On Monday 1 November Amnesty International handed over petitions with 23, 418 signatures to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen. The petitions called for the government to reassess the way asylum seekers are treated while their claims are being processed; stop the discrimination against Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum seekers; and ensure that all asylum seekers who arrive in Australia, are processed in Australia. Concerns about current immigration policies, such as offshore processing, the reintroduction of the Complementary Protection Bill as well as findings from detention centre tours, were also raised with the Minister.
In October AIA’s Refugee Coordinator Dr Graham Thom led a mini-tour through the detention facilities in Christmas Island, Darwin and Curtin where they met with and spoke to hundreds of detainees. The AIA staff were joined by Halima Kazem, an Afghan IS expert who conducted interviews with more that 40 detainees to gain a thorough understanding of their situations.
If you would like more information about the mini-tours, Graham Thom will be holding an open teleconference on Wednesday 3 November at 1-2 pm. Activists are invited to dial in (dial in number: 1800 153 721 Pin: 261358) or come into the NSW Action Centre (Level 1, 79 Myrtle St, Chippendale). Articles and blogs by AIA staff on the mini-tours are also available on the Amnesty International website: www.amnesty.org.au/refugees
Recent policy changes by the government, including the end of the suspension of Afghan processing and children out of detention, have been a positive step to creating a fair, humane and effective refugee processing system. There is, however, still a long way to go. This is an important time to get in contact with your local MP and ask that they advocate for policies that respect the facts about asylum seekers.