Lawyer accuses Australia of war against asylum seekers
The lawyer for a group of Tamil asylum seekers that were just transfered from Australia to Nauru says he had absolutely no idea what was happening.
The lawyer for a group of Tamil asylum seekers that were transfered from Australia to Nauru is accusing the Australian Government of a well-executed war on asylum seekers.
Australia's immigration minister, Scott Morrison, has confirmed that 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers - 50 of them children - were transferred early Saturday morning.
The group had set sail from India in a bid to seek asylum in Australia in June, but were intercepted by a Customs ship and held at sea for nearly a month before being taken to a remote detention centre in Western Australia.
Scott Morrison has told media he had hoped the asylum seekers would choose to return to India, but acting on legal advice, they all refused.
But one of their lawyers, George Newhouse, told Jamie Tahana that's simply not true.
GEORGE NEWHOUSE: We knew nothing about what was going on and we're extremely disappointed with the conduct of the minister for immigration in secretly hauling these people off to Nauru in the middle of the night. We've had reports from Nauru that they've arrived in Nauru with torn shirts, and they look disheveled and traumatised. There's some suggestion that they tried to separate families and that did not go well and we still await a full report on how these people were taken to Nauru.
JAMIE TAHANA: You're representing them, shouldn't you have been informed in some regard?
GN: Look the Government's been playing this pea and thimble game with these poor people for over a month now. They've held them prisoner on these ships incommunicado, they've taken them to Cocos Island, they've moved them from Cocos Island to Australian mainland in Curtain Immigration Detention Centre, and then they've moved them again now to Nauru and we've had extremely limited contact with them. I think that the Government has by design tried to keep these people away from sight and away from scrutiny.
JT: And is this part of their strategy, I mean this military campaign against asylum seekers, what are they getting at here?
GN: Well I think this is a well executed war on these poor people from Sri Lanka. They are women, children, there's fifty children that have just been moved to Nauru and we heard in the Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry this week that children are being abused and are not getting proper treatment or food on Nauru and it's extremely unhealthy and unwise to send children there, in fact Australian church groups have called it state sanctioned child abuse, they should not be sent to Nauru.
JT: Scott Morrison saying they've had their chance, they could have been repatriated to India.
GN: They have had no chance and we had indicated to the Minister in writing that we were prepared to co-operate in relation to those interviews, the Minister chose not to co-operate, the Minister chose to extract these peoples, and reports are just violently, and dump them in a hell hole in the Pacific all on a whim. If he was serious about his Indian solution he could have worked with us constructively.
JT: So what happens now, do you go to Nauru to see them? What can you do now?
GN: The rule of law is completely broken down in Nauru, it's unclear as to whether we can get access to our clients in Nauru, we will be asking the department of immigration for continued access to our clients or access to our clients because we haven't had any, in relation to many of them and the ones we have had access to, it hasn't been meaningful and we will probably be taking further action in the Australian court system as soon as we can get instruction from our clients.
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