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Government deceit over refugees continues.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats November 11, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/807

Government Deceit Over Refugees Continues

Government claims that the 14 people aboard the Minasa Bone that arrived at Melville Island did not claim asylum in Australia simply cannot be believed, the Australian Democrats say.

Democrats’ Leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett, said the Government’s record was one of consistently misleading the Australian people about the legality and impact of their treatment of refugees.

“This latest episode has been characterised by secrecy, deceit and blatant lies. The Government has lost the right to be trusted and believed,” Senator Bartlett said.

“The Government cannot seriously suggest that these people travelled all the way from Turkey, then jumped on an unsafe boat to sail from Indonesia to Australia just out of idle curiosity. Nor can the Minister pretend that Kurdish people in Turkey do not suffer significant and constant persecution.

“The Government’s insistence that it is not breaking international law is a joke. Towing asylum seekers back out to sea and refusing to assess their claims for protection is a flagrant breach of international law, as well as common decency and humanity. We are not meeting our obligations, rather the Government is wasting millions of dollars trying to avoid them.”

Senator Bartlett said it was time the Government was honest about people seeking asylum: - It is not illegal to arrive in Australia without a visa in order to seek protection from persecution; - The Government is a repeat offender in breaching international law through its policies

such as mandatory detention (especially of children), separating families, and towing boats back out to sea; - It is the Government’s laws (introduced with ALP support) which aim to prevent people from being able to seek protection from persecution in Australia.

“The Government’s suggestions that ‘our borders are being eaten away’ and our ‘border security is at risk’ from people smugglers are also a load of rubbish,” Senator Bartlett said.

“Threats to our security come from people like Frenchman Willie Brigitte who can waltz in here on an electronic travel visa and swan around the country doing whatever he wants for six months. The threats do not come from asylum seekers who report their presence and intentions and can be fully assessed the minute they arrive.

“The Government’s actions do not target people smugglers, they target refugees. Refugees are the ones being made to suffer. Thousands of them are living in the Australian community in fear. They face an uncertain future and are being kept forcibly separated from their families.”

For interview with Senator Bartlett, please call Katrina Beikoff on 0419 867 649