Interivew: Paris Aristotle

Lateline (ABC) – 29 May 2015

Rohingya 2

Paris Aristotle is a refugee advocate and CEO of the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture.

As talks take place in Thailand on South East Asia’s migrant crisis, he tells Steve Cannane greater cooperation amongst regional countries is needed because no single country can deal with it on its own.

“For too long, Steve, there’s been a view, that to deal with people smuggling and to stop people drowning at sea you need to put in, primarily harsh deterrence measures in order to do that. I think, that you can still deal with people smuggling, which is a legitimate and important issue to deal with, while still treating people decently and humanely in the context of a international protection system. Now those two things aren’t mutually exclusive…” Paris Aristotle

Nauru inquiry a witch hunt, says minister

Nauru inquiry a witch hunt, says minister

AAP – May 20, 2015

The federal government has accused a Senate committee investigating claims of abuse at the Nauru immigration detention centre of being a witch hunt.

The committee ran out of time on Tuesday to hear evidence from immigration department officials after quizzing senior managers from the centre’s operator and security firm, and representatives from Save The Children.

“Labor and the Greens combined to ensure only one point of view was presented,” Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement.

Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the department would get an opportunity to address the inquiry at a later date.

“This is not a stunt, we’re talking about child abuse,” she told reporters in Canberra.

Are those fleeing persecution and impoverishment so very different?

Are those fleeing persecution and impoverishment so very different?

by Georgina Ramsay, PhD Candidate in Sociology and Anthropology at University of Newcastle

The Conversation – 28 May 2015

Indonesian officials have reportedly told Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that of the 7000 people stranded in boats in the South-East Asian migrant crisis, only 30-40% are Rohingya asylum seekers. The officials described the others as “illegal labourers”.

This political rhetoric demarcates these migrants as two distinct categories: persons seeking asylum from persecution and persons seeking to exploit economic opportunity. However, are these motivations to migrate so easily separated?

The difference between “illegal labourers” and “asylum seekers” appears obvious. The former are seeking work, while the latter are seeking protection. One is being “pulled” from their country by better employment opportunities. The other is being “pushed” from their country by persecution.

It is easy to overlook the complex circumstances of insecurity that drive both “types” to migrate.

RCOA: Refugee Council of Australia Appeal

Refugee Council of Australia Appeal –

Do you stand for a humane immigration policy? Then we need your help more than ever.

Dear Friend,

You may have heard the rumour but it is now official; the Australian Government has stripped us of our core funding in the latest Federal Budget. When Scott Morrison was Immigration Minister, he blocked the funding allocated to the Refugee Council in last year’s Budget but this year Immigration Minister Dutton has permanently removed it. In fact he emphasised the point a number of times in the Budget papers to make sure it wasn’t missed.

Of course we are greatly disappointed. But it was not unexpected. The current government has been punitive against any voice that criticises it, and particularly punitive to organisations who are working to support the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

Yet, we are determined not to be silenced. Just last week you may have seen me in the media calling the Government to account on its appalling approach to the Rohingya asylum seekers floating with limited food and water in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. We also spoke out against the policy perversity of the deal to send vulnerable refugees to Cambodia. The Abbott Government is paying Cambodia $40 million to take just four registered refugees so far. It’s morally bankrupt and, at this rate per head, would be enough to send the country bankrupt.

Australia is wasting billions of dollars punishing vulnerable refugees. In the same Budget in which the Government crowed about saving $140,000 in funding to the Refugee Council, it allocated another $3.2 billion to detention and compliance policies for asylum seekers who arrived by boat.

Importantly too, we’ve been speaking in the media in recent days – following a lot of work behind the scenes – on encouraging the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual abuse to look at the mounting allegations of systemic abuse of children in detention. It’s distressing that despite the many, many allegations, there has been no proper investigations, no charges laid and no prosecutions. We strongly believe this is a matter the Royal Commission needs to cover and will be putting our case in coming weeks.

Speaking out on these issues is not easy and I don’t relish it – but knowing I have the support of people like you, helps us all here to continue to stand up for what is right and just.

It’s so important we continue to do this work and amplify the voice of fair minded and compassionate Australians on these vital issues. This week I’m in Canberra meeting with our political leaders to pursue more humane and sustainable policies. It’s vital that the people who represent us in Parliament are held accountable for the policies they are responsible for implementing.

If you are able, please help us to bring the voice of refugees and asylum seekers to decision makers by supporting us financially – every donation makes a huge difference to a small organisation like ours.

We thank you greatly for the support you are able to provide.

With thanks, Paul Power, Chief Executive Officer, RCOA

Refugee Council of Australia, Suite 4A6, 410 Elizabeth St, Surry Hills NSW 2010

SBS: Rohingyas in Myanmar

The Australian SBS TV 1″ Dateline” programme on Tuesday, June 2  at  9.30 pm and repeated at 1 pm  Wednesday, June  3 will be on the Rohingyas in Myanmar. You can also view the program after broadcast on-line.