Refugee Action Collective (Vic)

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

Archives March 2017

MEDIA RELEASE: Federal Court rules asylum seekers can keep mobile phones in detention

MEDIA RELEASE: Federal Court rules asylum seekers can keep mobile phones in detention

Federal Court rules asylum seekers can keep mobile phones in detention

17 March 2017

The Federal Court in Sydney today (17 March 2017) has ruled that asylum seekers have the right to continue their legal fight to keep their mobile phones while in onshore immigration detention, following a class action brought by human rights lawyers the National Justice Project to prevent Serco and Border Force from seizing detainee phones.

Border Force had planned to confiscate all detainee phones and SIM cards on 19 February 2017, but were prevented by an temporary injunction obtained by the National Justice Project on behalf of all detainees with phones in detention. The government challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to hear the application but that challenge has been dismissed and the case can now proceed.

National Justice Project Principal Solicitor George Newhouse, while welcoming today’s decision, emphasised that this is an ongoing matter and that the Government is likely to appeal, saying:

“This is a small but important victory, but it’s a long journey ahead and we’re up against a Government that will oppose human rights at every turn.”

Newhouse continued, “Seeking asylum does not make you a criminal. Mobile phones provide asylum seekers with vital access to the outside world, to loved ones and to advocates – their mental health and their families depend on this. The blanket ban on phones punishes innocent men, women and children and demonstrates the increasing criminalisation by this Government of asylum seekers who have committed no crime.”
Prior to this recent policy change, asylum seekers who
arrived by air had a right to mobile phones as long as they have no camera or recording facility. The new policy would see all phones confiscated and anyone found in onshore detention with a phone punished.

George Newhouse, Principal Solicitor, National Justice Project 0422255109
Notes to editor
The National Justice Project is a law firm whose mission is to promote social justice, liberty, accountability and equality for all people.
twitter: @NJP_au

1- 2 April | Super Stalls Weekend

Be part of a weekend of stalls all across Melbourne to get the word out about Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees.

Either get together with your friends, family, or organisation and register a stall in a location near you (we can help out with materials and Palm Sunday leaflets).

Or register your interest in participating on a stall near you.

Just fill in this form:

Stalls can be just two people leafleting a busy thoroughfare, or they can be more elaborate with tables, information materials, a-frame.

So far we have stalls for Coburg, Northcote, Victoria Markets, Belgrave, Brunswick, South Melbourne and Footscray.

Contact Lucy for more info 0404728104

Facebook event here

The campaign for justice for refugees has lost a fighter

The campaign for justice for refugees has lost a fighter. Sadly Trevor R. Grant passed away on Sunday 5th March after a battle with mesothelioma. Trevor was amazing. As a journalist and activist he brought fire and a deep humanity to everything he did.

For many years, Trevor worked as a high profile sports journalist for Fairfax and later for Murdoch. He suspected, and was no doubt correct, that the asbestos that had nestled in his lungs came from the buildings in which those two newspapers were produced.

Trevor was one of those rare journalists who provided political and social context to his writing, even on the most everyday sporting contests. Most importantly though, Trevor knew that while sport is a battle, life is a war… and he always knew what side he was on. Everything about his life evidenced the importance he placed on standing against oppression, on siding with the underdogs against the powerful, and on refusing to let those who rule the world do so with impunity.

Through all his working life, Trevor was an ardent trade unionist. A member of the journalists’ union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (and its precursor, the Australian Journalists Association), and he saw out his career as a proud member of the construction union, the CFMEU.

When he retired, Trevor threw himself into the struggle for refugee rights. At the time, the overwhelming majority of refugees coming to Australia were Tamils fleeing from the genocide in Sri Lanka. The carnage was almost unspeakable. In the final weeks of the war, Sri Lankan forces herded tens of thousands of Tamils into a narrow strip of land, fraudulently labelled “no fire zones” – and bombarded them. Alongside this were concentration camps, torture, rape and murder on an enormous scale. In these few weeks, up to 80,000 Tamils were killed. Thousands fled desperately in search of safety.

So true to his spirit, Trevor became one of the frontline fighters for Tamil justice. He co-founded the Tamil Refugee Council alongside prominent Tamil refugee and activist Aran Mylvaganam and other Tamil refugees.

One of the Council’s early initiatives was the campaign to boycott the Sri Lankan cricket team’s 2012 Australian tour. Under the slogan “Don’t let cricket hide genocide”, Trevor organised protests across Australia. He understood that the tour’s aim was to whitewash a genocidal regime. For a high profile chief sports writer, someone whose career was built on cricket journalism, it was a gutsy move to sponsor rowdy protests outside the hallowed grounds of the MCG and the WACA.

In 2014, Trevor published his tour de force, “Sri Lanka’s Secrets: How the Rajapaksa Regime Gets Away with Murder”. In painstaking detail, and with heart-wrenching accounts from survivors, the book rages at the last 30 days of the Sri Lankan war and the horror unleashed on Tamils in the north. Bruce Haigh described it as “essential reading… [and] a chronicle of genocide”, while Geoffrey Robertson QC lent his heft to the book through writing the foreword.

Trevor also railed against the Australian government’s complicity in the Sri Lankan genocide. His solidarity with the Tamils was not just one of charity for the victims. On the contrary, he understood that solidarity truly meant standing together against the crimes of the Sri Lankan AND the Australian regimes.

In 2015 Trevor visited Tamil refugees in camps in Tamil Nadu, India. Here he met the mother of Leo Seemanpillai, a 29-year-old asylum seeker who self-immolated in Geelong in June 2014, fearing he’d be deported to the hellish camps from which he fled. Trevor wrote extensively about the experience, in some of his most moving pieces.

Trevor was in many ways an honorary member of the Australian Tamil community. This was manifest not just in his outspoken journalism and activism, but in his capacity to organise furniture for Tamil refugees living in Melbourne.

In a mark of the esteem and respect in which people held Trevor, not to mention the personal impression he made on all who met him, tributes have been flowing across social media.
The Tamil Refugee Council wrote: “Trevor was incredibly passionate about the Tamil people and their cause, and our community will not be the same without him. Many Tamils remember the support he offered them, the friendship he showed them and the energy he displayed fighting for them and their freedom.”

Trevor’s commitment to Tamil justice had an impact across the Tasman. The National Council of New Zealand Tamils wrote:

“Trevor is a good human being who has dedicated his life to fight for justice. He came to New Zealand and gave a talk called “It’s just not cricket: The ongoing genocide of Tamils” organised jointly by the Green Party Aotearoa New Zealand, University of Auckland Faculty of Law and the National Council of New Zealand Tamils. Rest in peace Trevor, we will miss you very much.”

Refugee Radio, the 3CR program Trevor co-founded, also expressed their grief: “Many of us had the pleasure of knowing Trevor from a myriad of rallies, organising meetings and spirited debates… Trevor burned with a fierce passion for justice for Tamil people, and all refugees everywhere.”

Ronny Ato Buai Kareni wrote on behalf of Papuans through the office of the DFAIT Federal Republic of West Papua and The Voice of West Papua (3CR radio program in Melbourne) to express their sadness at Trevor’s passing. Ronny says of Trevor, “I remember you called me a few weeks ago to talk about West Papua and how we could keep the momentum going with the tension between Australia-Indonesia military saga. Can’t believe to hear your gone.” Even in his last few days, Trevor was concerned with organising solidarity for oppressed peoples, not just in Tamil Eelam, but everywhere.

Alex Bhathal, prominent Greens member and refugee rights advocate, noted “I’m seriously crying as I write this – RIP Trevor Grant – cricket writer and human rights activist. My condolences to his family and friends, and thinking of our mutual friend Aran Mylvaganam who shared so much with Trevor in their quest for justice for the Tamil community of Sri Lanka.”

Vale Trevor Grant. We will remember you and we will keep up the fight. Rest in peace and rest in power.