Australia deports asylum seekers to danger as Hunger Strike continues
The Perth Independent Media Centre
From the newswire: APRIL 20, 2007 – Refugee rights advocates have condemned the deportation of two Chinese asylum seekers from Villawood detention centre.
“While the Minister was announcing refugee swaps with the United States, he was deporting Chinese asylum seekers back to danger at the hands of the Chinese government.” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. “Instead of using refugees as election fodder, the Minister should be addressing the welfare of the asylum seekers for whom he has responsibility. Deporting to danger is directly against the Refugee Convention.”
The two Chinese men held incommunicado for weeks in Villawood detention centre were deported despite the government knowing that legal action in the High Court concerning the men was being finalised. On the same day of the deportation, the High Court struck down the time limits placed on asylum seekers to lodge appeals regarding their cases. “The Minister has acted with indecent haste to avoid the embarrassment of being found once again to be acting outside the law. The government has a responsibility to review all the cases of anyone potentially affected by the decision to ensure that there has been procedural fairness,” said Ian Rintoul.
The two asylum seekers, Mr Liu Chen Sheng, 45 years old, a democracy activist, and Mr An Xiang Tao, the other a Falun Gong practioner, were among those whose identities were revealed to Chinese authorities when Chinese government officials were allowed into Villawood detention centre in 2005. At least another six Chinese asylum seekers from that group remain in Villawood.
Meanwhile, 10 asylum seekers, 8 men and two women, at Villawood have begun their fourth week on hunger strike. One of the female hunger strikers, Yuan Hiu Min, 54, remains in hospital since being removed from the detention centre on Sunday. It is the third time that Ms Yuan, who has developed kidney problems during the hunger strike, has been hospitalised.
Ian Rintoul said on April 1, that the detainees were determined to have their message heard. “People are very, very anxious about what's happening with the deportations,” he said. “They're anxious about the fate of the people who have been deported and that's one of their demands. They're also anxious about their own fate – many of these people have been exposed to the Chinese authorities so they're very anxious and they're desperate about what's going to happen to them.” The hunger strike began in March after the forced deportation of a Chinese. Refugee activists claim she was dragged from the compound at 4am in her pyjamas.
The hunger strikers are demanding an end to the forced deportations and for the government to follow-up those already deported in order to guarantee their safety. “We are very worried about Mr An. It is very dangerous for him to be sent to China,” one Villawood asylum seeker told the Refugee Action Coalition. The hunger strikers are continuing to demand to meet with the Immigration department to discuss their demands…
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