English News

Murder mystery

MURDER detectives have turned their investigation into the death of a 40-year-old man towards Burton after it was revealed the victim had ‘prominent links’ to the town.

West Midlands Police officers are urging people to come forward with information after Bakhitar Ahmad Kheder Mirawdali was found dead at a hostel in Soho Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, at around 3.35pm on Thursday.

A murder probe was subsequently launched after tests showed he had died from a wound to his neck.

As detectives started to piece together details surrounding the 40-year-old’s demise, links with Burton and its vast Kurdish community were uncovered.

Burton is home to approximately 1,500 Kurdish people, most of whose families were originally refugees from Iraq.

A spokesman for West Midlands Police said: “We would urge people in the town to look at Mr Mirawdali’s name and photo to see if it jogs any memories.

“Early investigations have shown that he had prominent links across the country and especially in Burton with its vast Kurdish community.

We are trying to piece together his final days and although he kept himself to himself, he could have spent them talking to people in the town or even been visiting.”

Mohammad Ahmed, an Iraqi Kurdish refugee who lives in the town, spoke to the Mail after learning of Mr Mirawdali’s demise.

He said: “It is very sad to have learned what has happened and my thoughts go out to his family.

“It seems his death may have been related to a robbery but these are all the details that are known at the moment.

“I do understand from people in Birmingham and the local community that he had links with Burton.”

Detective Inspector Buck Rogers, who is leading the murder investigation, said: “We’re working hard to establish what happened in the hostel and to identify who killed Mr Mirawdali.

“We are keen to speak with anyone who may have seen him in the days leading up to his death.”

Originally from Iraq, Mr Mirawdali had been granted political asylum and had been living in the UK for a number of years. However, he was planning to return to his homeland in the coming weeks to marry his fiancee.

Officers are working with the Iraqi embassy to notify Mr Mirawdali’s family and specialist family liaison officers are supporting his brother, who is currently living in the West Midlands.

Anyone with information should call detectives on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

 

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Fears raised for teen asylum seekers

THE Immigration Department has almost doubled the number of teenage asylum seekers detained in the West Australian desert town of Leonora recently and the local council is concerned they are not being sent to school.

Leonora Shire chief executive Jim Epis said yesterday he was unaware that the department had lifted the number of unaccompanied minors detained in Leonora from 90 to 160.

The department said there had been several transfers of groups of minors from Christmas Island since Christmas. The unaccompanied teenagers began arriving in November.

Refugee groups, who descended on the mining town at the weekend in a protest, have also questioned the presence of such a large group of minors in the remote location.

Child counsellor Suzanne Jenkins from Fremantle’s University of Notre Dame, who spoke to teenagers inside the Leonora detention centre at the weekend, said some had been in the detention system for more than two years.

The federal government pledged in 2010 to release children from immigration detention.

An immigration department spokeswoman said the teenagers – the only occupants of the detention centre – were just in ”transit” and would be at Leonora ”for a matter of weeks” while they were processed for community release.

But Mr Epis is concerned the department had told his council that, unlike last year, asylum seekers will not attend the local school in 2012, despite a previous expansion of classrooms to accommodate detainees.

He said a funding dispute between the state and federal government was to blame. ”It seems just a waste that this has been built and won’t be used for the purpose it was built.”

A department spokeswoman confirmed the teenagers would not attend the local school, and would instead be taught English, cooking and life in Australia lessons inside the detention centre.

The spokeswoman said the Leonora school only catered for primary and junior high school students, so was inappropriate for 16 and 17-year-olds. ”It would be unnecessarily disruptive to the local community to move them into school and then out again a few weeks later,” she said.

The department spokeswoman said of the Leonora detainees: ”Every one of them has been assessed for community detention but security and other risk factors have to be considered.”

Almost one in five asylum seekers in the detention network is a minor, with more children remaining in detention than are in community detention.

As of Friday, there were 489 minors in community detention and 588 in ”alternative” detention centres such as Leonora.

■ A man in his 40s suffered a dislocated shoulder when he fell from a wall while trying to escape from the Maribyrnong Detention Centre yesterday.

An ambulance spokeswoman said the man fell from a 3½-metre-high perimeter fence shortly after 5.30am and was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital.

A Department of Immigration spokesman said the detainee was expected to be returned to the centre from hospital last night.

The Age

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Australian Politicians Want Tougher Measures for Asylum Seekers Without Passports

As more asylum seekers try to reach Australia by boat, there is increasing debate in Australia about ensuring that only genuine refugees are granted protection visas and allowed to stay.

Recent government statistics showed that, between July 2010 and October 2011 3,237 asylum seekers admitted that they had flown to Indonesia using their passports but only 37 of them had their passports by the time they reached Australia.

The Australian Liberal Party (currently in opposition) says that because the rates are so high, the laws should be made tougher. They want people arriving by boat to be penalized if they have destroyed their identity documents and for it to be harder for them to claim refugee status.

“Our starting point is to say if they’ve destroyed their documents, then we think there should be a presumption that it’s going to be more difficult for them to achieve refugee status,” a Liberal Party politician said. “What we are saying is that people who are genuine refugees … should be coming with their identity documents because that gives them maximum opportunity to demonstrate their bona fides.”

At the same time the current Australian Government is working with Indonesia to break the people smugglers business model and reduce the number of asylum seekers trying to get to Australia by boat from Indonesia. People smugglers often provide their clients with false passports and visas to get into Indonesia. Asylum seekers then leave Indonesia by boat to try to reach Australia. The two governments will now be working together to make it harder for people to use false passports and false visas to get into Indonesia.

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Eight people reportedly dead in asylum boat tragedy

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has confirmed that an asylum seeker boat has sunk off the coast of Malaysia.

A Malaysian newspaper is reporting that eight asylum seekers drowned when their boat sank in choppy waters.

It also said another 18 men have been rescued.

The report quotes a Malaysian official saying the men were probably trying to reach Australia.

The Australian Government has not confirmed the number of people who have died but says it is saddened by the tragedy.

Mr Bowen said it underlines the government’s reasons for pursuing its Malaysia refugee deal to deter asylum seekers.

He said in the absence of a disincentive, people will continue to take the dangerous journey to Australia by boat.

Radioaustralianews

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‘Your baby looks like Saddam Hussein’

An administrator at the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) is facing disciplinary action after telling a family of Iraqi asylum seekers that their newborn baby looked like Saddam Hussein.

The man, who has worked at the agency for 30 years, is also under investigation for physically assaulting a female colleague and making derogatory remarks about a woman wearing a headscarf.

The comparison of the baby to the former Iraqi dictator came during an interview conducted last year between the employee and an asylum seeking couple from Iraq who brought their newborn infant along to the meeting.

“Who do you think he looks like?” one of the proud parents asked the Migration Board employee.

“Saddam Hussein,” the man replied.

On a separate occasion, the man stood in a customer service reception area and glared at a woman wearing a headscarf.

After one his colleagues had assisted the veil-wearing woman, the man went up and asked his co-worker, “How does it feel to talk to ‘one of those’?”

The shocked co-worker, who had also been told by the man about his exchange with the Iraqi asylum seekers, decided to inform their supervisor about both incidents.

A few days after the female colleague reported the man, he deliberately pushed her twice within the span of a few minutes when he passed her in the hallway, while other surprised Migration Board employees looked on.

During a subsequent conversation with his supervisor, the man did admit to pushing his colleague and to comparing the asylum seekers’ baby to Saddam Hussein.

He added, however, that the comparison was meant as a joke which he had quickly realized was inappropriate.

The man also admitted to his comments about the woman wearing a headscarf, going on to say that he didn’t think it was appropriate for women to wear veils when conducting business with public authorities.

According to the report filed with the disciplinary committee, the man’s supervisor has had numerous conversations with him since 2007 about his behaviour toward colleagues and asylum seekers.

“The incidents described above show, according to the judgement of the section head, that the reprimands have had no effect,” the section head wrote in his report, adding that “under no circumstances can violent behaviour and the like be tolerated in the workplace”.

In the wake of the incidents, the man has been transferred to a role in which he has no contact with the public pending a ruling from the Migration Board’s disciplinary committee on possible disciplinary measures.

The Local

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Indonesian Military Officers Named Suspects in Asylum Voyage Disaster

Police on Wednesday said that four military officers had been named as suspects in connection with an overloaded boat carrying asylum seekers that sank off the coast of East Java last month.

“From our investigation we have been able to name more suspects,” National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said.

Saud identified the five new suspects as Chief Sgt. K.A., Second Sgt. K.N., Second Sgt. I.A.S., Chief Cpl. K. and a civil servant named B.S.

The officers, he said, were from the East Java Military Command and were now in the custody of the East Java Military Police.

The Military Police will take the case to the military court, where the officers will be charged according to the Military Criminal Code.

The police spokesman said the soldiers had been providing security and transportation for the asylum seekers.

Saud did not specify where B.S. is detained and what role the civil servant played in the people-smuggling scheme.

At least 95 people were confirmed dead after a boat carrying more than 200 asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan succumbed to bad weather and sank off the coast of Trenggalek district. The asylum seekers were believed to be headed to Australia.

Police earlier had named four people, all civilians, as suspects: two are believed to have provided the boat, while the others were the crew members.

Rescuers have pulled 49 survivors out of the water, including the boat’s two crew members. The survivors were placed in a special detention facility in the East Java town of Bangil.

East Java police said 30 detainees fled on Monday night through a tunnel they dug themselves, but police managed to capture 11 of them the following day in a province-wide search.

Authorities said they believed a further 100 might still be missing based on the accounts of survivors who told police that before they boarded the boat they were being transported by four buses with 60 passengers each.

Asylum seekers often pass through Indonesia to connect with people smugglers and board boats headed for Australia’s Christmas Island, which is closer to Indonesian territory than mainland Australia.

Last month’s capsizing constitutes ones of the largest losses of life from a single sinking of one of the many boats packed with Asian and Middle Eastern migrants who undertake the perilous voyage.

The Jakarta Globe

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Border Agency ‘sorry’ after missing chance to deport failed asylum seeker who went on to kill partner and children

The UK Border Agency missed the chance to deport a failed asylum seeker who went on to murder his partner and their two children before taking his own life.

Aram Aziz killed Joy Small, 24, their son, Aubarr, 3, and daughter Chanarra, two, at their flat in Leicester, in February last year, before hanging himself.

It has now emerged officials from a department of the UK Border Agency had been searching for Aziz, an Iraqi Kurd, between May 2005 and November 2006, to expel him from the country after he had been denied asylum.

But they did not know another branch of the agency had moved him to Leicester and was paying for him to stay in asylum seekers’ accommodation.

The 32-year-old was branded an ‘abusive monster’ by friends of Ms Small who say he once poured lighter fluid all over her.

Agency bosses said if the two departments had realised they were dealing with the same man, they would have deported him to Slovenia – the first country in which he had claimed asylum after leaving Iraq.

Gail Adams, UK Border Agency regional director, said: ‘Our deepest sympathies are with the family.’ She added mistakes had hindered his deportation – and apologised.

Aziz left Iraq in February 2005 and first applied to the UK for asylum in April that year under the name of Saman Ali Rahim. That was refused a month later because it was found he had already made an application in Slovenia.

He then vanished before re-emerging to make a second UK application, this time in the name Aram Aziz, in January 2006. He was moved to Leicester while that application was considered.

In December 2008, the UK Border Agency denied asylum – but because he had met Ms Small in early 2006 and had two children he was granted a three-year stay in the UK as a partner of a British national.

An investigation carried out by the Leicester Safeguarding Children Board published its findings, following an inquest earlier this week.

Its report revealed Aziz had two applications to remain in the UK turned down and twice absconded when efforts were made to deport him.

It concluded the tragedy could not have been predicted, but added ‘the only known preventative factor’ would have been if the agency had succeeded in their attempts to deport Aziz to Slovenia.

Ms Adams said the agency had tried to remove Aziz from the UK three times.

She said: ‘On two of these occasions, arrangements were made to detain Mr Aziz but he absconded.

‘We recognise that mistakes internally hindered his removal on the third occasion and for this we apologise.’

She said the agency had since changed the way it worked.

Ms Small’s father Kevin Wathall said: ‘Aziz should have been removed from the country before any of this happened.

‘There was the chance to do that but the border agency messed it up because one lot sit in a different office to the others. I would have liked a personal apology but the most important thing is nothing like this should happen again.’

The report also revealed Aziz he was given a conditional discharge for assaulting Ms Small in September 2007.

Police asked if he could be deported but the border agency turned down the request because of his pending asylum decision.

dailymail
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Asylum seeker in hospital after self harm

An Iranian man has been taken to hospital after injuring himself at a Darwin immigration detention centre.

The asylum-seeker was taken to the Royal Darwin Hospital by ambulance late on Wednesday night, a spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) said.

“Royal Darwin Hospital reports the man’s condition is satisfactory,” the spokeswoman said.

Asylum-seeker advocate Ian Rintoul, from Refugee Action Coalition, said attempted suicides were a regular occurrence at the Darwin’s Northern Immigration Detention Centre.

He said last week a Kurdish man tried to take his own life at the centre.

The same man last year stitched his lips together in protest at his situation, Mr Rintoul said.

A DIAC spokeswoman later confirmed that a Kurdish man at the centre was taken to hospital on Tuesday last week with “health concerns”.
She refused to say whether the man had harmed himself.

thewest.com

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Keeping asylum seekers in line

THE company that runs immigration detention is using a system of punishment and reward for misbehaving detainees, according to a document obtained by The Age.

The document conflicts with Immigration Department denials that such a system exists.

The Serco ”Behaviour Management Plan” lists consequences for a detainee, including relocation, exclusion from a specific activity, being reported to the Immigration Department and the threat of the police being called.

The document requires Serco staff to record ”current restrictions in place for the client, such as access to activities, involvement in excursions”.

If the detainee’s behaviour improves – or shows ”progress against any objectives set” – the document records ”any changes to restrictions”.

The behaviour management plan clearly records the incident or behaviour that prompted use of the plan, and the ”desired change” set by Serco that the detainee must meet by particular review dates to avoid continuing restrictions.

An Immigration spokeswoman said yesterday: ”We don’t have a system of reward and punishment. There’s no such policy.”

The department spokeswoman said detainees could be removed from a detention centre ”from time to time” because non-compliant behaviour created safety issues for other detainees, but she stressed that this wasn’t punishment.

”If they are non-compliant, it can have a consequence on where they are placed,” she said.

Sources said the document had been used for Christmas Island detainees sent to the isolation ”Red Compound”, and also the ”White Compound”, after self-harm attempts. Among the objectives detainees had been forced to sign to return to the general detention centre was that they would not commit further self-harm.

Despite the denial of a ”reward and punishment” regime, the department’s own detention services manual also details how the relocation of detainees, and denying them visitors, ”is a mechanism to assist in the management of unacceptable behaviour”.

A transfer can be used to ”restrict a person’s movements for behavioural management reasons”, and also ”recognise compliant behaviour”.

The manual says warnings of a possible transfer should be made and recorded in the behaviour management plan.

Refugee advocates have raised concerns that sections of

Christmas Island’s North West Point detention centre are being increasingly used as management support units, including the use of isolation to change behaviour.

According to the manual, transferring a detainee to a management support unit should be a ”last resort”. It states that the only management unit remaining in the detention network is at Villawood, although Christmas Island has the ”capability to provide a secure facility”.

The manual refers to the 2005 Palmer report recommendation that the government review the use of management support units, and says the notorious Baxter centre used under the Howard government was decommissioned as a result. It is not appropriate to leave a person in a management unit for extended periods and alternatives must be examined after 48 hours, it states.

The department spokeswoman said there were ”various management units in different detention centres”, and refused to comment on Christmas Island’s red and white compounds. Asked if they were being used for detainees who had committed self-harm, she said ”people can become non-compliant for various reasons”.

The Sydney Morning Herald

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Australian navy intercepts 119 asylum seekers

A boat carrying 119 asylum seekers has been intercepted by the Australian Navy off the country’s west coast, the immigration department has said.

The HMAS Maryborough, operating under the Border Protection, intercepted the boat of asylum seekers around 35 km north of Christmas Island, Xinhua reported.

The 119 passengers and two crew members on board will be transferred to Christmas Island where they will undergo initial security, health and identity, officials said.

Opposition border protection spokesman Michael Keenan said this proved that the people smuggler trade was thriving in 2012. The arrival of three boats in the first week of the New Year demonstrated the ruling Labor government’s failed policy on border protection, he said.

twocircles.net

Returnees flood across Iraq

Since January some 75,000 displaced families have returned to their original homes, raising the total number of returning families to 140,000 since 2008, Iraqi migration minister said today.

Speaking to AKnews, Dindar Doski said the number of Iraqi families who fled the 2006-2008 sectarian war topped 250,000 but due to the “security” in Iraq the number of returning families is increasing.

Most of the families left the country in 2006 and 2007 and took refuge in Europe. The rest scattered inside Iraq.

The minister believed the U.S. withdrawal will be greeted positively by Iraqi displaced people looking to return home.

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Asylum seeker touts promise a better life but the reality is danger and death

PEOPLE smugglers are sending touts to Indonesian airports to sign up asylum seekers willing to risk their lives on an illegal and dangerous boat journey to Australia.

Circling like sharks at Jakarta International Airport, the agents wait in the no-man’s land between the baggage collection and the ticket windows where tourists, businesspeople and travellers queue to pay $25 for short-stay visas.

Jakarta the gateway for asylum seekers

“They are Afghani, Iranian, Iraqi, Arabs,” Akbar Salamati said through an interpreter.

“They come up to you and ask where you’re from, they can speak your language.”

The 34-year-old cement contractor, a member of the Basra minority, left Iran because he was always having to go cap-in-hand for his pay, which was always months behind if he got paid at all.

He borrowed money from his sister’s family, promising to pay her back when he found work in Australia.

He paid the agent at the airport $7000 and spent the next two weeks living in a broken-down apartment in Bogor, south of Jakarta, with 14 other asylum seekers, watching with envy whenever it was someone else’s time “to go”.

Mohammed Hardani, his wife Amireh and their two girls Atena, 10, and Mobina, 8, were approached in the same way.

A qualified welding engineer, the 34-year-old Hazara Muslim was paid a fraction of what Iranian labourers earned despite having the responsibility of welding huge petroleum pipelines in the country’s oil fields.

It took him four years to save enough to fly to Jakarta and pay an agent $12,000 for his family to reach Christmas Island. His wife and youngest daughter died at sea.

dailytelegraph
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Survivors tell why the boats keep coming

Indonesian authorities have found 13 people on an island off East Java, raising hope there have been more survivors of the disastrous sinking of a vessel laden with asylum seekers.

The people were spotted from a helicopter on Barung Island and their identities have not been confirmed.

A boat has been despatched to rescue the people, said the head of the local search and rescue team Kelik Enggar Purwanto.

The discovery came as other survivors say they will try again to reach Australia by sea, as they expressed their distaste and confusion about the Government’s policy which allows refugees who arrive by boat to be resettled but denies assistance to those who can’t make it.

And, if they die trying to come by boat, they maintain it will be the Australian government’s fault.

Amid emotional pleas for the Australian government to help them and wrenching accounts of wives, children and brothers lost at sea, two of the survivors sharply criticised the immigration policies they say encourages them to take great risks with their lives.

“Why does Australia not close the border?,” said Esmat Adine, a 24 year old Afghan. “Everyone is coming because the border is open. Everyone is going there and they are being accepted.

“If Australia does no want asylum seekers to come to Australia [by boat], it is a better way to close all the borders and then no-one will come.”

Devastated by their ordeal, they want to be flown to Australia, where many already have families. But they know that is not something the Australian government will do and they face a long stint in immigration detention, or a hostel, in Indonesia.

“If Australia does not accept our request now, we will do again. Because we have nothing.”

“If we are going to die, our responsibility will be with the Australian government.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Dawood Waladbegi, who lost his wife, two young children, as well as his brother and his family when the overcrowded wooden vessel suddenly capsized in rough seas 40 nautical miles off the coast of Java on Saturday.

Taking a boat across dangerous seas “is the only way I can get to Australia,” said Mr Waladbegi, an Iranian, between sobs.

Both men said they endured eight hours at sea before they were rescued, relaying the horrific experience of seeing men, women and children die before their eyes as they were swamped by large waves and unable to hold on to life jackets or debris from the boat.

The Indonesian crew of the boat, they added, had abandoned the ship first, jumping into a small dinghy as the vessel began to founder.

“We all felt it was the end of our life story,” said Mr Adine, who lost two cousins and an uncle and estimated there were 250 people on a boat built for a maximum of 100.

“The people smugglers, they are not human,” he said. “They just think about money, nothing else.”

Tom Allard is the Indonesian correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Taking a boat across dangerous seas “is the only way I can get to Australia,” said Mr Waladbegi, an Iranian, between sobs.

Both men said they endured eight hours at sea before they were rescued, relaying the horrific experience of seeing men, women and children die before their eyes as they were swamped by large waves and unable to hold on to life jackets or debris from the boat.

The Indonesian crew of the boat, they added, had abandoned the ship first, jumping into a small dinghy as the vessel began to founder.

“We all felt it was the end of our life story,” said Mr Adine, who lost two cousins and an uncle and estimated there were 250 people on a boat built for a maximum of 100.

“The people smugglers, they are not human,” he said. “They just think about money, nothing else.”

Tom Allard is the Indonesian correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

caseyweeklyberwick

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Asylum tragedy ‘not a day for politics’ declares Home Affairs minister

MORE than 200 people are feared dead after a heavily-overloaded boat packed with around 250 Iranians and Afghans seeking new lives in Australia sank off Indonesia.

The fiberglass vessel was following a well-worn, and occasionally disastrous, route from the southern coast of Java to the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island when it sank Saturday afternoon 40 nautical miles off Prigi beach, in the east of Java Island.

Thirty-three survivors so far were plucked from the shark-infested waters, Indonesian officials said. They were floating for six hours before fishermen rescued them and are recovering at a community hall near Prigi beach, 400 miles (640 kilometers) southeast of Jakarta.

“We sent out four boats and two helicopters, but so far we haven’t spotted anyone else floating. It’s very likely they have all drowned,” National Search and Rescue Agency spokesman Gagah Prakoso told AFP. “It’s impossible even for a good swimmer with a life vest to swim to shore safely in such extreme conditions. When boats sink like this, the bodies usually surface on the third day.”

Three hundred rescuers, including navy and police officers, were searching the sea for bodies, but bad weather and large waves of up to 16 feet (five meters) restricted the rescue operation Sunday, AFP reported.

Most of the survivors came from Afghanistan or Iran and paid agents between $2,500 and $5,000 to seek asylum in Australia.

But some claimed to be Iraqi, Pakistani, Turkish or Saudi nationals and said that their papers were lost at sea.

One survivor, 17-year-old Afghan student Armaghan Haidar, said he was sleeping when a storm came up and began to rock the boat.

“I felt water touching my feet and woke up. As the boat was going down, people were panicking and shouting and trying to rush out,” he said. “I managed to swim out and hang on to the side of the boat with about 100 others. [There were] about 20 to 30 others with life jackets, but another 100 people were trapped inside.”

He said he flew from Dubai to Indonesia and boarded a boat in West Java.

“We want to go to Christmas Island and live a better life in Australia,” he said. “There is nothing in Afghanistan. There’s a lot of terrorism. We couldn’t study, go to college and find jobs. There’s no future for us there.”

The boat had a capacity of 100 but was overloaded with 250 people.

“That, combined with heavy rain and high waves, might have caused the boat to tip over and capsize,” according to Yoso Mihardi, a spokesman for the Trenggalek district government.

“Our focus today [Sunday] is on the search and rescue effort, and our thoughts today are with the people who died and with the families of those still lost at sea. Whenever people make a dangerous journey and risk their lives, I am concerned,” Australian home affairs minister Jason Clare told AFP, adding that Australia offered an Orion surveillance aircraft to help the rescue effort.

Australia’s government has come under pressure from campaign groups that claim its tough approach to refugees is partly responsible for such disasters, AFP said.

news.com

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Will Iraq’s 1.3 million refugees ever be able to go home?

Eight years and three months after “liberating Iraq”, a time of unrelenting savage strife in which tens of thousands died and a society was torn apart, America has formally ended its war in Iraq.

After the colours of the US forces were lowered and the “Last Post” was played, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told troops: “You will leave with great pride, lasting pride, secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to cast tyranny aside and to offer hope for prosperity and peace to this country’s future generations.”

The ceremony, just 48 minutes long to limit the scope of any possible attack, was held behind high, fortified walls in a concrete courtyard at the airport in Baghdad. “We spilled a lot of blood here,” Mr Panetta acknowledged. But, he insisted: “It has been to achieve a mission making the country sovereign and independent and able to govern and secure itself.”

Not far from where the speeches were taking place lay grim evidence which refuted the claims that the Americans were leaving behind a land of stability and prosperity. More than 8,000 people are living in squalor in a field of mud and foetid water, with huts made of rags and salvaged pieces of wood.

The residents of Al-Rahlat camp are among 1.3 million refugees in their own country; families driven out of their homes by the sectarian violence spawned by the war. Another 1.6 million fled Iraq for neighbouring states, mainly Jordan and Syria. Those in Syria, with its escalating violence, are now having to seek another place of safety.

There is a third group who are particularly vulnerable – around 70,000 people who worked for the US military. They were promised the offer of refuge in the US, but little has been done fulfil the pledge. Barack Obama, while campaigning for the White House four years ago, berated the Bush administration over the issue, saying: “The Iraqis who stood with us are being targeted for assassination, yet our doors are shut. That is not how we treat our friends.” In 2008 Congress passed a bill for special immigration visas to be issued for 25,000, but only 3,000 have been processed during Obama’s presidency.

Around 450,000 of the IDPs (internally displaced persons) are living in the worst conditions, crammed into 380 street settlements scattered around the country. They have little or no access to clean water, sanitation or medical care. Many of these people, deemed to be illegally squatting, cannot get the documents necessary to register for welfare relief or take up jobs, or enrol their sons and daughters in schools. The tension and claustrophobia of such an existence has led to psychological problems, especially among children. Domestic violence is rife.

Hakim al-Ibrahimi, a 47-year-old unemployed bricklayer, has been stuck at Al-Rahlat camp, in the Shia enclave of Sadr City, for the past two years with his wife and four children. “I was staying with my brother and his family. But there were 11 of us in a flat with two bedrooms, it became impossible,” he said.

“Officials tell us to go back to our home. But what home? We used to live in Adhamiya [a mainly Sunni area] and we had to escape otherwise we would have been killed. That was four years ago and I know someone else is living in my house with his family. Life here is really bad, but if we go back to Adhamiya we won’t be safe.”

The turbulence of Iraq’s recent history had taken its toll on Amal’s family (not her real name). Her husband was killed in the war with Iran and a son, Akram, was executed by Saddam Hussein’s regime after joining the underground opposition. A second son, Mazruq, died in a sectarian attack. Amal lives at a camp with her daughter, Radwa, and three grandchildren. She has not received compensation under a scheme set up by the Iraqi government for civilian victims of the war.

The International Rescue Committee, which provides humanitarian assistance, has taken up the case of Amal and dozens of others. The IRC said: “As the US government withdraws its troops, it leaves behind a major crisis in the region. The US has a responsibility to aid Iraqis uprooted by war it started and to protect the most vulnerable.”

Laura Jacoby, with the IRC in Baghdad, said: “The main worry is that with the US forces leaving, international donors may go as well. The Iraqi government is organising assistance, but we face a very serious problem inside Iraq and in Syria and Jordan as well.”

Case study: The Hayali family

What happened to Mohammed and Nadia al-Hayali, a decent couple bringing up two young children in Baghdad when US and British forces invaded, is a poignant illustration of how lives were destroyed in the unleashed violence.

I met them in 2004, 18 months after George Bush had declared “mission accomplished”. Although the insurgency was already under way, with dead bodies turning up in the streets, relentless bombings and power cuts, the Hayalis hoped that peace would eventually prevail.

Nadia, 39, a Shia, and Mohammed, 40, a Sunni, lived in al-Jamiya, a “mixed” middle-class neighbourhood, where previously sectarian labels did not matter.

A year later things had changed for the worse. Suicide bombings were a daily occurrence, death squads roamed the streets and kidnappings had become common. My visit to their home had to be carefully planned. Groups of men in dark glasses cruised around in Audis and BMWs; they were insurgents looking for US or security convoys.

The middle-class exodus from Iraq was under way. The Hayalis, like many, decided to go. “What is left now? The place is destroyed. That is what liberation had done to us,” said Mohammed.

He did not make it. A little later Nadia, Mohammed, their 10-year-old son Abdullah and daughter Dahlia, eight, were taken away by Sunni gunmen looking for “collaborators”.

Mohammed was raising funds for small businesses and this brought him into contact with government officials. He was executed with a bullet to his head. Nadia now lives in Sweden with her children.

Kim Sengupta/Independant

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Norway refuses gay Iraqi asylum, says ‘go home, be discreet’

A gay Iraqi has been refused Norwegian asylum and told to “go home and be discreet.”

The High Court accepted that Azad Hassan Rasol was gay and that gay men in Iraq are at risk, including at risk of being killed, but it ruled that Rasol ‘must comply with Iraq’s socio-cultural norms’.

Rasol is a Kurd and the Immigration authorities claimed that risks to gay men in the Kurdish region “differs greatly” from the rest of Iraq and that he can seek protection from the Kurdish autonomous region’s authorities.

His lawyer, Jon Ole Martinsen, said that, “In practice it means to hide your sexual orientation, for if it is discovered you will be in danger of being persecuted.”

Rasol told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) that, “My clan is going to kill me. Gays and lesbians cannot live openly in Iraq.”
So-called ‘honor killing’ is a major problem in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Azad Hassan Rasol

Last month a report emerged of police raiding a gay party in Kalar, a small town in Kurdistan, arresting 25 men.

In September the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released a report which said that attacks on LGBT in Iraq had continued in 2010.

Rasol has been in a relationship with Norwegian Odd Arne Henriksen since they met in 2006. Henriksen said that if Rasol was sent to Iraq he would go with him.

“In our family we don’t give up so easily. We stand at the very end,” he told NRK.

Rasol came to Norway ten years ago, speaks “good Norwegian”, according to the newspaper Aftenposten, works in the canteen at Telenor’s headquarters and has many friends.

Last year, in a landmark decision, the British Supreme Court, in a case involving a Cameroonian and an Iranian, decided that gay or lesbian asylum seekers could not be told to ‘go home and be discrete’.

Martinsen said that Rasol’s case will now be taken up to the Norwegian Supreme Court.

In the last two years, 40 of 52 gay people seeking asylum have been rejected according to Norwegian government figures. The Ministry of Justice said in an e-mail to NRK that they are considering changing how LGBT asylum cases are dealt with.

“They must say that it cannot be required of each applicant to hide his [sexual] orientation on return”, says Martinsen. “Norway should be a leader that protects everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.”

Other European countries, including France, do not return Iraqis and UNHCR continues to say it is unsafe to return asylum seekers to Iraq.

Last week the Iraqi Minister of Immigration Dindar Najman told AKnews that Baghdad airport will no longer admit Iraqis who are deported from Europe by force.

The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR) have repeatedly accused the Iraqi government of signing a deal with European countries which deport Iraqis in return for dropping Iraqi debts. Among the countries that have started forced deportations via Baghdad since 2005 are Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

According to the IFIR 5,000 to 6,000 Iraqi refugees, most of them Kurds, have been deported from Europe since then.

Kurdistan-based chief of IFIR, Amanj Abdulla, told AKnews no European country has tried to send any refugee back to Iraq since the decision was made so the authority’s resolve to enforce this ban remains untested.

Nevertheless, he valued the decision as “a positive step in favor of Iraqi refugees”.

http://www.lgbtqnation.nation

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Rioting asylum seekers caused almost $20 million damage to immigration detention centres

New Department of Immigration figures show five riots at Villawood in Sydney, Christmas Island and Darwin have cost an estimated $17.6 million – and that could rise.

The most damage was caused at Villawood with the repair bill reaching $9.271 million.

While insurance will cover much of the costs, the government revealed it would be liable for the first $1 million of each claim, or 10 per cent of the total bill.

According to documents released last Friday night, the cost of the Christmas Island riot in March is now estimated at $5.05 million – double the original figure of $2.5 million.

The government claimed the subsequent riots at Villawood, when inmates set fire to several buildings a month later, will cost 50 per cent more than the $6 million originally estimated.

There were two riots also at Darwin and another at Christmas Island.

“The total cost of estimated damage across all five events as of October 14, 2011, is $17,636,366,” the department said.

“This estimate is likely to change as quotations for repairs are obtained and works undertaken.”

The revised costs follow the release of an independent report last week which suggested overcrowding was the cause of the tension and unrest and the trigger for the riots.

But, it found no fault with the Department of Immigration or the detention centre operator, Serco.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said, “This government’s contracts with Serco require it to have full private insurance cover of its facilities, which is why the costs to the Commonwealth relating to damage caused at detention centres are so low.

“In its hypocritical hysteria, the Coalition seems to have forgotten its record of passing on the costs of detention riots to the taxpayer: they had four detention centre riots in a single month – December 2002 – at a cost of many millions.”

But opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the government was “bleeding” money on its border protection policy.

“Labor has failed to learn the lessons of the detention riots that outraged Australians,” Mr Morrison said. “The government’s only response has been to crab walk away from mandatory detention and soften border protection.”

DailyTelegraph

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Extradition hearing for alleged Iraqi people smuggler

An alleged people smuggler has appeared in a New Zealand court in a bid to fight extradition to Australia.

Maythem Radhi is accused of trying to smuggle hundreds of asylum seekers on a boat which sank near Indonesia in 2001.

More than 300 people, including 146 children, died when the Siev X went down.

The 45 survivors were discovered by Indonesian fishermen 20 hours after the vessel sank.

Mr Radhi is wanted on one count of facilitating the proposed entry of five or more non-citizens into Australia.

Two other men have been convicted in relation to the incident, but the 34-year-old was only tracked down by Australian police earlier this year.

The New Zealand court is expected to decide whether to extradite him in February.

If extradited, Australia’s Immigration Minister will make the final decision on his case.

Australia Network News

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Bulgaria Captures 9 Illegal Immigrants from Syria, Iraq

Bulgaria’s Border Police has captured a total of nine illegal immigrants from Iraq and Syria in two unrelated incidents.

Four illegal foreigners – three men from Syria and one from Iraq – were busted late Tuesday night at the Bulgarian border with Greece near Petrich, the Interior Ministry announced Wednesday.

The four men were caught right before they were trying to cross from Bulgaria into Greece.

All of them were found to have registrations with the Bulgarian Refugee Agency, with applications for asylum. However, they were not entitled to leave Bulgaria until their applications were reviewed.

In a separate incident border policemen from Bulgaria’s Danube port of Vidin searched a Volkswagen van driven by a 26-year-old Dutch citizen of Iraqi origin as it was to cross into Romania.

The police found nine men inside the van who presented IDs from the Netherlands. Upon inspection, five of them were found to have used Dutch IDs belonging to other persons.

The five men in question had already been detained at the Turkish-Bulgarian border on September 16, 2011, and after that applied for refugee status in Bulgaria. They have been arrested in Vidin as a result of their attempt to leave Bulgaria illegally.

novinite.com

Lip-sewing protester taken to hospital

One of the three Kurdish asylum seekers in Darwin who sewed his lips together has been taken to hospital and ended his protest.

The three Faili Kurdish men housed in the Darwin immigration detention centre began their protest on Monday last week, when they sewed their lips together.

Although the group were still drinking sweet tea and water, this ended early Monday, when they began refusing fluids.

A Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) spokeswoman on Tuesday said one of a group who had been protesting was taken to hospital on Monday night.

“One detainee last night ended his protest action and he was transported to hospital for further treatment,” she said.

She said the other two men protesting with him have continued their vigil but added that food and water were on hand at all times.

On Wednesday last week another group at the Darwin detention centre began a hunger strike.

Although DIAC has refused to say how many people are part of the group of hunger strikers, the spokeswoman said a small number of those involved in that protest were seen eating on Monday night.

It is understood the three Faili Kurdish men who sewed their lips together are angry that they have been in detention for up to 22 months without news on what their fate will be.

The men have been deemed by authorities to be stateless, and it is understood they cannot be repatriated to their homelands, despite their applications for asylum being rejected.

Faili Kurds come from a region straddling the border of Iraq and Iran.

On the same day the lip-sewing protest began, two other Kurdish detainees overdosed and were taken to hospital, where they were treated then returned to detention.

ninemsn.com.au

—-

Asylum-seekers sew lips together in Australia protest

SYDNEY – Three asylum-seekers sewed their lips together and two more overdosed on drugs to protest against their lengthy detention in Australia, a refugee campaigner said Wednesday.

The five Kurdish men held at Darwin’s Northern Immigration Detention Centre belong to the minority Faili group and are stateless, Refugees Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said.

“They sewed their lips together,” he told AFP. “It’s a protest, they are pretty determined.”

But he said it was not a hunger strike and the men were taking fluids.

The pair who took the drug overdose were believed to be out of danger after having their stomachs pumped, he added.

The immigration department confirmed that three men at the Darwin centre “are engaging in protest actions” involving minor self-harm and that two others had been hospitalised for self-harming.

“It has been explained to the detainees that their actions will not alter the outcome of their asylum claims,” a spokesman said.

Rintoul said all five men, who had spent up to 21 months in detention, had been rejected as refugees.

“The problem for them is that they are just in limbo because they are stateless and they cannot be sent back,” Rintoul said.

Faili Kurds are Shia Muslims who originally inhabited the Iran-Iraq border region. In the 1970s and 1980s, Saddam Hussein expelled many of them across the border into Iran and stripped them of their Iraqi nationality.

Asylum-seekers arriving in Australia from Iran are predominantly Iranians claiming persecution on the grounds of their political opinion, race or religion and Faili Kurd refugees of Iraqi origin.

Rintoul said while Australian officials approved some Faili Kurds as refugees, others were rejected.

“There are hundreds of stateless asylum-seekers and Iranians in exactly the same situation,” Rintoul said in a statement calling for all stateless asylum-seekers to be immediately released.

Australian immigration detention centres have been hit by unrest, including riots, in the past year as boatpeople arriving on rickety vessels from Asia land to bid for asylum.

There has been speculation the number of boats will rise after the High Court blocked a move to transfer boatpeople to Malaysia for processing.

Another boat, believed to be carrying 40 passengers, was intercepted Wednesday.

AFP

—-

25 people found dead on immigration boat to Italy

A number of 25 persons were found dead on an immigration boat carrying some 300 people from North Africa to Italy, according to local media report on Monday.

After receiving an SOS signal, two patrol boats sent by Italian Coast Guard Sunday night reached the immigration boat sailing from Libya about 35 miles off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy’s most southern island, said local news agency Adnkronos.

A number of 271 people, whose origin is still unknown, were found alive on board when the 15-meter-long ship was rescued, including 36 women and 21 children.

Then after the transshipment of the people onto patrol boats, the Coast Guard found 25 bodies at the bottom of the boat, all males and mostly young.

Medical clinic on the island believed that asphyxiation caused the death of the 25 people.

Pietro Bartolo, a local doctor who has done an inspection on the bodies, was quoted as saying that probably the victims were dead a few hours after the start of the trip because they were all crammed into the bottom part of the boat where very little oxygen was available; in the meantime exhaust gas from the engine of the boat further “poisoned” the space.

Local prosecutors have opened an investigation to reconstruct precisely the cause of the deaths.

Since the onset of the Mideast and North Africa unrest in January, Lampedusa has become a key transit point for refugees fleeing that region, with the arrival of some 30,000 immigrants and refugees, mostly from Tunisia, Libya and sub-Saharan Africa since then, according to Italian official statistics.

Iraqis among refugees to be sent to Malaysia

The first plane carrying asylum seekers – among them Iraqis – from Australia to Malaysia as part of a controversial refugee-swap deal fostered earlier this year is scheduled to take off at 4:15pm tomorrow.

Under the deal, Australia will receive 4,000 registered asylum seekers whose claims have been processed, and Malaysia in return will take 800 unprocessed asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat.

On board the first plane, there are 54 Afghan, Iranian and Iraqi refugees – among them 18 minors – who disembarked on the Australian coast at the end of last month.

Australian Associated Press (AAP) quoted Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul as saying they had received a call on Saturday from one of the asylum seekers that have been detained on Christmas Island since July 31.

“The asylum seekers have committed no crime but are effectively being held incommunicado… The abuse of their human rights has started even before they have been sent to Malaysia,” Rintoul told the agency.

The deportations – in particular those involving minors – have been widely condemned by human rights advocates.

A group of the asylum seekers bound for Malaysia has gone on a hunger strike to protest against their deportation.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s government however insists on sending a clear message to asylum seekers heading to Australia that deportation – not asylum – will be their fate.

“I’ll not have the situation where we provide a reward for people who put their children on a boat and undertake that dangerous journey,” AAP quoted Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen as saying.

The Australian government has also announced plans to record on video the boarding of the 54 asylum seekers for broadcasting on their YouTube channels in a bid to deter further boat arrivals.

Australia currently has over 6,000 asylum seekers in detention, originating from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Immigration Minister claims refugee agreement with Switzerland

Iraq’s Immigration Minister Dindar Doski claimed to have made an agreement with Swiss authorities about the right to travel for Iraqi refugees.

After a two-day visit to Switzerland, Mr Doski said Iraqi refugees would now be able to leave Switzerland for other countries, seek asylum in these countries, and then – if they do not get asylum there – return to Switzerland.
“The Bundesamt fuer Migration (Swiss Migration Office) has decided to grant the Iraqi refugees these rights, ” Mr Doski said. “This was never allowed before.”

The Swiss government could not be reached for a comment so far.

This agreement will most likely have no effect on Iraqi refugees in Switzerland. Usually, once a refugee was granted asylum, he or she does not seek asylum in another country.

Also, it is not clear how many Iraqi refugees are their in Switzerland today. According to some sources, there are some 8,000 Iraqi refugees in Switzerland. According to Swiss media reports, Switzerland granted asylum for 43 Iraqis between 2006 and today.

People who were given asylum in Switzerland can obtain a “travel document for refugees” (Reiseausweis fuer Fluechtlinge) that allows them to travel to other countries and return afterward.

AK

Tears for stabbed Iraqi refugee

Family and friends of a Wellington woman who died in a stabbing packed a church to farewell her.

Women in headscarves wailed yesterday morning as Eman Jani Hurmiz was carried into the Ancient Church of the East in Strathmore.

Several hundred people, mostly from Wellington’s Assyrian community, attended the funeral and listened as Father Aprem Pithyou spoke of her life.

The men of the community then carried Mrs Hurmiz’s coffin out of the church, followed by a procession of mourners.

Mrs Hurmiz died from stab wounds on Friday at her home. Her husband, Najeeb Dawood, 51, was charged with her murder during a special bedside hearing at Wellington Hospital on Monday.

The couple and their family moved to Wellington as refugees from Iraq.

Father Pithyou described Mrs Hurmiz as a “very happy woman, a very clever woman”.

—-

Austrian Police Detain Dozens of Illegal Immigrants

Police in Austria have detained more than 50 illegal immigrants in two separate operations.

During a routine border check, police stopped a small cargo van stuffed with 18 people, including an infant, as the vehicle attempted to cross into Austria from Hungary. The police arrested the Hungarian driver after finding Kurdish refugees from Turkey and Iraq crammed inside the van with no food or water.

In Vienna, police took into custody a group of 35 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Authorities were alerted by a passer-by who spotted the ill-clothed group in a residential area. Two Afghans suspected of smuggling the immigrants into Austria also were taken into custody.

The immigrants, which included a three-year-old child, believed they would be taken to Austria, Germany or Switzerland.

Austria has seen a surge of illegal immigration in recent days. Earlier this week, police found 30 illegal immigrants hidden beneath the floorboards of a Greek tourist bus.

Australian navy intercepts 119 asylum seekers

A boat carrying 119 asylum seekers has been intercepted by the Australian Navy off the country’s west coast, the immigration department has said.

The HMAS Maryborough, operating under the Border Protection, intercepted the boat of asylum seekers around 35 km north of Christmas Island, Xinhua reported.

The 119 passengers and two crew members on board will be transferred to Christmas Island where they will undergo initial security, health and identity, officials said.

Opposition border protection spokesman Michael Keenan said this proved that the people smuggler trade was thriving in 2012. The arrival of three boats in the first week of the New Year demonstrated the ruling Labor government’s failed policy on border protection, he said.

twocircles.net

Indonesian Military Officers Named Suspects in Asylum Voyage Disaster

Police on Wednesday said that four military officers had been named as suspects in connection with an overloaded boat carrying asylum seekers that sank off the coast of East Java last month.

“From our investigation we have been able to name more suspects,” National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said.

Saud identified the five new suspects as Chief Sgt. K.A., Second Sgt. K.N., Second Sgt. I.A.S., Chief Cpl. K. and a civil servant named B.S.

The officers, he said, were from the East Java Military Command and were now in the custody of the East Java Military Police.

The Military Police will take the case to the military court, where the officers will be charged according to the Military Criminal Code.

The police spokesman said the soldiers had been providing security and transportation for the asylum seekers.

Saud did not specify where B.S. is detained and what role the civil servant played in the people-smuggling scheme.

At least 95 people were confirmed dead after a boat carrying more than 200 asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan succumbed to bad weather and sank off the coast of Trenggalek district. The asylum seekers were believed to be headed to Australia.

Police earlier had named four people, all civilians, as suspects: two are believed to have provided the boat, while the others were the crew members.

Rescuers have pulled 49 survivors out of the water, including the boat’s two crew members. The survivors were placed in a special detention facility in the East Java town of Bangil.

East Java police said 30 detainees fled on Monday night through a tunnel they dug themselves, but police managed to capture 11 of them the following day in a province-wide search.

Authorities said they believed a further 100 might still be missing based on the accounts of survivors who told police that before they boarded the boat they were being transported by four buses with 60 passengers each.

Asylum seekers often pass through Indonesia to connect with people smugglers and board boats headed for Australia’s Christmas Island, which is closer to Indonesian territory than mainland Australia.

Last month’s capsizing constitutes ones of the largest losses of life from a single sinking of one of the many boats packed with Asian and Middle Eastern migrants who undertake the perilous voyage.

The Jakarta Globe

 

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