Saturday, March 19, 2011

Australian government threatens to revoke rioting refugees' visas

Unlikely that they'll have the balls to follow through with the threat, though

THE Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, has warned that 200 asylum seekers involved in violent protests on Christmas Island may have their visas revoked or blocked on character grounds, even if it had already been found they were genuine refugees.

The tough line came as another 70 Australian Federal Police officers were dispatched to the remote island, bringing total police numbers to 188, after two administration buildings and seven tents were burnt down in angry clashes.

The main detention centre is now under the control of police, who were yesterday unable to conduct a headcount and were unsure how many detainees remained at large on Christmas Island. Hundreds of detainees not involved in the violence were expected to be housed in the island's recreation hall, and the Phosphate Hill family detention centre.

Mr Bowen said the situation was "challenging" and condemned the "violent and unacceptable behaviour by an organised group" on Thursday night.

Accelerants, bricks, pavers, concrete, poles and a wheelie bin full of rocks were used by about 200 detainees, wearing cloth over their faces to avoid tear-gas, who advanced on police, the AFP deputy commissioner of national security, Steve Lancaster, said. Another 300 detainees and staff had sought refuge in the gym, but the gym was then attacked by the protesters with rocks, Mr Lancaster said. Police used tear-gas and a "higher volume" of beanbag bullets to restore order, he said.

Mr Bowen said: "Character considerations will be taken into account for those on Christmas Island who have organised and perpetrated this sort of activity." He said the majority of the centre's 1850 detainees were not involved.

After a week of escalating clashes, Mr Bowen said an independent review into security breaches, staffing adequacy and the appropriateness of centre's management company, Serco, and the department's response, will be headed by a former secretary of the Defence Department, Allan Hawke, and a public servant, Helen Williams. The police use of beanbag bullets and tear-gas, will be subject to a separate AFP investigation and the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

The opposition's immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, said the protesters should have their visa applications suspended. "Those acting up should go to the back of the line," he said.

The Immigration Department is seeking to contact the family of a 20-year-old Afghan man found dead at the Scherger detention centre in Queensland. Protests had also broken out during the week at the Darwin and Curtin detention centres.

The chief executive of the Refugee Council of Australia, Paul Power, said a circuit-breaker was needed, and the unrest "had unfortunately been predicted" amid long processing delays for visas. He was concerned at Mr Bowen's threat that visas may be rejected on character grounds. "We don't know what crimes have been committed and who they have been committed by … many hundreds weren't involved," he said.

A letter was given to all detainees on Thursday that promised security checks would be sped up, and all ASIO checks would be completed by the end of April. The letter said reviewers would be sent to Christmas Island next week to assess rejected claims - only if calm was restored.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it did not condone the use of violence by asylum seekers, but "remains deeply concerned by the underlying impact of mandatory detention on the psycho-social health and welfare of the many people being held for prolonged periods in isolated parts of Australia".

A refugee advocate, Pamela Curr, said the protests had been sparked by a decision by Serco to lock down roller doors between different parts of the centre last Friday to prevent movement because of a lack of staff.


Business opposition played big role in Arizona Senate’s defeat of bills on illegal immigration

Dozens of Arizona CEOs from hospitals, construction companies and other major businesses joined to turn back new get-tough legislation on illegal immigration, citing worries that emphasis on the issue could hurt the state’s struggling economy and cost jobs.

The result Thursday was something much different from a year ago, when Arizona’s governor enacted a tough local enforcement measure that put the state at the heart of a fierce national debate over the issue. This time, numerous Republican senators joined with Democrats in rejecting bills dealing with health care, government benefits and everyday activities like driving.

Besides business groups’ opposition, others factors came into play: There isn’t an election looming this fall, some GOP senators had never been too enthused by the severity of some of the bills and many lawmakers have simply become tired of the issue.

Getting the clear “vote no” signal from so many major employers provided political cover to lawmakers whose constituents could demand explanations for votes against the bills, said Bill Hart, an analyst for the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University. “They’ll be able to say the top business CEOs in Arizona were very forcefully against it,” and that packs some punch as the state continues to deal with economic troubles, he said.

Arizona’s approval last year of the get-tough illegal immigration law, known as SB1070, produced protests, boycotts and court fights. The business CEOs cited concerns in a letter hand-delivered to lawmakers on Tuesday that more of the same would come from new legislation, with possible economic fallout to tourism and the hosting of industry conventions.

“They really wanted to go on record letting the legislators know what they needed,” said Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce president Todd Sanders, adding that it wasn’t hard to get business leaders to sign on. “For us the surprise was how fast the replies came back — ‘sign me up.’”

The letter — a joint product of the Phoenix chamber, its statewide counterpart and another business group — said the best answer to the illegal immigration issue is federal action on border security, identity theft, a workable employment verification system and creation of a guest work program. Several senators mentioned the letter during Thursday’s floor session.

Republican legislators had already been saying for months that boosting the Arizona’s economy and fixing the state’s budget troubles were bigger priorities than illegal immigration. “The Legislature and the people ... are also suffering from immigration fatigue,” said Sen. John McComish, a Phoenix Republican who voted against the bills. “We’re totally distracted and it’s divisive.”

Also, specific provisions of the bills defeated Thursday troubled lawmakers. Requiring hospitals to report people being treated if they lack insurance and could not produce documentation of legal status could burden hospitals, some senators said.

Others questioned whether two of the five bills, which were aimed at forcing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against automatic citizenship for U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants, would produce the desired result.

Business lobbying on the issue included reminding lawmakers of commitments made last fall that economic development and fixing the state budget would be the big priorities for this year’s session, Sanders said.


No comments:

Post a Comment