Refugee Action Collective (Vic)

2017 Media Releases

Media Release Tamil Refugee Council 28/02 | DEPORTED TAMIL MAN HARASSED BY SECURITY FORCES IN SRI LANKA

DEPORTED TAMIL MAN HARASSED BY
SECURITY FORCES IN SRI LANKA
A former member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, or Tamil Tigers) deported under duress from Australia last week is being harassed and intimidated, along with his family, by the Sri Lankan state.
Santharuban was handed over to Sri Lankan authorities at Bandaranaike airport, Colombo, on Thursday night, local time, where he was questioned for about four hours.
He claims that, prior to departing Australia, he had refused to sign a deportation document, but Border Force agents threatened to handcuff him, tape his mouth shut and drag him onto a plane. Santharuban signed the
document out of fear for his safety and was put on a flight, accompanied by two guards.
Since being questioned in Colombo, he has been visited twice by state security officers. According to Santharuban’s representative, human rights lawyer K.S. Ratnavale, two men from the Point Pedro naval camp, Jaffna, came to his residence on Monday asking seemingly innocuous questions, which he had answered in Colombo.
Yesterday, two different men came. This time, they took the details of Santharuban’s wife and children – including the school they attend.
“His wife is distraught. She is wondering whether it is safe to return home,” Ratnavale said.
“This is a clear attempt at intimidation and harassment,” said Aran Mylvaganam, Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson. “The security forces are trying to intimidate not only Santharuban but his family as well. Such visits strike deep fears in Tamils, who continue to face assault, torture and disappearance at the hands of the Criminal Investigation Department (known as CID), the Special Task Force and other sections of the police and military.”
“The situation was entirely predictable and highlights the callous indifference of the Australian government in deporting Santharuban in the first place,” Mylvaganam said. “The culture of reprisal in the security forces runs
deep. Returned Tamils, particularly those associated with the LTTE, face dangers that have been well documented by the UN and human rights groups.”
Amnesty International’s latest Annual Report was published on 22 February – the day Santharuban was forcibly deported. It notes of the situation in Sri Lanka in 2017:
“The authorities continued to detain Tamils suspected of links to the LTTE under the PTA [Prevention of Terrorism Act], which permitted extended administrative detention and shifted the burden of proof to a detainee alleging torture or other ill-treatment …
“Reports of torture and other ill-treatment in detention continued. In March, Sri Lanka’s human rights record was examined … the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka said that it had continued to document widespread incidents of violence against detainees, including torture and other ill-treatment, which it described as ‘routine’ and practised throughout the country, mainly by police. The Special Rapporteur … found that 80% of those arrested under the PTA in late 2016 had complained of torture and other ill-treatment.”
The Tamil Refugee Council is calling on the Australian government to end deportations of Tamil asylum seekers and grant permanent protection to those held in detention and those living in uncertainty in the community.
Media contact: Aran Mylvaganam 0410 197 814

MEDIA RELEASE 25/02 | MORE REFUGEES LEAVE NAURU TO BE RESETTLED, BUT TURNBULL KEEPS SILENT ABOUT PAINFULLY SLOW  DEAL

Refugee Action Coalition

MEDIA RELEASE
MORE REFUGEES LEAVE NAURU TO BE RESETTLED, BUT TURNBULL KEEPS SILENT ABOUT PAINFULLY SLOW  DEAL
A group of 26 refugees, including three babies, are flying from Nauru today (Sunday, 25 February) to the US visa Fiji. (Photos attached)
The twenty-six include two Sri Lankan families, but most of the refugees are single men  – Afghan, Pakistani and Rohingyan.
It is the fourth flight of refugees from Nauru since September last year, and the third in February, taking the total number who have been resettled from Nauru to 110 (83 in February).
“Even if US resettlement continued at this rate – it will be more than a year before the refugees on Nauru are resettled in the US. But in reality, it will be even longer, ” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “And we still don’t know the number that the US will agree to.
“Malcolm Turnbull conspicuously avoided discussing the US deal with Trump during his US visit. Turnbull’s US visit has not produced a timetable or any certainty about US resettlement. Iranian and Somali refugees still have no idea if, or when, they are going to included in the US resettlement. After four and half years refugees on Manus and Nauru are still in limbo.
“Turnbull’s concern to spread ‘liberal norms and principles’ obviously does not extend to upholding the human rights of refugees.”
“Welcome Refugee” rallies around Australia on Palm Sunday (25 March) will raise the demand to evacuate Manus and Nauru and end offshore detention .
For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

MEDIA RELEASE 24/02 | RELEASE SAYED: FALSE RED NOTICE LIFTED FROM EGYPTIAN ASYLUM SEEKER

Refugee Action Coalition

MEDIA RELEASE

RELEASE SAYED: FALSE RED NOTICE LIFTED FROM EGYPTIAN ASYLUM SEEKER

The fabricated Interpol Red Notice issued by the Egyptian government against asylum seeker Sayed Abdellatif has been unconditionally lifted (see attachment). The red notice has been the excuse used by successive Australian governments to hold Sayed and his family in detention for almost six years.

Since 2013, when they were transferred to Villawood detention centre, Sayed has been separated from his family in a different area of the detention facility.

The withdrawal of the red notice is a victory for Sayed who has always insisted that the red notice was bogus. It is also a slap in the face for the succession of Immigration Ministers who have used Sayed as a political punching bag.

Tony Abbott, when opposition leader in 2013, notoriously tried to make political mileage out of Sayed’s case by referring to Sayed as a “convicted jihadist Egyptian asylum seeker.” George Brandis referred to him as a “murderer”.

Sayed, his wife and six children have been held in detention on the basis of a red notice that has been internationally condemned and that the Australian government knew to be spurious. A Canadian Federal Court judge presiding over a similar case had warned that red notices could not be taken at face value.

Substantial charges were quickly dropped from the red notice once they were challenged in 2013. But the Australian government refused to follow this up. Worse, information was withheld from Sayed while the government conspired to try to extradite Sayed to a corrupt dictatorship.

Successive Immigration ministers ignored the evidence, including recommendations from ASIO and the AFP and a report from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

“The lifting of the fabricated Egyptian red notice is the first small glimpse of justice that Sayed and his family have seen since they arrived seeking protection in Australia in 2012,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“He is owed an apology for the public vilification he has suffered and compensation for the years that he and his family have been deliberately and wrongly kept in detention. The Minister must immediately release Sayed and his family and provide them with the permanent protection visas that they should have received in 2012.

“There needs to be a full inquiry into this injustice. It is one of the most shocking examples that we have seen, of the abuse of ministerial power that has kept an innocent man and his family in detention for almost six years.”

For morer information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713