Refugee Action Collective (Vic)

Free the refugees! Let them land, let them stay!

Archives 2014

Deportation stopped by passengers’ protest

anti-deportation information sheet

Seven people were able to achieve a small victory. Something we didn’t think would actually happen. People need to know that they can peacefully stand up for what they believe in and make a difference. Seven ordinary people. Not the pilot. Not the authorities at the airport. People need to know that it is them that make the difference” – Steph O’Donnell passenger

Wei Lin, a 33 year old Chinese asylum seeker was escorted by four Serco guards, tightly handcuffed with a mask placed over his mouth, but he able to get to the front of the plane after asking to go to the toilet, as passengers were boarding.

Wei was able to hold his shackled wrists to show the passengers and said, “I am a political asylum seeker. The Australian Immigration Department forced me to come to the airport & board on the airplaneagainst my will…,” before he was roughly pushed back to his seat.

The red welts left by the handcuffs were still obvious on Wei’s wrists three days later

The passengers’ action came after activists from the Refugee Action Coalition (NSW) distributed leaflets, in English and Chinese, at the check-in counter explaining how passengers could help stop forced deportations by ‘standing up for asylum seekers’.

Steph contacted the Refugee Action Coalition (NSW)  from London explaining the action of the passengers – her account is here in full:

From Steph O’Donnell to RAC Facebook page (21 Dec 2014) :

Hi Team.

I wanted to email you guys about the removal of Wei Lin from the Air China flight from Sydney to Beijing on Friday night.

I just wanted to add some detail to this story in the hope of inspiring others to take action if they ever find themselves in a similar situation.

I was on the flight with my partner and as we were getting settled and putting our items in the overhead compartments Wei Lin ran up the aisle with Serco guards closely in toe yelling “stop that man!” They caught up with Wei Lin and forcefully escorted him back to his seat ashe held his shackled hands in the air saying “this is how they treat me”.

Several passengers then approached staff to explain they would not be taking their seats until Wei Lin is removed. Staff from the airport came on board to check out the situation. We were informed they understood our concerns and would return shortly.

They did not return. The plane began to taxi with nothing being resolved. We requested to speak with the pilot about the matter but our requests fell on deaf ears.

There were 7 of us – four Australians, a New Zealander one Brit andone Japanese woman still refusing to take our seats.

The pilot had no choice but to return to the boarding gate, threatening to cancel OUR flights. Finally after 90 minutes, the pilot agreed to remove Wei Lin from the flight.

 Seven people were able to achieve a small victory. Something we didn’t think would actually happen. People need to know that they can peacefully stand up for what they believe in and make a difference. Seven ordinary people. Not the pilot. Not the authorities at the airport.

People need to know that it is them that make the difference.

Melbourne overnight protest vigil to stop forced deportation to danger

Update: Gulistan has been deported. Police violently broke a the small blockade trying to stop Gulistan’s deportation to danger in Afghanistan. Thanks to those who rushed down to Maribyrnong detention centre when we got word the deportation was happening early. Thanks to everyone who had been prepared to get down to Maribyrnong to try and stop the deportation. Our hearts and thoughts are with Gulistan. There is some short shaky video footage of events that transpired.


Action Alert – Melbourne protest vigil to stop forced deportation to danger


‘The Refugee Action Collective and Hazara community representatives have called a protest vigil to stop the deportation of Gulistan, a 33 year old Hazara man who has been in Australia for 3 years. Hazaras returning to Afghanistan have been tortured and killed. Gulistan is scheduled for deportation this Wednesday.’ said Chris Breen for the Refugee Action Collective


There will be an overnight vigil from 7.30pm tonight Tue December 16

for a main protest at 7.30am Wed December 17 at

Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre

53 Hampstead Rd, Maidstone


‘Gulistan had been a victim of Taliban roadblocks on the road between Jaghori and Kabul and forced to work as slave labour for the Taliban.  The Refugee Review Tribunal decision to deport Gulistan is inconsistent and out of date. Other RRT decisions have found the dangers faced by asylum seekers from Jaghori are sufficient to grant protection’ continued Breen


‘The tribunal decision relies on Department of Foreign Affairs information from early 2012. It claims Jaghori within Ghazni province is safe, but the Australian government itself is unable to return asylum seekers to Jaghori, it dumps them in Kabul. The tribunal also ignored evidence from Professor William Maley that nowhere in Ghazni province is safe for Hazaras.’


‘This would be the 3rd forced deportation to Afghanistan. Zainullah who was deported in August was captured and tortured a month later by the Taliban for two days before he broke free.  Abdullah, who was deported from Perth in October, remains stuck in Kabul with no support and too terrified to travel to Jaghori where he is originally from. An Australian citizen Sayed Musawi was killed on the road between Kabul and Jaghori in September.’


‘The RRT further claimed that failed Afghan asylum seekers are not targeted on return, but this was precisely what happened to Zainullah in August when the Taliban found pictures of Australia in his phone. This new evidence serious undermines the credibility of their decision’.


‘The decision makers ought to travel the road between Kabul and Jaghori themselves, before declaring it safe and condemning Gulistan to possible torture and death. Immigration Minister has the power to prevent this deportation, we call on him to intervene and use it.’


‘Last weekend 19 people including two US soldiers were killed in Taliban attacks.’

‘Afghanistan is not safe; Gulistan will not be safe.’ Said Breen


Call Chris  0403 013 183 or Amanda on  0423 013 245 from the Refugee Action Collective for further comment


below are pictures from protest on Sunday Dec 14 at Immigration Department against the deportation




New Asylum Laws Fact Sheet

Refugee Action Collective – Migration Laws Fact Sheet

Migration laws fact sheet – pdf version
What’s the significance of these new laws?
The new Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill legislation grants unprecedented powers to the Immigration Minister and his department to control and endanger the lives of asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat. It will mean even more people who need protection will be denied it, and some will almost certainly instead be deported to face torture or death. The ‘lucky’ ones might get a Temporary Protection Visa with no pathway to permanent residency. People stuck on Manus Island and Nauru will remain imprisoned there in appalling conditions.
What powers do the laws grant specifically?
The legislation itself is huge and complex, but the most important aspects are clear. It aims to make it legal for the Navy to intercept asylum seekers’ boats at sea, then detain them or even tow their boats back out to sea and leave them there. According to the legislation, Morrison can now block ‘maritime arrivals’ from even making a claim for asylum on the vague grounds of ‘character’ or ‘national interest’ without explaining why. If asylum seekers are allowed to make a claim, and it is rejected, under the new ‘fast track’ process they will at best get a paper review of their case rather than a full hearing. They have no access to the Refugee Review Tribunal and Australian courts. ‘Excluded fast track applicants’ will only get an internal review by the Immigration Department.[1]
The laws also change the definition of a refugee. The Department can decide asylum seekers could avoid persecution by living in a different part of their home country or ‘modifying their behaviour’. That could mean deporting people to countries where they face persecution if they are open about their sexuality or their religious or political beliefs. The Department can even deport people to countries where, under the UN Refugee Convention, they would be considered to face the threat of torture or death.[2]
Will any refugees who come by boat get permanent protection?
For asylum seekers currently in Australia waiting to have their claims assessed (the so-called ‘legacy caseload’) the new laws seek to effectively eliminate the chance of permanent residency. Even if the department deems them ‘refugees’ under the new process, most will get a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV). TPVs leave refugees in limbo, forcing them to re-apply for protection every three years. If that’s denied, they face deportation. At best, refugees might get a Special Humanitarian Enterprise Visa (SHEV) and then after five years might be able to apply for another visa.[1]
People on TPVs and SHEVs will have no family reunion rights and virtually no rights to travel. So refugees who are here without their families may never see them again.[3]
What about asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru?
They will stay stuck there, either waiting for their claims to be processed or for ‘resettlement’ outside Australia. Conditions in both camps are appalling: there are allegations of widespread sexual assault; suicide attempts are common; and there have been deaths due to inadequate health care and the attack on the Manus camp.
Some refugees have already been ‘resettled’ on Nauru where they face a bleak future. Refugee children have been attacked for attending school. The government also wants refugees resettled in PNG and Cambodia.[4] Like Nauru, these are poor countries completely unsuited to taking refugees.
Australia takes a comparatively small number of asylum seekers.[5]
At least some children will now get out of detention, won’t they?
Morrison has promised to transfer children in detention on Christmas Island to the mainland before Christmas, but hasn’t confirmed they won’t just be sent to another detention centre.[6] Morrison has always had the power to release asylum seekers and let them live in the community: he effectively used these children as hostages in his negotiations with the Senate cross-benchers. The legislation will reduce these children’s chances of getting refugee status and cut-off their chances of getting permanent residency and family reunion rights. Morrsion’s hypocrisy is evidenced by the 167 children stuck in detention on Nauru. He is also preparing to deport 44 children to Nauru including 25 babies born to asylum seekers in Australia hospitals.
Hasn’t the humanitarian intake been increased?
Again, this is just Morrison’s promise, not part of the legislation. If enacted, the ‘increase’ in the humanitarian intake would take it back to 18,750 over four years, which is 1,250 lower than the previous government’s target.[1]
The drownings have stopped though, haven’t they?
We actually don’t know if the drownings have stopped because ‘on water’ operations are cloaked in such secrecy. We do know that Navy personnel have accused the government of causing drowning deaths by delaying rescue operations for political reasons.[7] ‘Stopping the boats’ really means intimidating refugees into staying where they are or taking equally risky journeys to countries other than Australia. Australia is now refusing to take any refugees stuck in limbo Indonesia. They eek out a living without any work rights or languish in immigration prisons, and now have no option to get to Australia other than boat journeys.
Refugees wouldn’t get on leaky boats if there were a safe way for them to travel to Australia or if they could be resettled from Indonesia or Malaysia within a reasonable period of time. Punishing refugees by locking them up or deporting them to danger is grossly immoral and does not save lives.
What now?
This bill is a disaster for refugees, but it only got through by two votes in the Senate. Morrison had to offer ‘sweeteners’, releasing some children, and allowing asylum seeker work rights, to pass his legislation. We can beat Morrison, but we need to build an even stronger refugee movement. Join us, and keep Palm Sunday March 29, 2015 free for a mass refugee rights mobilization.
Get Involved! RAC meets every Monday 6.30pm ANMF House 540 Elizabeth St City. New people welcome. First meeting of 2015 is Jan 19
Join the emergency contact list! RAC is worried 5 babies and their mothers may be sent from Melbourne to Darwin in preparation for deportation to Nauru over the holiday period. To be informed of snap protests join our contact list:

Get Involved!