Refugee Action Coalition – media release


“Julia Gillard’s claim that the Sri Lankan Tamils taken to Indonesia are Indonesia’s responsibility is a shameful reprise of the Tampa incident in 2001,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The longer this episode goes on the more the Rudd’s policies mirror those of the Howard government. The Rudd government is letting the Liberals set the political agenda. It does no credit to a government that promised to establish a humane refugee policy in place of the divisive policies of the Howard era.

“It is an unseemly and unnecessary political fiasco. What’s more, it is a stance that is unsustainable,” said Rintoul

“Indonesia does not have the resources to deal with asylum seekers. The Rudd government has spent hundreds of millions of dollar to buy Indonesia’s silence, but that can’t last. In the end, just like those detained on Nauru, the world community will judge that the Sri Lankans and other asylum seekers in Indonesia are Australia’s responsibility.

“It is a dilemma and political crisis of the Rudd government’s own making. Rather than bluster about people smugglers and border protection, Kevin Rudd should face up to the fact that asylum seekers are a fact of life. They are not illegal immigrants. There is no flood. Just as the Fraser government took responsibility for Vietnamese refugees, surely it is not beyond the Rudd government to provide similar leadership.

In 2001, the Australian government called for international assistance for an asylum seeker boat in distress. After the Norwegian flagged vessel MV Tampa answered the distress call the then Howard government promptly tried to coerced the Captain, Arne Rinnan, to transport his cargo of asylum seekers to Indonesia. The Indonesian government, understandably, refused. The asylum seekers were eventually dumped on Nauru – so began the so-called Pacific Solution.

“What is not admitted by the Howard government, or stated clearly by the Rudd government, is that the Pacific solution collapsed because of opposition from the Nauru government in spite of million dollar bribes. More particularly it collapsed because no third countries, like Canada or New Zealand, were about to take asylum seekers who were clearly Australia’s responsibility.

“Kevin Rudd’s ‘Indonesian/Indian Ocean solution’ will also collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. But further damage will be inflicted on asylum seekers and the social fabric of Australia if the government does nothing to take a lead to stem the anti-refugee histrionics. Indonesia should not let itself be blackmailed,” said Ian Rintoul.

“The Refugee Action Coalition is calling on the government to recognize its responsibilities and bring the Tamil asylum seekers to Australia.”

For further information contact Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713



“Desperate Liberals, sliding further behind in the opinion polls, are trying to turn refugees into a political football once again. Ruddock’s comments about a ‘pipeline of 10,000 asylum seekers’ are on a par with his claim in 1999 that ‘whole villages were packing up to come to Australia’. He had no evidence then, he has none now,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“They are discredited comments from a discredited former Immigration Minister. Likewise, WA premier Barnett’s comments about denying visas to Afghan asylum seekers.

“The Liberal Party would like to start a political arms race about which party is tougher on refugees. What irks the Liberals is that any refugees are gaining protection in Australia at all. Ruddock spent his whole political life as Immigration minister trying to make sure Australia took no responsibility for asylum seekers.

“It is well established that deterrence doesn’t work. Asylum seeker numbers rose after Ruddock introduced temporary protection visas. Worse, the deaths of 353 asylum seekers on the SIEV X in 2001 were directly attributable to the Liberals polices.


“What is needed is a welcome refugee policy. Kevin Rudd should close Christmas Island. Excision is a disgraceful monument to the Liberals’ failed deterrence policies. The vast majority of boat arrivals are found to be refugees. Christmas Island is simply inflicting unnecessary suffering on detainees. The Labor Party should live up to its declared policy of using detention as a last resort,” said Rintoul.

“Instead of spending millions of dollars on “border protection” to use Indonesia as a warehouse for asylum seekers, that money could be spent processing refugees in Indonesia and bringing them to Australia. We don’t want any more SIEV X’s. Asylum seekers have already drowned on boats heading to Australia.”

Meanwhile, information obtained late yesterday (Mon 12 October) indicates that deported Sri Lankan asylum seeker, Sarath Tennakoon was released by the Sri Lankan air force after being in custody for over 36 hours. Sarath has been left without money or documents.

For more information contact Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713


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