Contrary to media reports, and the picture painted by the Four Corners program, Abu Ali Al Kuwaiti (also known as Abdul Khadem) and his family were victims of Howard and Ruddock’s shameful mistreatment of asylum seekers.
“It is impossible to understand the real story of Abdul Khadem unless you understand the shocking story of the abuse and victimisation of Abdul and his family at the hands of the Howard government,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
Four Corners and the ABC have portrayed Abdul as a people smuggler who arrived in 1999. But that is far from the truth. Abdul was only charged with people smuggling a year after his arrival and only after he was considered to be a trouble-maker by the Immigration Department. He was coerced to plead guilty to people smuggling and was never considered to be an organizer of the boat that he came on.
Abdul came to the attention of the Immigration Department and the notorious manager of Curtin Detention Centre, Greg Wallis, after he acted as spokesperson for striking protesters at the detention centre. Abdul spent two weeks in Derby prison but was never charged.
Released from prison, Abdul was sent to Juliet Block, the brutal punishment compound in Port Hedland. From there, the family was sent to Maribyrnong in Melbourne.
Suspiciously, Abdul was only charged with people smuggling in Melbourne, a year after his arrival even though he had revealed everything to the Immigration Department on arrival. He was moved to Perth, while the family remained in Melbourne. Splitting his family was something for which, Abdul never forgave the Immigration department.
Eventually, the family was released on bridging visas, but Adbul remained in detention. After three years – three years – his refugee claim was rejected by the Immigration Department. He never got the opportunity to appeal to the Refugee Review Tribunal.
The family applied to 20 countries for assistance after the Immigration department threatened to arrest and deport one of Abdul’s sons. The Immigration Department unsuccessfully tried to deport the family to Iran in 2003 and then to Vietnam.
“The real story of Abdul tells a very different story. The Australian government owes Abdul and his family an apology,” said Ian Rintoul. “His story is the shocking story of so many asylum seekers victimized by the Australian government.
“If Abdul has organized boats from Indonesia, they are boats of asylum seekers like himself, cruelly treated by mandatory detention. The people smuggling laws first introduced by the Howard government allowed Abdul to be victimized by the government.
“The people smuggling laws are doing the same thing today. Assisting asylum seekers to get to safety in Australia should not be a crime.
“It is a pity that Four Corners didn’t tell the real story of Abdul Khadem.”
For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713
From the Refugee Action Collective Sydney