Australia’s reputation at stake as questions on asylum boats remain unanswered?

Australia’s reputation at stake as questions on asylum boats remain unanswered?

Written by Bella Dalima

04 Jul, 2014 | 6:56 pm

Human Rights Lawyers say Australia’s national reputation is at stake, given the government’s continued silence on the purported existence of two boats, carrying at least 153 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers including 37 children, which were reportedly intercepted off the shores of Christmas Island, last week.

Almost a week later many questions remain unanswered.

Sarah Whyte, Immigration Correspondent with the Sydney Morning Herald, has been in contact with News1st, with the latest developments on the ground in Australia.

She joined us  on Friday evening, with the latest.

She shared these views;

[quote]Tamil communities within Australia are becoming increasingly worried about the fate of these asylum asylum seekers, particularly the ones who left India, There has been multiple reports of what they are fleeing from. The government is still not talking about it as part of their policy. They want it to remain secret, And as I said yesterday, they want it to remain secret so they cannot let the boat smugglers or the people smugglers know, what the government is up to and how they are stopping the boats.[/quote]

Human Rights Lawyer, Julian Burnside, Queen’s Counsel, says the Australian government should stop giving the people the mushroom treatment.

Human Rights Lawyer, Julian Burnside QC expressed these views;

[quote]If we have handed them back to the Sri Lankan Navy there is no doubt that we are breaching our central obligation under the refugee convention. International Human Rights Conventions aren’t easily enforceable. What we need to do is stand next to the country and say, well look, do we really want to be seen by the rest of the world as being, nastier than the Taliban, or nastier than the South African Government used to be. This is our national reputation that is at stake. And I think we shouldn’t be given the mushroom treatment.[/quote]

Meanwhile, responding to inquiries made by News1st via E-mail, Gordon Thomson, the President of the Christmas Island Shire Council, says that while he is unaware of whether the asylum seekers had been handed over to the Sri Lanka Navy, noted that people who work with asylum seekers on Christmas Island, had stated the same.

He adds that the Australian government is “playing political games by not answering these questions”.

Australian Green Party Senator, Lee Rhiannon had these views to share;

[quote]A very serious problem that we’re having in Australia is that the coalition government, is using its power, its access to the Australian Navy, and the resources it has to inflict this enormous cruelty, cruelty that many people are likening to war crimes. This latest incident that is so extreme, is escalating the situation in this country, and we certainly need to work it out in parliament and the wider community. We are working hard to muster support in the federal parliament, So next week when parliament resumes, there will be a vote, and we can condemn this government.[/quote]

News1st contacted the Sri Lanka Navy once again regarding reports that the asylum seekers had been turned over to the Navy.

Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya, the Navy Media Spokesperson, informed us that the Navy had not been issued any directive regarding such asylum seekers.

He added that it is the Ministry of External Affairs or the Australian High Commission that should provide a comment on this matter.

When contacted by Newsfirst, a spokesperson attached to the Ministry of External Affairs, said that though there was media speculation on such a boat carrying 153 Sri Lankan asylum seekers, the Ministry is not aware of the existence of such a boat.

Our efforts to contact the Australian High Commission for a reaction in this regard, proved futile.

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