Another DIMIA bungle results in unlawful detention
Another DIMIA bungle results in unlawful detention of Serbian-Albanian couple
Monday June 6 2005
"Another case of serious identity mismanagement by the Department of Immigration (DIMIA), a stubborn refusal to consult with Migration Agents and consulates to learn the true state of affairs about the identity of the couple, resulting in a family being unlawfully detained, has come to light," according to WA Refugee lobby group Project SafeCom's spokesman Jack Smit.
In a seven-page letter, marked "EXTREMELY URGENT" sent to Foreign Minister Alexander Downer last Friday - who was briefed about the family in Washington by Mr Gerard Henderson of the Sydney Institute - Migration Agent Ms Marion Lê of Canberra has outlined the case of Mr Ergi Anton Kola and Mrs Valbona Kola, Serbian Nationals of Albanian origin. (letter is available to media representatives on request)
Ms Lê has outlined in the letter how DIMIA contrary to authoritative other evidence maintains that the false names - "borrowed"identities of real people - the couple used to flee the country in 1999 are their true names, while the couple has always been abundantly clear to DIMIA, UNHCR and other agents about their true names - backed by a multiple number of documents, confirmed by several agencies including the Serbian Embassy in Canberra (who cannot issue a passport or travel documents to nationals who fled during the time of the Milosevic ethnic cleansing of Albanians, if those nationals have applied for refugee status elsewhere).
While DIMIA thus claims that the couple's false names are their "true" identities, resulting in the Department claiming the couple is lying to them, another section of the Department instructed the couple to apply for Australian Certificates of Identity to DFAT in their true names of Ergi and Valbona Kola - yet later, Mr Jim Williams - a senior officer in DIMIA's Compliance Branch, asked DFAT to issue Identity and Travel documents in the couple's "false" names, so the couple could be deported from Australia.
A South Australian Liberal politician, Mr Julian Stephani MLA assisted in this process, and currently holds the documents obtained by the couple, one of several conclusive pieces of evidence of their identity. South Australian Democrats MLC Kate Reynolds has met the couple and is also aware of their true identity.
The letter to Mr Downer also claims that persistent "chinese whispers" have circulated in DIMIA alleging a criminal record of the couple, while there is no evidence of this, and while even the people behind the "borrowed" identities have no criminal records.
Mr Smit said that this case shows that "the one hand of the Department does not know what the other hand does", and that "a lethal combination of incompetence, laziness and a very familiar 'His Master's Voice Syndrome' results in lives of refugees being endangered;" they are in danger if deported, they have a genuine refugee claim because they are 'stateless' as a result of the policies of the region they fled from, also now after the end of the Milosevic regime.
"DIMIA endangers many, many people, it needs to be taken apart in a judicial inquiry about all its dealings with refugees, and this case strengthens the case for a complete moratorium on deportations. Both in competency, consistency, internal communication flow, and in its clear bias "for" deportation and "against" thorough research of refugee claims, we have now another example of the overwhelming evidence that DIMIA is rotten to the core."
"When senior public servants and their managers are planting false evidence of criminality and alleging a criminal background of refugees through Chinese whispers or otherwise, because they want to justify a deportation, we see an extremely dangerous aspect 'growing like mould' in the public service. When this is so, we need to remove any authority to enact the life-and-death issue of a deportation," Mr Smit concluded.