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Minister marks Refugee Day with more lies about refugees.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Australian Democrats’ Immigration Spokesperson

21 June 2002 MEDIA RELEASE 02/325

Minister marks Refugee Day with more lies about refugees The Australian Democrats have accused the Minister for Immigration, Philip Ruddock, of making a mockery of World Refugee Day by again distorting the facts about processing of asylum seekers on Nauru.

Democrats’ Immigration spokesperson, Senator Andrew Bartlett, said that Minister Ruddock had once again twisted the truth to support his propaganda surrounding the excision of Australia’s northern islands.

“Minister Ruddock has claimed that the acceptance of 44 per cent of asylum seekers as refugees on Nauru compared to an earlier Australian average of 80-90 per cent acceptance, showed people could get a better outcome if they reached the Australian mainland.

“This is an outrageous claim. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has stated very clearly that this outcome was no reflection on the genuineness of the refugee claims; rather it was a reflection of changes in the circumstances in Afghanistan,” Senator Bartlett said.

“The majority of these people had legitimate claims when they left Afghanistan, it is only the events since September, last year, that have changed their claims. There was no intent on their part to lie their way into Australia as previously implied by Minister Ruddock.

“The tragedy surrounding this propaganda is that Minister Ruddock thinks nothing of making a mockery of World Refugee Day; hijacking the occasion to send, what the Minister calls, a very clear message to refugees that they are not welcome.

“This comes in the same week as the United Nations’ World Refugee Day celebrations, which included a presentation to the crew and owners of the Norwegian freighter Tampa - the Nansen Refugee Prize - for their high seas rescue of 438 asylum seekers,” said Senator Bartlett.

“The contrast of these two situations could not be more pronounced. The international body responsible for the world’s refugees is rewarding the Tampa for its heroic rescue of asylum seekers, while our Government continues to pretend that those rescued are criminals,” Senator Bartlett said.

Senator Bartlett called on Minister Ruddock to utilise the 4000 places he has allocated for offshore refugees to allow families to reunite in Australia, and to immediately take refugees who are waiting in Indonesia for resettlement.

For interview: Senator Bartlett on 0418 743 789 or (02) 6277 3406