Panorama of completed banner: 55 silhouettes for the 55 refugees in ASIO immigration detention limbo. Photo credit Takver

Panorama of completed banner: 55 silhouettes for the 55 refugees in ASIO immigration detention limbo. Photo credit Takver

by Kevin Rennie

Source: Global Voices Online

June 11, 2013

Accusations of ‘jihadist terrorism’ against an Egyptian asylum seeker have fuelled political brawling in the lead up to Australia’s election on 14 September 2013. Sayed Abdellatif was kept in low security detention for nearly a year despite an Interpol red alert for convictions during the Mubarak regime in 1999.

The Opposition parties’ election promises include turning back refugee boats and increasing funding to the intelligence and security agencies. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has responded by setting up an internal inquiryinto the apparent security failure.

Stories abound about alleged terrorist Sayed Ahmed Maksoud Abdellatif. Some involve accusations of involvement with al-Qaida funding.

Others present a more positive side. On 14 February 2012 IRIN a non-profit news service funded by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs painted a much more heroic portrait of the refugee. He was in Indonesia preparing to take a dangerous boat trip:

Egyptian asylum-seeker Sayed Ahmed Abdellatif, married with six children, says he is ready to risk everything to reach Australia – even his family.

…for 41-year-old Abdellatif, who faces possible extradition and a 15-year prison sentence of hard labour in Egypt for his religious affiliations, the risk is worth it.

Australia/Pacific Correspondent for Reuters Rob Taylor tweeted:

‏@ReutersTaylor: Egypt’s Sayed Ahmed Abdellatif was so “dangerous” that his story was profiled by the UN as a hard luck story!

Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition Sydney also disputes the case against Abdellatif:

A refugee advocate has called for the Opposition Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison to end his “terrorism” witch-hunt, and for the government to investigate the leaking of information by the Australian Federal Police.

Claims that ‘a convicted murderer’ has been held in low security immigration facilities are simply not true. This asylum seeker has never been convicted of murder or any specific terrorism charges.

Scott Morrison’s vendetta against ASIO and the Labor government is leading to a ‘trial by media’ of an Egyptian asylum seeker whose claims for protection have still not been considered by the Immigration Department.

On the other hand, Vietnam veteran Kev Gillett’s blog has an ex-soldier’s warning that we need to defend our borders:

Anyone with skin in the game or an interest in Australia’s security have been warning all and sundry that to let people into the country when they come via boats, having destroyed identity papers en route, is dangerous. These boat people are not all they make themselves out to be.

The Oz twitterverse has taken up the challenge. After reading Doubts about convictions of Egyptian asylum seeker at heart of political storm by the new Guardian Australia on 7 June, Andrew Watson accused the leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott and his Liberal Party:

Todd Kirby was unimpressed with this attack:

Meanwhile a no-win situation faces successful asylum seekers in Australia who do not get a security clearance from ASIO (the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation).

Amnesty International explained in 2012:

…they must pass an ASIO security assessment – but this process is problematic. ASIO is notoriously secretive about their findings, and refugees with a negative security assessment have no ability to challenge a negative assessment.

What happens to those not granted security clearance?

Quite simply, they are stuck in detention – possibly forever. The Australian government cannot return them home due to their refugee status, nor can they enter Australia.

As AI reported, there is now an independent review process but if that fails, refugees are held in security detention indefinitely.

Rally to support refugees

Rally to support refugees
Photo: courtesy Indymedia CC BY-NC-SA licence

Update from Kevin Rennie on his blog Red Bluff

Oz Security Storm Surrounds Convicted Egyptian Asylum Seeker

The political stoush surrounding convicted Egyptian asylum seeker Sayed Ahmed Maksoud Abdellatif last week has its roots in the Interpol Red Alert process. At its best it seems to be a lame duck against run-of-the-mill criminals. At its worst it’s the dictators’ tool for harassing their political opponents. Ironically, I could not find him on the current Interpol’sEgypt database.
However, it’s not all bad news as the Red Notice Law Journal reported on 6 June 2013:

Readers… know that one of the stories we’ve been following has been the plight of the non-governmental workers who were charged with crimes related to their journalistic activities in Egypt.
The reason that this story is appropriate for a blog about INTERPOL is that Egypt sought Red Notices for those workers who had left the country prior to the charges being filed.  INTERPOL properly rejected Egypt’s request for those Red Notices because of the political nature of the charges.
Now we have the disappointing news that 43 NGO workers, both Egyptian and non-Egyptian, have been found guilty of the charges.  The story is here.

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