September 30, 2014
Murder of Australian dual citizen in Afghanistan proves that deportations can kill
On September 20, Australian citizen Sayed Habib was kidnapped off a bus between Kabul to Jaghori in Afghanistan. Three days later his body was found, showing signs that he had been tortured before his execution. Habib, 56, arrived in Australia by boat in 2000 and eventually gained residency and citizenship. He was in Afghanistan and making the journey he was to visit his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. His son is currently stranded in Indonesia.
Refugee Action Collective spokesperson Tony Iltis pointed out that Mr Habib would not have put himself in danger had not the racist policies of the Australian government denied him family reunion. “This is yet another horrible tragedy that is a direct consequence of Abbott seeking electoral advantage by boasting that he has ‘stopped the boats’,” he said.
The Australian foreign affairs department responded to the tragedy by reiterating that Afghanistan was officially considered an unsafe destination for Australian visitors and that the part of the country where Mr Habib was killed was contested by different armed factions.
However, at the same time the Australian government declares that Afghanistan is safe destination for deported asylum seeks, ignoring the fact that — as the murder of Mr Habib demonstrates — having sought refuge overseas is enough to get one targeted by armed groups.
“Research by the Edmund Rice Centre has revealed that of 8 refugees returned from Australia to Afghanistan during the Howard years, 6 are dead and one is missing. As far back as 2008, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that a man coerced from Australia to Afghanistan had been beheaded. In August the first forced deportation from Australia to Afghanistan took place with the deportation of a man to Jaghori — the same place Sayed Hamid was travelling to when he was murdered,” Iltis said.
“It is not just Afghanistan. As will be shown on the SBS current affairs show, Dateline, tonight. Tamil refugees returned to Sri Lanka, including those intercepted on the high seas by the Australian navy, have been subjected to the most horrific forms of torture and sexual sadism. Australia has closely aligned itself with the Rajapaksa regime in Sri Lanka and ignores the internationally-recognised reality of human rights abuses there.
“Australia recognises that the human rights situation in Iraq and Syria is dire, and indeed is using this as a pretext for going to war. However, Iraqi and Syrian refugees continue to be threatened with deportation or coerced into returning through the inhuman and life-threatening conditions of Australian detention.
“Today’s revelations by Senator Christine Milne of sexual violence by camp guards against detainees in Nauru are just the latest example of how Australian refugee policy is based on deterring people from seeking refuge here by making the consequences of doing so as horrific as the violence from which they fled. In this context refugees choosing to return cannot be seen as voluntary. Australia is sending innocent people to their deaths.”
Refugee Action Collective is holding a rally on October 11, at 2pm at the State Library (corner Swanston and Latrobe Streets), to call for an end to Australia’s war against refugees.
For more information call Tony Iltis 0437237010 or Chris Breen 0403013183. www.rac-vic.org