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Refugee advocates lobby UNHCR Chief

Refugee advocates lobby UNHCR Chief for Manus asylum seeker

Media Release
Tuesday March 23 2004

UNHCR's Ruud Lubbers in Australia

Thousands of refugee advocates around Australia have been alerted by email to this week's visit of UNHCR Chief Ruud Lubbers to Australia, with a singular intent to approach him by letter, email or by fax, in order to attract his attention to the untenable situation of a lone asylum seeker, held at the Lombrum Processing Centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.

Dr Lubbers' visit this week, a 2-day visit starting on Wednesday 24/3, coincides with an extensive feature of Aladdin Sisalem on SBS Dateline this Wednesday by reporter Olivia Rousset (NOTE: since the assassination of Hammas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, SBS television notes 'subject to program changes').

Stateless: "Al Masri" case

Mr Sisalem is a similar stateless asylum seeker as Mr Al Masri, whose name became known in Australia because based on his case circumstances Australian courts last year set a precedent, where it can be argued that if the Minister of Immigration cannot show cause of removal through planned and realistic deportations to another country, asylum seekers cannot be held in Australian detention centres.

The story of Mr Sisalem came first to light in the Australian media through an article in the Green Left Weekly magazine by Sarah Stephen and a Project SafeCom media release.

See http://www.safecom.org/news-1908-2003.htm

and

http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2003/550/550p11.htm

At the time GLW's Ms Stephen showed attempts by senior Department of Immigration (DIMIA) officials to lie about Mr Sisalem's circumstances, and to duck away from honest and open answers to questions posed by her for GLW.

Court Challenge

A challenge to Mr Sisalem's failed asylum claim was lodged by lawyer Eric Vardalis in a Melbourne Court at the beginning of the year, and mediation was set in motion - but failed. Meanwhile Mr Sisalem is being held at the Lombrum Processing Centre at a staggering daily cost of $23,000.

It was also DIMIA which in this recent court challenge claimed that Mr Sisalem had not sought asylum in Australia "because he had not asked for the right form".

Mr Sisalem had lodged his asylum claim within Australian territories (Saibai Island) after which Australian authorities had deported him to the Lombrum Processing Centre on Manus Island. Once he was on Manus, in another astounding manipulation of refugee processing, DIMIA rejected his asylum claim "because he was no longer in Australia".

Project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit believes that Mr Sisalem's treatment must be the case 'par excellence' amongst asylum cases, in terms of blatant manipulation and twisting of decency and truth in assessment by public servants within DIMIA, under pressure of government representatives.

"Mr Sisalem's case must be the case, where the Howard government's approach to asylum seekers 'with initiative' - who have the temetrity to seek asylum in Australia - is met with the inhuman attitude of 'keep them out at all costs', even if this includes lies, misrepresenting of truth and facts by public servants, and by lawyers for the Commonwealth in Australian courts."


ENDS


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