t know about? Or is it just because there is an election campaign under way, the Liberals are running scared and have need to hide the delusional ravings of a mad Prime Minister, his Minister for Home Affairs, their mad psychotic party and the repressed prejudices of a few loud mouthed wealthy elite or ignorant ill-bred ill-informed citizens?
So what’s the go here with refugees? Have we been ‘Trumped and Murdoched’ once again by our very own government?
No good boys here.
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