Peter Greste is freed. What about the Manus Island refugees?

Asylum seekers on Manus Island.

Asylum seekers on Manus Island.

Australian journalist Peter Greste is freed through the intervention of the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Could Abbott show similar compassion and free the refugees held in detention on Manus Island, Christmas Island and Nauru?

Peter Greste was at least charged with something, yet the refugees, some of them locked up for well over one year have never been charged.



I mean, are the refugees going to be locked up forever, totally forgotten?
It is a stain so reminiscent of Auschwitz footage I saw on TV just last Friday.”

No matter on how we look at the situations of refugees in indefinite detention under the ‘care’ of Australia. We can’t go into the future without dealing with the past.

It might help again to point out the following.

Here a partial extract written by Paul Toohey; ‘That sinking feeling.’

“The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, to which Australia is a signatory, defines a refugee as:

“Any person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country”.

This definition is used by the Australian Government to determine whether our country has protection obligations towards an individual. If a person is found to be a refugee, Australia is obliged under international law to offer protection and support and to ensure that they are not sent back unwillingly to the country of origin.

An asylum seeker is a person who has sought protection as a refugee, but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been assessed. Every refugee has at some point been an asylum seeker.

Those asylum seekers who are found to be refugees are entitled to international protection and assistance. Those who are found not to be refugees, nor to be in need of any other form of international protection, can be sent back to their country of origin.

As of 30 June 2014 there were 24,500 asylum seekers who had arrived by boat (including 1,870 children) who had been permitted to live in the community on Bridging Visas while waiting for their claims for protection to be processed.

As at June 30 2014 there were 3,624 people in immigration detention facilities and 3,007 people in community detention.

There are many myths about refugees and asylum seekers. These are some of the common ones.

People who come by boat are illegals. The UNHCR states that a person who has a well-founded fear of persecution should be viewed as a refugee and not labelled an ‘illegal immigrant’ as the very nature of persecution means their only means of escape may be via illegal entry or the use of false documentation or having no documents at all. The right to enter without prior authorisation is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which Australia helped to draft.

Boat people are ‘queue jumpers’. Some believe that people who arrive by boat are taking the place of more deserving refugees waiting in resettlement camps. The reality is that there is no orderly queue, only a small proportion of the world’s refugees are registered with the UNHCR and in many places there is no opportunity to register at all.

Boat arrivals aren’t genuine refugees. Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are subject to the same assessment criteria as all other asylum applicants. Recent figures show that over 90% of asylum seekers arriving by boat have been found to be refugees and granted protection here or in another country.

We take more refugees than our share. Australia is one of only about 20 countries who participate in the UNHCR’s resettlement program and we accept a quota of about 13,750 per year. However this is only 0.03 per cent of the worlds 4 million refugees. The UNHCR’s program currently only resettles 1 per cent of the world’s refugees, with most remaining in developing countries neighbouring the countries from which they have fled.

Refugees receive higher welfare payments than Australian citizens. There is no truth to this myth, which has been widely circulated by email. Refugees living in the community have only the same entitlements as all other permanent residents. They do not have their rental bonds paid for by the government, nor do they receive a lump sum payment on arrival. Asylum seekers are not eligible to receive financial assistance through Centrelink but some can be eligible for the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme administered by the Australian Red Cross and other contracted service providers. The scheme provides a basic living allowance equivalent to 89% of Centrelink payments.”

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14 Responses to “Peter Greste is freed. What about the Manus Island refugees?”

  1. bkpyett Says:

    Gerard, thank you for posting this comprehensive look at the refugee situation. It is something that keeps being swept under the carpet. The fact that the present government says that these people will never live in Australia is illegal as well as being shameful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 8 Degrees of Latitude Says:

    Good question!


  3. auntyuta Says:

    What next?


  4. rod Says:

    I would say that Abdel Fattah al-Sisi released Greste as he was a continual source of embarrassment and for no other reason. It will be interesting to follow what happens to the other two jailed broadcasters, one of whom is an Egyptian citizen.

    al-Sisi is the new Mubarak and his regime every bit as repressive.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, while that is true. The continuing INDEFINITE detention of thousands of refugees without charges is on the same level as Egyptian forms of justice. The UNHCR has often rebuked Australia for breaking the law on the convention for refugees. It is also repressive. To do cruel things to the innocent to obtain an outcome is wrong.


      • rod Says:

        I agree with your analysis of the refugee situation in Australia, but it cannot be compared to the situation in Egypt where 100s of people have been sentenced to death either for supporting the Brotherhood or for protesting in the streets against the military coup.


      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, you are right. Egypt is not Manus Island or Australia. But, iwe seems to be edging towards it. There is total secrecy about what is happening in detention camps with a total ban on information with no access to those camps by journalists. We simply don’t know what is going on there. It all falls under secrecy and a miltary clamp down.


  5. Master of Something Yet Says:

    I’ve spent so long debunking those myths over and over again, I’ve barely any voice left. Do people want to wilfully misunderstand or are they just eternally stupid?


  6. stuartbramhall Says:

    The height of hypocrisy. If Murdoch weren’t controlling all your newspapers the Australian media would be pointing this out.


  7. Havana Liedown Says:

    There’s no such thing as an illegal immigrant!!!


  8. A very important story about my wife's family background Says:

    Both gov parties are despicable and so dumb and shameful. The number of refugees Oz, a rich nation, should take out of those “jails” is minute to the number that Germany, Italy, Turkey etc have taken. If I ever see a immigration minister in the street, I’d slap him.


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