Deportations

Deported to Iran, Oct 2004, after four years in detention in Australia: Masoud K S, an Iranian Christian. Supporters from from the Sisters of Mercy in South Australia reported (15 Oct 2004):

“It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that in the lull following the Election this Government has deported our friend and Christian Iranian directly from the church service [in Baxter] yesterday afternoon. While we were praying together DIMIA packed up his room in the compound and on his return Masoud was called to DIMIA (most common for messages, property collection etc etc) and wasn’t seen again by his friends in the compound. Masoud was taken by police to Whyalla, plane to Adelaide then Perth, and then to Dubai last night on his way to Iran where he is most likely to face arrest, imprisonment with a death sentence for apostasy.”

Project Safecom commented:

4 days post-election with no notice, an Iranian Christian [Masoud] is in the process of being deported tonight on an EMIRATES flight. Before the election Minister Vanstone granted visas to 8 Iranian Christians on the basis that they constituted a group liable to persecution … The refugee support community is gravely concerned tonight that mass deportations will follow. The government has spent the last term of office in the Courts seeking the right to deport persons even if they face danger; to detain persons indefinitely; and to detain children indefinitely. This achieved they are now in a position to do whatever they like to asylum seekers. The Howard government no longer honours the International Human Rights Conventions which Australia has signed on to. The Howard Government has reneged on promises made to the world community to respect and uphold human rights. Australia’s reputation as a country showing good citizenship is dead.

Deportation raises fears for Iranian man – The Age, October 16, 2004

Deported to Danger – A Study of Australia’s Treatment of Rejected Asylum Seekers. The Edmund Rice Centre‘s report, released September 2004.

Comment: Home is where the hurt isSydney Morning Herald, 29 Sept 2004. A damning report raises disturbing questions about the fate of asylum seekers who are rejected by Australia, writes Debra Jopson

“Like the Dead in Their Coffins”: Torture, Detention, and the Crushing of Dissent in Iran: A Human Rights Watch report on what happens in Iranian prisons, and the fate that may await asylum seekers who face deportation to Iran (June 2004).

Scroll down for links and more reading

The Australian government has a policy of deporting asylum seekers back to the countries from which they have fled in terror. Some are sent forcibly, others are offered money to return to places like Afghanistan and Iran, with the threat that if they refuse to go back voluntarily, they will be forcibly deported.

Some detainees, locked up for years because they were “found not to be refugees”, have accepted the offer out of sheer desperation. (And of these, we know that some fled again shortly after arriving home, while others have simply disappeared.)

Others are still so afraid to return to their own countries that they are resisting. This includes many Iranians who insist that – even though the Refugee Review Tribunal didn’t believe their stories – they really can’t go back. Carmen Lawrence visited Port Hedland and met some of the Iranians there in October 2003:

They were subdued but firm that they would not accept the government’s “package” and return to Iran. I will never forget the hurt in their eyes, their despondency; strung between never ending internment here and certain punishment if there are returned to Iran. … They begged me to urge the Minister at least to assist them to gain asylum in some third country more willing than Australia to help them rebuild their lives. They were as one in insisting that they cannot go back to Iran — one said that it wouldn’t matter if he was offered $200,000 instead of $2000; he would not go back because his life is forfeit if he does. SMH 2 Sept

Previously, Iran had refused to take them back. Now the Australian Government has negotiated a deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran that will enable Australia to deport them. And it has given details of Iranian asylum seekers, their families and their claims, to the Iranian government!

Everyone knows that Iran is a repressive regime. According to George W Bush and John Howard, Iran is part of the “axis of evil” – a regime as bad as Saddam Hussein’s. Ethnic and religious minorities are persecuted, as is anyone who questions the regime. Nearly 500 people were executed in public last year.

So, detainees threatened with being sent back there have very real fears. For most of them, it will mean terrible persecution, and for some it will mean death.

Nader was forcibly removed from the Perth Detention Centre in May 2002. Witnesses report that he put up a struggle but was overcome by guards and injected with sedatives. He was then restrained and deported on the same ship on which he had arrived, despite last ditch attempts by the Maritime Union of Australia to stop the deportation …On arrival in Iran he was taken away and has since disappearedNader’s story

WE SAY that Australia has failed these people. Their claims for asylum have been carelessly and unfairly dismissed by officials who have failed to understand the situation they face, or who have simply not been interested. Already the High Court has forced the Refugee Review Tribunal to reconsider a number of asylum claims which had been unfairly rejected by the system. How can anyone who knows the situation in Iran not give some credence to stories of people who tell us that what we know happens regularly, has happened to them? (See for example, this Radio national religion report on Mandaeans in Australia – many of the asylum seekers in Australian detention camps are Mandaeans.) And yet in our current law and process it seems enough for the refugee tribunal to just say “I don’t believe you”! And thus they become Mr Ruddock’s “failed refugees”, destined to be sent back to a fate few Australians could imagine.

Many asylum seekers have already been deported from Australian detention centres without the excuse of a “voluntary agreement” on their part. Past deportations have involved people being bashed, drugged, then bound and gagged. See also this letter from Marilyn Shepherd. What happened to previous deportees? See these deportation case studies.

Iranians are not the only asylum seekers who are in danger of being deported or who have already left these shores against their will. Afghanis have been under pressure for some time, and some have taken up the offer. The Government claims that the Taliban has been defeated and Afghanistan is now safe to return to. This is far from true (see our pages on Afghanistan).

Even people who have been granted refugee status and given a Temporary Protection Visa have no guarantee that they can stay in Australia. They can be sent back any time the Government decides their country is “safe” for them. They have to live their lives with this uncertainty hanging over them and it is very cruel.

Living with the uncertainty and insecurity of temporary protection has resulted in ongoing trauma and suffering to many of us. This visa has also isolated us from the broader Australian community.” letter to Minister Ruddock from Iraqui refugees

The unfairness of the immigration system is a growing scandal. No-one should be deported without their case being properly, and independently reviewed. And no-one should be deported to possible death.

Our leaflets section includes appeals on behalf of specific individuals and families threatened with being returned to the same dangers they fled.

Further reading

RAC factsheets and leaflets about deportations

Why asylum seekers need access to our courts – the Government seeks to limit the opportunity for judicial review of immigration cases. RAC’s Claire Bruhns explains why this will not serve justice.

RAC page on Temporary Protection Visas

RAC page on Afghanistan

Ruddock sending Afghan refugees back to certain death by Carmen Lawrence

Ruddock’s ‘people smugglers’ put cash in ‘passports’– Margo Kingston’s Webdiary in the Sydney Morning Herald (October 7, 2003) prints the Edmund Rice Centre’s interim report on what happens to people who are “found not to be refugees” by Australia and sent back to the countries they fled. “Reports of death, disappearance, imprisonment and torture, of fear-filled lives spent in hiding, privation and despair have filtered back to Australia about some people Australia has removed after disallowing their claims for protection on refugee or humanitarian grounds … What happens to people when they are ‘removed’ from Australia is apparently not a concern of Government.”

Taking responsibility for what we do: Claudia’s story, By Claudia Tazreiter; SMH October 2, 2003. In July this year I was part of an Australian research team commissioned to gather information on asylum seekers who had been deported from Australia … All the people we met and interviewed had spent considerable time in immigration detention in Australia. They spoke of loneliness and isolation, of the desperation they felt at not knowing their fate, and of the futility they felt at passing their lives behind razor wire.

Desperate and stateless – plight of the deported – SMH, October 1, 2003. by Debra Jopson. A Dominican nun in her 70s with a PhD in the sociology of education, Sister Leavey is part of a team investigating what happens to asylum seekers after they are deported from Australia …

Deported Iranian missing: Amnesty – The Age, 3 Sept 2003. “Amnesty International is trying to find an Iranian man who was forcibly returned home under a deal between the Australian Government and Iran. Refugee advocates hold grave fears for the man, who promised to ring a friend in Australia when he arrived in Iran after being removed last month. He has not been heard from since.”

Carmen Lawrence in the Sydney Morning Herald, 2 September 2003 writes of her visit to Port Hedland: “The Iranian men I had arranged to meet all faced imminent deportation under the MOU signed by the Australian government with the regime still described as part of the “Axis of Evil”. They were subdued but firm that they would not accept the government’s “package” and return to Iran. I will never forget the hurt in their eyes, their despondency; strung between never ending internment here and certain punishment if there are returned to Iran … They begged me to urge the Minister at least to assist them to gain asylum in some third country more willing than Australia to help them rebuild their lives. They were as one in insisting that they cannot go back to Iran – one said that it wouldn’t matter if he was offered $200,000 instead of $2000; he would not go back because his life is forfeit if he does. The government, of course, has made it quite clear that they will take no responsibility for the fate of those sent back … In The Age last week, Russell Skelton revealed that inquiries in Tehran confirmed that “returning Iranians who fled the country illegally are automatically charged with immigration offences and interrogated at length”.He also confirmed what many of those in Port Hedland already know – that returnees are often held for several days at airport detention cells where they are interrogated and that political and religious dissidents face further investigation and possible charges in religious courts. They also know that many are beaten, tortured and executed.”

Iranians to be drugged, blindfolded and deported – The Age, August 21, 2003

Iranian refugees set to be sent home By Russell Skelton – The Age August 19, 2003…“Those who refuse to leave peacefully will be handcuffed, removed by force and escorted back to Iran, where they will be handed to Iranian police and immigration authorities. Inquiries by The Age in Tehran revealed that returning Iranians who fled the country illegally are automatically charged with immigration offences and interrogated at length. It is not uncommon for returnees to be held for several days at airport detention cells while their backgrounds are investigated. Political and religious dissidents face further investigation and possible charges in religious courts …”

DIMIA’s Information Sheet for Iranian Detainees is among the materials available from this Project Safecom page on Iranian asylum seekers.

Ruddock sending Afghan refugees back to certain persecution. Media Statement by Dr Carmen Lawrence 29 Aug 2003

Deported to Death: Churches Speak Out – from the Edmund Rice Centre. “There is mounting evidence that people are being deported (1) to face serious human rights violations, some to their death, despite Australia’s obligations under international law. “

National Anti-Deportations Alliance Egroup

No Deportations! – documents, information and resources relating to the plight of the Iranians and others either deported or threatened with “voluntary return”, from Project Safecom.

Akbar’s story – what happened to one Hazara Afghani who took Ruddock’s $2,000 to leave Nauru.

Return to Sender – from a Financial Times report telling the story of two brothers “voluntarily” deported to Iran and never seen again.

The plight of the Mandaeans in Oz: A new Iran contra deal by Carmen Lawrence, Sydney Morning Herald, June 13 2003 Word 37 kb

A journey back into the arms of her persecutors – the Age, 2 June 2003. Leila is calm and resigned to her fate. “Every one of us is scared, I am scared, scared for myself and for my baby,” she says. Even though Leila is eight months pregnant, she has been told by immigration officials that any day now she might be handcuffed and flown with her husband back to Iran to be handed over to the Islamic Government from which she fled three years ago …