22/7/13; Bianca Hall with Judith Ireland; Bianca Hall is immigration correspondent
The Department of Immigration has published photographs of distraught asylum seekers heading for Papua New Guinea, prompting anger on social media, as another asylum seeker boat has gone missing on the way to Christmas Island.
The asylum seekers pictured were on the first boat – carrying 81 mostly Iranian nationals – who arrived in Australia after the new policy took effect. According to the Immigration Department, the group of asylum seekers were told of the new deal between Australia and PNG at North West Point Immigration Detention Centre at Christmas Island.
In a video of the scene at Christmas Island, the woman with her head in her hands in the photo can be seen wiping her eyes. Immigration Department acting regional manager Steven Karras said the group listened calmly to the message. “It was apparent to me that they did understand what this message meant,” he said. “I’m sure they’re now thinking about whether it was wise to come in the first place. And I think in fact over the coming days … they will start to contemplate very seriously whether in fact returning home is a better option.”
The move to publish the photographs was quickly questioned on Twitter. Asylum seeker NGO, House of Welcome, called the photos ”creepy” and ”upsetting”. UnitingJustice national director Elenie Poulos described them as ”heartless and abusive”. Authorities are searching for a suspected asylum seeker vessel, carrying between 20 and 30 people, which was reported missing on its way to Christmas Island on Monday morning. In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said an Australian P3 Orion aircraft had spotted the boat on Monday morning, but there was now no sign of the boat.
It is described as being an Indonesian-style fishing boat with a pale-green hull and white superstructure, about 12 metres long. AMSA issued an alert to shipping vessels in the area at 10.24am, asking all ships within 100 nautical miles of Christmas Island to be on the lookout for the boat and to be prepared to offer assistance. An Australian Navy boat has also been involved in the search. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was unapologetic on Monday about his government’s new hardline approach to asylum boats coming to Australia, saying people smugglers were ”merchants in death”.
As part of the new approach, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship has published photographs on its website depicting upset asylum seekers being told they will not be settled in Australia. The Immigration Department has previously published photos on its website of Sri Lankan ”irregular maritime arrivals” being returned to Colombo by plane, as well as the first asylum seekers to arrive on Manus Island once the processing centre was re-opened last November.
The latest photos are part of the department of immigration’s social media campaign in support of the government’s tough new stance. Speaking after Labor’s federal caucus meeting in Sydney on Monday, Mr Rudd said “the government is going to take a hard line on this”. He claimed the policy – in which Australia would send all asylum seekers arriving by boat to Papua New Guinea for processing and resettlement – was “eminently defensible in the international community”.
But he acknowledged he was expecting court challenges to the policy in Australia and, perhaps, in PNG. “This is going to take quite a while to roll out … there’ll be bumps in the road, we understand that.” But, he said, “we make no apology for the decision we’ve taken”.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Mr Rudd was misleading the Australian people about his Papua New Guinea asylum seeker solution, “to the point of dishonesty”.The government released its two-page agreement with PNG on Saturday, and Mr Abbott – who the ABC reported had read “every word” of the document – said the plan was “held together with Blu Tack and sticky tape”.
Despite Mr Rudd’s assurances that all asylum seekers arriving in Australia would be sent to PNG, the agreement states that any boat people arriving in Australia “will be liable” for transfer to PNG. “It’s not legally binding and it doesn’t say what Mr Rudd says it says,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Melbourne on Monday. “It doesn’t say that everyone who comes to Australia illegally by boat will go to PNG and it doesn’t say that no one who goes to PNG will ever come to Australia. “Mr Rudd is being misleading to the point of dishonesty.”
But Immigration Minister Tony Burke said the policy is already having an effect, saying on Monday morning that reports from people smugglers and asylum seekers indicate the message is already getting through. “Does this unilaterally mean we can give a date on when boats stop? No,” he told ABC radio on Monday.”But certainly, be in no doubt the product that people smugglers are selling is no longer available.”
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2013/outrage-at-creepy-photos-of-distraught-asylum-seekers-20130722-2qe2z.html#ixzz2ZkbubuOL; http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/senator-complains-over-png-plan-ads-20130721-2qcqp.html; http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/from-refugee-to-businessman-a-success-story-20130721-2qcqq.html; http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/senator-complains-over-png-plan-ads-20130721-2qcqp.html; http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/nauru-rioters-charged-over-60m-damage-to-centre-20130721-2qcqr.html; http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2013/png-faces-breaking-point-20130721-2qcrd.html; http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/rainbows-dark-colours-refugees-struggle-in-squalid-camp-20130721-2qd24.html; http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/shanty-camp-fears-influx-20130721-2qcqs.html; http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/rudd-dishonest-on-refugees-abbott-20130721-2qcf9.html; http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/rudds-hardline-approach-will-be-disastrous-20130721-2qccy.html; http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/senator-complains-over-png-plan-ads-20130721-2qcqp.html; http://www.smh.com.au/comment/the-png-solution-as-harsh-as-it-is-unprecedented-20130721-2qccz.html;