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The UK–Rwanda Refugee Deal: Modelling Fortress Australia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/05/2022 - 11:12am in

Over the last few years there has been a flurry of activity from former Australian politicians who have found advisory roles in the United Kingdom. Tony Abbott, not without some controversy, was made trade advisor for ‘Global Britain’, though he also offered his views on how best to shore up British border security against unregulated Channel migration. 

Alexander Downer, Australia’s longest-serving foreign minister, was also tapped, in 2001, for his role in developing a deterrent policy against irregular sea-borne arrivals.  Writing for the Daily Mail last September, he openly praised UK Home Affairs Minister Priti Patel’s efforts in dealing with irregular Channel migration. Despite her approach being ‘widely ridiculed on both sides of the Channel…I know that a ‘push-back’ policy can work’, he said.  He advised the minister ‘to introduce a ‘push-back’ policy without fanfare, and to keep the French informed on a need-to-know basis only’.

The praise, and advice, has not gone unnoticed. A statement from the UK Home Office noted Patel’s commissioning of ‘a wide-ranging, independent review of our Border Force to assess its structure, powers, funding and priorities to ensure it can keep pace with rapidly evolving threats and continue to protect the border, maintain security and prevent illegal migration’. The person responsible for leading it? Downer himself.

Patel has found elements of the ‘Australian model’ in approaching asylum seekers arriving by boat compelling, including refugee relocation to offshore facilities in other countries, in the Australian case to countries, such as Nauru and PNG. Particularly appealing is the proviso that those found to be refugees are settled in those countries with a promise of aid and assistance. 

The basis for such a scheme lies in fears that cross-Channel migration has become unsustainable. The number of migrants attempting to make the crossing from France in 2021 was estimated to be 28,431.  In 2020, it was a markedly smaller 8417. The Home Office has floated the possibility that the number could even balloon to 65,000. 

The United Kingdom is not alone in finding the brutal Australian precedent appealing. In June last year the Danish parliament passed legislation permitting the transfer of asylum seekers to third countries for processing. A visit to Rwanda by Immigration Minister Matthias Tesfaye, and the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Copenhagen and Kigali, followed. In a statement to the BBC, Tesfaye confirmed that both countries were ‘in dialogue’ although there was at that time no formal ‘agreement on transfer of asylum seekers’. Israel, concerned about increasing numbers of asylum seekers, hailing mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, has reached agreements too with third countries, to establish what it calls ‘safe havens’. While not officially known, these countries are said to be Uganda and Rwanda.

The common thread in all these agreements is Africa in general and Rwanda in particular.  On 14 April the British government announced that it had reached an Asylum Partnership Arrangement with Rwanda ‘to contribute to the prevention and combating of illegally facilitated and unlawful cross border migration by establishing a bilateral asylum partnership’. Rwanda will receive asylum seekers whose claims would otherwise be processed in the United Kingdom, consider them through the ‘Rwanda domestic asylum system’ and have the responsibility for settling and protecting applicants.

Somewhat misleadingly, given its distinct Australian imprint, the UK Home Office called this a ‘world first partnership’ to combat the ‘global migration crisis’. The partnership sought to ‘address’ the ‘shared international challenge of illegal migration and break the business model of smuggling gangs’. Not one reference is made to the immutable right to seek asylum, assured under the UN Refugee Convention of 1951, which exists irrespective of the mode of travel or arrival. 

The UK–Rwanda agreement comes with a host of problems, as remarked upon by a number of human rights organisations. For one, it ignores the high proportion of individuals who have in the past been granted asylum and permitted to remain in the United Kingdom, suggesting that not all are undeserving ‘economic migrants’.   

The UK Refugee Council, in an analysis of Channel crossings and asylum outcomes between January 2020 and June 2021, noted that 91 per cent of those making the journey came from ten countries where grave, extensive human rights abuses are acknowledged.  Emilie McDonnell of Human Rights Watch UK, having scoured Home Office data and information gathered via freedom of information laws, argues that 61 per cent of migrants who travel by boat are likely to remain in the United Kingdom after claiming asylum. 

A more serious point for refugee advocates and students of international law is the sending of asylum seekers to third countries that have patchy human rights records.  Australia’s own Gillard government found that its brokered ‘Malaysia Solution’, which would have involved the transfer of 800 asylum seekers in exchange for 4000 certified refugees, ran foul of the Migration Act

In its 2011 decision, the Australian High Court, in granting injunctions preventing the transfer, noted that Malaysia was not a signatory to the UN Human Rights Convention and a range of other instruments. As it did not seem legally bound to provide access for asylum seekers to effective procedures, or to provide protection, the immigration minister’s  intended policy was deemed invalid.

Rwanda presents an even more formidable problem as a third-country recipient of asylum seekers. Despite being roundly praised by the UK government as a paragon of development and progress in Africa, Kigali’s record on this score is strikingly unimpressive. According to Human Rights Watch, the country is known for its use of torture, prosecuting dissidents, extrajudicial killings, and unlawful and arbitrary detention. 

In February 2018, twelve refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo were killed when Rwandan police fired live ammunition into a gathering protesting a cut in food rations. Over sixty people were subsequently arrested and prosecuted on charges ranging from rebellion to the ‘spreading of false information with intent to create a hostile international opinion against the Rwandan state’. 

As has been starkly demonstrated by Australia’s own offshoring record, outsourcing a state’s obligations to process asylum claims is not merely costly to the taxpayer, it can place individuals in need of protection in harm’s way, going against both the spirit, and the letter, of international refugee law. Unfortunately for those who still believe in the merits of international human rights laws, the Australian model, revised for European application, is bound to become ever more popular for populists and reactionaries. 

Boris Johnson’s government grants funding for a fleet of specialist drones to monitor the Channel.

St Michael’s Greek

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 08/05/2022 - 9:25am in

St Michael’s Greek Orthodox Church. Built post WWII, after another influx of Greek migrants. Tens of thousands fled here as refugees from the Greek Civil War (1946-49) and found steady factory/warehouse work in the Inner West. Camperdown.

Still unfinished business for the refugee movement after we turn back Morrison

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 2:37pm in


refugees, refugees

For a while, it looked like refugees were not going to feature much in the election campaign, with the government focused on scaremongering about war with China.

But it wasn’t long before Scott Morrison found a chance to boast about being the architect of Operation Sovereign Borders and turning back asylum boats.

The tragedy was that Anthony Albanese’s response was to confirm that Labor was also committed to offshore detention and boat turnbacks. Shamefully, Albanese even tried to take credit for re-opening Manus and Nauru under the last Labor government in 2012.

Boat turnbacks became Labor policy in 2015. At the time, Albanese, as part of the Labor left, opposed boat turnbacks.

But he flipped in 2018 in time for the 2019 federal election, telling Sky News that, “The [Morrison] government’s policies have stopped the boats.”

Morrison drove home Labor’s capitulation during the Sky News debate when he asked Albanese why he didn’t support turning boats around in 2013, when he re-opened Nauru and Manus.

Meanwhile, Labor has held the line over abolishing Temporary Protection Visas (and SHEVs), a change that will make a huge difference to the thousands of refugees who have been denied permanency, family reunion and the right to university study and travel for more than ten years.

But then a few days later, out of the blue, home affairs minister Karen Andrews told ABC radio that a re-elected Morrison government would ban any refugees from PNG or Nauru settled in New Zealand from coming to Australia, although she couldn’t say how.

Labor’s shadow immigration minister, Kristina Keneally, came to her rescue.

Even using the government’s language, Keneally announced that Labor would “close that back door by legislation or by regulation” if elected in May.

It was a graphic example of Labor’s small target policy in practice. Rather than championing refugee rights, Labor was trying to outflank Morrison from the right.

Unfinished business

The sordid episode focused attention on one of the main pieces of unfinished business for the refugee movement—the New Zealand deal.

The deal will resettle 450 refugees over three years. There are 111 refugees left on Nauru but all bar 27 are heading to the US or Canada. Yet refugees in PNG are not eligible for New Zealand.

There are 105 refugees (a little more if you count their family members) in PNG. All the people on Nauru and in PNG could be resettled this year if PNG refugees were included in the deal.

The New Zealand deal was always a way for Australia to avoid protecting the refugees it had exiled to Nauru and Manus. The demands to “Close offshore, bring them all here” are as relevant as ever.

This raises the second bit of unfinished business—permanent visas for all those from offshore in the community on bridging visas. There are still 1179 refugees—from the Kids Off Nauru and the Medevac legislation—living in the community in Australia. Some are in community detention; most have been forced to survive on temporary visas renewed every six months. There are not enough places for all of them in New Zealand—around 500 will be left behind.

And children have been born here; kids have started school. Why should they be forced to go to New Zealand to gain permanent protection?

With Labor now saying that refugees resettling in New Zealand will not be able to enter Australia, there is one more reason for the refugees from Manus and Nauru already in Australia not to be part of the deal. The movement will need to fight for their right to stay on permanent visas.

And then there is the need to lift the government ban on accepting refugees from Indonesia. There needs to be a pathway for the 14,000 refugees there (including 7000 Afghans) to get to Australia. This needs to be connected to an immediate intake of 20,000 Afghans—over and above the annual humanitarian intake.

A two-year protest campaign—inside and outside the prison hotels—finally saw almost all the Medevac refugees released in the dying days of the Morrison government. But the election campaign is a warning.

A Labor government elected on 21 May will scrap TPVs and get the Tamil family back to Biloela, but the shattered lives on and offshore and the Fortress Australia policy are as much Labor’s legacy as the Liberals’.

Thirty years ago, a Labor government introduced mandatory detention. A Labor government elected on 21 May will also be committed to offshore detention and to using the navy to turn back asylum boats.

More protests, with the backing of the union movement, will be needed to free all the refugees and finally win the humanitarian policy that the refugee movement has been fighting for.

By Ian Rintoul

The post Still unfinished business for the refugee movement after we turn back Morrison appeared first on Solidarity Online.

UK abandons refugees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/04/2022 - 4:12pm in

Yesterday was a terrible day for anyone seeking refuge in the United Kingdom, a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Obsessed by a small number of people arriving on its south coast from France, the UK government has signed a memorandum of association with Rwanda under which people deemed inadmissible to have their claim for asylum assessed by the UK will be transferred to Rwanda to be dealt with under the Rwandan refugee system. Boris Johnson, for whom this announcement conveniently deflects attention from a finding of criminality against him, expects that tens of thousands of people will be sent to Rwanda. One of the claims made in support of the deal is that Britain’s capacity is not unlimited, but the proposed solution is to dump people in a much smaller and poorer country.

As usual ministers are trumpeting the lie that the UK has a “proud record” of refugee protection, whereas in fact the UK takes a very small number of refugees compared to neighbouring countries such as France and Germany. The UK recently set up bespoke schemes for Ukrainians, Afghans and Hong Kong Chinese. Hardly any Ukrainians have arrived and many have faced formidable bureaucratic obstacles in getting a visa; Afghans cannot apply from Afghanistan and those that arrived in the evacuation following the fall of Kabul are now languishing in poor conditions in overcrowded hotels. As a performative measure to show how much he cared about Ukrainians, Johnson apppointed a new minister for refugees, whom he then neglected to inform about the deal with Rwanda.

One of the curious facts about the deal is that the legal powers to send people to Rwanda do not yet exist, since the government has yet to pass its controversial Nationality and Borders Bill, which keeps being amended in the House of Lords to remove some of its most objectionable features. [Update: the previous sentence may not be correct, according to legal twitter, since the government has already incorporated some of the necessary changes in the immigration rules, without scrutiny from MPs] Even if it does eventually pass this bill, the government faces the possibility of legal challenges under human rights legislation. Anticipating this, Johnson has already attacked “politically motivated lawyers”. (It is possible that the entire purpose of the proposal is, in fact, to stage a confrontation between the “people’s government” committed to post-Brexit border control and to portray liberals, human rights lawyers, NGOs and the like as the “enemy”.)

If the Nationality and Borders Bill does pass in the form that ministers want it to, then those seeking asylum will be divided into two categories. Those who arrived in the UK “legally” will be entitled to have their refugee claim assessed, those who come “illegally” will be deemed inadmissible and will be liable to deportation whence they came, or, if this proves impossible because the allegedly safe country through which they passed will not take them or they face persecution in their country of origin, they may be transferred to a third country. It turns out that this is to be Rwanda.

Is Rwanda a safe place to send refugees? It it a dictatorship in a country with a recent history of genocide, which practices torture, the arbitrary detention of political opponents, and the murder of opposition leaders. When Israel sent refugees to Rwanda they almost all left the country immediately to begin another long journey to seek refuge. Boris Johnson and his Home Secretary Priti Patel have made the risible claim that this agreement will break the business model of people smugglers and lead to fewer people taking dangerous journeys; the reality is that it will provide new opportunities for people smugglers to get people out of Rwanda. Truly a shameful episode.

Recycling Uplifts a Refugee Camp

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/04/2022 - 1:37am in

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Recycling delivered

In refugee camps, supplies flow in, and waste builds up. Disposing of this waste is often difficult, and recycling is usually off the table. At refugee camps on the western border of Algeria, however, a new system for sustainably processing plastic waste is giving the camp’s residents an economic activity to support them.

Credit: Precious Plastic

Put in place by Precious Plastic, a Dutch startup working through the UN’s refugee agency, the system arrives at refugee camps packed in a shipping container, ready to go. It includes machines to shred, wash and dry plastic, and to melt it or press it into large, flat sheets that can be assembled into furniture. Some of these materials are then sold to NGOs that serve the refugee camp itself, which make them into school desks, benches, chairs and serving sets for tea. What’s more, the UN pays the camp’s residents to work at the recycling center for a year; after that, they become part owners in it.

“It’s almost like an island context — a somewhat closed ecosystem,” said the managing director of Precious Plastic. “There’s an opportunity to try to create a circular economy within that community.”

Read more at Fast Company

Trust the gut

Obsessed with your gut’s microbiome? Obsess over this: rivers have a microbiome too, and it may be key to reviving urban waterways.

Urban rivers across the world have taken a beating since the dawn of industrialization. In Seattle, for instance, streams that once ran thick with salmon were nearly devoid of them by 1990s. Around 2004, however, the city started restoring the “hyporheic zones” of these waterways — the layer of sediment just below the stream bed that teems with life. Some scientists call this zone “the liver of the river” because it functions somewhat like the human microbiome, in that its health can dramatically affect the rest of the organism. 

Seattle’s Thornton Creek. Credit: Wikipedia

The city first tried restoring the hyporheic zone of Thornton Creek, which had been reshaped by development and often flooded with industrial chemicals. They were astounded to discover that rejuvenating even tiny stretches of this zone had dramatic effects. In one case, a 15-foot stretch of restored microbes reduced 78 percent of the water’s pollutants by at least half. The creek has also stopped flooding during storms, and its temperature is more consistent. Now, hyporheic restoration has become a formal part of Seattle’s creek projects. 

“That was just really emotional,” recalls one of the scientists of the Thornton Creek restoration project. “We had done it. You can restore the hyporheic zone. You can restore natural processes to the extent that we are actually attracting salmon to the site to spawn.”

Read more at Scientific American

What’s old is new

In Mexico City, a vecindad is a kind of tenement building with apartments that share kitchens and bathrooms arranged around a central courtyard. Though these buildings were originally constructed as grandiose homes for European aristocrats, today they more often house the city’s large and growing working class.

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CityLab takes a journey through history to examine how these buildings — and their inhabitants — have changed over the centuries to ultimately become an important source of affordable housing. “There’s this mystique” around vecindades said one professor of architecture. “Of romances happening there, of the matriarch of the vecindad taking care of the kids, of people coming to her for advice and food. They would share bathrooms and areas where they do the washing, and that’s something that would create community.”

Read more at Bloomberg CityLab

The post Recycling Uplifts a Refugee Camp appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

‘We’re treated like animals in this place’: bashed detainee speaks out

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/04/2022 - 5:48pm in

“I’ve never been hit so many times on my head for nothing.” That’s what one detainee in the Christmas Island detention centre told Solidarity after guards went on a violent rampage last week.

Terence Michael Terekia said detainees were upset at being denied food and clothing and began a protest.

Serco management deployed its riot squad, the Emergency Response Team (ERT).

“We all got forced together and sprayed with gas and most of us hadn’t done anything,” Terence said.

“The ERT were using their riot shields like weapons.

“Once people had surrendered the ERT still came and slammed the shields down on our guys.

“They kicked me in the head three or four times and hogtied my arms and legs. Then they stood me up and beat me up again.

“I’ve got a split lip, a split head and bruises.”

Terence said he and others were put in a van to be driven to the Red One compound, a drive that would normally take four or five minutes.

“But it took 20 minutes. There were three ERT in the van and they stopped four times along the way and all of them bashed me on the head, even though my hands were tied.”


Terence said life in the detention centre was harsh, with detainees including refugees sometimes being caged for weeks.

He is a 501 detainee, meaning that the Australian government is in the process of deporting him to New Zealand for failing the “character test” because of a criminal record.

Yet Terence has lived in Australia for 20 years and has an Australian wife and son, as well as two step-daughters.

“I’ve been in detention for about one and a half years, including five months on Christmas Island, waiting for an outcome from my appeal to the Federal Court,” he said.

“They treat you like animals in this place.”

Terence is the man sitting on the floor wearing red and black.


Justice advocate Filipa Payne told New Zealand website TeAoMā that the bashings were criminal. “It’s total brutality and I challenge why is this legally accepted when, if a person in society inflicted this, they would be arrested and charged.”

She said the majority of detainees on Christmas Island were New Zealanders or Pacific Islanders.

“Men in the facility are frustrated, some are suicidal and virtually all are struggling with mental health issues,” she said.

“They have all reached a point where they were protesting, which is the only sort of empowerment they have.

“Christmas Island particularly, the mental health decline and the brutality from guards has been escalating in the last year.

“No one visits the islands, no one makes contact with the guys,” Payne said.

As of last November, 77 per cent of detainees on Christmas Island were 501s.


The Coalition government has stepped up its deportation drive—a move former Immigration Minister Peter Dutton shamefully called “taking out the trash”.

After the Migration Act was amended in 2014 with a stronger “character test”, the number of people being deported shot up from about 200 a year to 1000 or more. Many of those facing deportation are held in detention for years.

The character test is a racist concept that suggests that “foreigners” are responsible for crime. It allows the Liberals to parade as “strong on borders”.

Yet many people facing deportation have lived here most of their lives. Some have not even committed crimes.

Unlike citizens who are jailed for crimes and then released, people being deported under sections 501 or 116 of the Migration Act face the additional punishment of detention and deportation, in many cases to countries where they have no connections.

Refugees on temporary visas who get caught up in this system of horror may be detained indefinitely if it is dangerous for them to return to the country from which they fled.

In one piece of good news, the Coalition on Wednesday abandoned a Bill that would have made the Migration Act even harsher and allowed it to deport more people, following protests by refugee supporters and pushback by the Law Council of Australia.

By David Glanz

The post ‘We’re treated like animals in this place’: bashed detainee speaks out appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Morrison’s hypocrisy over Ukraine refugees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/03/2022 - 4:11pm in

For the second time in nine months the world has been confronted by horrific scenes of refugees fleeing war. The first was Afghanistan in August 2021, the second in Ukraine, this year, with over three million people fleeing across the Ukrainian border following Russia’s invasion.

As Morrison moved to send military aid to Ukraine, he announced that Ukrainian visa applications to enter Australia would go “to the top of the pile…as a matter of priority”.

Morrison’s response to the Ukrainian crisis is in stark contrast to the response to the Afghan refugees.

Since the fall of Kabul on 15 August 2021, more than 150,000 Afghan nationals have applied for refugee and humanitarian visas in Australia. There were widespread calls for at least 20,000 visas to be granted to Afghans separate from (and in addition to) the annual humanitarian intake.

Morrison’s response to the Afghan crisis was a paltry 15,000 visas over four years, all within the annual intake. The Afghan refugees in Australia on temporary protection visas are excluded from permanent residency and denied family reunion.

There are 7000 Afghan refugees in Indonesia, who also cannot go back to Afghanistan, yet the Liberals banned Australia resettling any UNHCR refugees from Indonesia in 2014.

The Coalition government’s attitude to the Rohingya refugees is similar to its attitude to the Afghans. Since August 2017 over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled their homes, ethnically cleansed by the Myanmar military. But the borders were not opened to Rohingya refugees. In 2015, Tony Abbott famously said, “Nope, Nope, Nope,” to resettling any of the Rohingya refugees and called for Indonesia and Malaysia to turn the boats away.

In the last few months more Rohingya boats have made it to Indonesia from refugee camps in Bangladesh, but any Rohingya refugees in Indonesia are caught by Australia’s ban. Rohingya refugees in Australia will never be given permanent visas.

The Tamils who fled civil war and persecution faced their boats being intercepted and turned around by the Australian navy.

No to Fortress Australia, No to Fortress Europe

The difference between the Ukrainians and others is that they are fleeing Russian bombs, and it suits Australia’s war-mongering narrative to put out a welcome mat.

But the refugees created in Afghanistan and Iraq by bombs dropped by the US or Australia were detained and denied visas.

Instead of Tamil boats being welcomed, successive Australian governments were more interested in maintaining links with the war criminals running Sri Lanka than standing up for human rights.

Since the start of the war, around two million Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed into Poland. But it was a different story in January when Middle Eastern refugees (mostly Iraqis) tried to enter Poland from Belarus. Poland sent the army to build razor wire fences and approved a new law to force the refugees back.

In January this year, Poland started building a fence five and a half metres high and 186 kilometres long to stop refugees entering from Belarus.

In early March there were reports of Black refugees who were Ukrainian residents being blocked at the Polish border, and Indian students in Ukraine being prevented from getting on trains leaving Kiev. The Ukraine refugees are being selectively welcomed; the underlying racism of Fortress Europe remains in place.

In Australia, the Coalition’s hypocrisy was fully on display when the Western Queensland Alliance of local councils announced their willingness to welcome Ukrainian refugees. Agricultural Minister David Littleproud assured the councillors that the federal government also supported the relocation of refugees to Australia, including to his electorate of Maranoa.

“We are obviously going to open our doors up to them,” Littleproud said. Yet the government has spent millions to prevent one Tamil family from returning to Biloela in Central Queensland. The door is not open to them.

The door is not open to the 51 Medevac refugees still in the Park hotel-prison and other detention centres. Nor is the door open to the around 200 still detained in PNG and Nauru. The welcome mat for Ukrainians can’t hide the ugly discrimination that characterises Fortress Australia. The navy still patrols the seas between Australia and Indonesia to intercept asylum boats.

To fight for refugee rights, we have to fight to open the borders to all asylum seekers and refugees. And we have to fight the system that build the bombs.

By Ian Rintoul

The post Morrison’s hypocrisy over Ukraine refugees appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Europe 1948/2022

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/03/2022 - 2:00am in



Unlike in 2015, European citizens are unanimous in their solidarity with the refugees. Public opinion counts. In Poland especially, neighborliness is everywhere to be seen, despite all the historical baggage between the two countries. This time, there is a good chance that member state governments will rise to the challenge....

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What We Can Learn from the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/03/2022 - 12:00am in


Politics, refugees

The international refugee regime lacks a global responsibility-sharing system; so the vast majority of the world’s refugees stay—for years and years—in the states to which they first flee. ...

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The Measurement of Loss

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/03/2022 - 6:00am in

The flight of the refugee is not, as I understand it, migration. Although the boundary can be fluid, not all those who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean, for example, are refugees. The two must be differentiated to protect the refugee against the threat of terminological arbitrariness....

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