February 8, 2014
Ever since John Howard’s Tampa affair back in 2001, refugees arriving by boat have been at the centre of political debate in Australia. A campaign to demonise and dehumanise refugees has been in full swing ever since. Its been so successful the Abbott government has even seen the value in using refugees to launch a fresh round of attacks on the ABC for perceived bias.
Criticism is growing both in Australia and around the world to our treatment of refugees. This criticisms is aimed at both the policies and the increasingly vitriolic rhetoric of the Australian government.
— UNHCR United Kingdom (@UNHCRUK) January 12, 2014
Even Australia’s own Human Rights Commission is launching its own inquiry into children in immigration detention.
One of Australia’s most passionate and respected refugee advocate is Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM (@Kon__K). He is the founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, is involved in other charity work and volunteers his time as a radio DJ at community radio station 3CR (@3CR) in Melbourne.
NoFibs spoke to Kon in the lead up to Australia Day. We heard his thoughts on some of issues that have been keeping Scott Morrison and refugees in the headlines lately.
In early January reports started appearing in global media about refugees being abused at the hands of the Australian Navy – Oman Tribune 8th January 2014
The ABC eventually obtained video of the injuries allegedly caused by the Australian Navy. ABC 22nd January 2014
Indonesian Authorities were investigating the allegations but ran into jurisdictional problems, the alleged abuse occurred outside their territorial waters. The Australian government continues to resist calls for an investigation, instead denigrating the claims made by refugees and attacking the ABC for airing the footage.
The UN is probing the allegations. China Post 25th January 2014
I asked Kon about Bill Shorten’s response to the allegations. Which to me seemed focused on defending the navy rather than calling for the allegations to be tested.
New Development: Fairfax media investigates the allegations further and interviews Fasher, the refugee Australian Navy used as an interpreter on the boat.
Our conversation shifted to recent developments on Nauru and what they may mean for refugees detained there.
The Nauru Government recently increased visa fees for journalists, from $200 to $8000. The Greens claim the increase is designed to hide how Australian taxpayers money is spent. The Guardian 9th January 2014
I’ve seen numerous debates on Twitter regarding the starting point of Australia’s decent into indecency regarding refugees. Most commonly the beginning of mandatory detention or the Tampa affair are nominated. I put this question to Kon.
I asked Kon about the recent poll which showed the majority of Australian’s want refugees treated more harshly, and Malcolm Fraser’s comment on Twitter (see top of page) about the results from that poll.
Refugee lawyers and advocates complain about access to their clients in detention centres and the treatment asylum seekers receive. I asked Kon about this and if these things were consistent across the detention centre network. Kon began his answer by referring to this story.
A recent report finds the Sri Lankan military responsible for the majority of human rights abuses during the civil war, and of destroying mass graves to hide the evidence.
Legal experts and activists have been claiming Australia is in breach of numerous international conventions we are signatories to. I asked Kon his opinion on these claims.
Photo via @pamelacurr
I asked Kon about the boat push/tow backs and if these breach international conventions.
— Bevan Shields (@BevanShields) January 15, 2014
There has been a lot of debate about the tactics employed by Australian governments to dehumanise and demonise refugees for political purposes. I asked Kon his thoughts on the subject.
Since the Abbott government came to power, the rhetoric about refugees has become nastier, the vilification louder and more extreme. I asked Kon if he’s noticed an increase in people speaking out in support of refugees and volunteering their time for organisations like the ASRC in response.
I finished up by asking Kon if there was anything he wanted to say to NoFibs readers.