1 Those Killed on Their Removal from Australia

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This report concerns both the outcomes and processes of involuntary removal and so called ‘voluntary’ departures after claims for asylum fail. In view of the language of the Migration Act, the above title may need some explanation.

In this present document, the terms ‘deportation’ and ‘removal’ are used interchangeably. The Migration Act usually applies the term ‘deportation’ to the cases of criminals and applies the term ‘removal’ to the cases of all others who have no lawful status and no current application. In ordinary usage, however, both actions may be described by the word ‘deportation’ and we have opted to retain ordinary usage.

Our evidence suggests that there can be four quite alarming outcomes for some asylum seekers forcibly or ‘voluntarily’ removed from Australia. These include death, disappearance, gaol and torture. Benign outcomes can also occur when refugees find safety in other countries even though Australia has denied them refugee status.

1 Those Killed on Their Removal from Australia

Alvaro Moralez : Deported and Murdered in Colombia
The Spanish language paper El Espanol of September 24, 2002, and the Sydney Morning Herald of October 9, 2002, reported the murder of Alvaro Moralez, whose claims for refugee status in Australia had been refused in December, 2001. Following so called ‘voluntary’ departure, Alvaro disembarked at Buenos Aires in Argentina and claimed asylum as a refugee. After being interrogated in Buenos Aires, he was put on a plane to Colombia. He was gunned down by the paramilitary within metres of his mother's apartment in Bogotá. His chest was reported being ‘like a sieve’. Alvaro's wife and baby are still in Sydney facing possible deportation.

Alvaro was one of many Colombians who came to Sydney to escape the paramilitary. They were part of a New Colombia Movement in Australia, which held a peaceful protest at the Colombian Consulate on August 28, 2001. His story is buttressed by the evidence that another of the protesters, DB, has disappeared since leaving Australia and arriving in Bogotá airport. DB was also detained and interrogated in Buenos Aires en route to Colombia. Human rights activists suggest there are disquieting elements about the way Alvaro Moralez and other Colombians have been treated by the authorities in Australia.

The argument that Colombia is a very dangerous place for some people is not being heard despite the evidence of advocates like Dr Jeffrey Browitt, a Latin Amercian expert from Monash University, who argues that there is so much violence inflicted by paramilitary and guerrilla groups in Colombia that ‘you can murder with impunity’. Dr Browitt has pointed out that over 90% of homicides go unpunished in Colombia where, in his view, ‘police (and) paramilitary are virtually incapable of preventing assassinations’. Publication of Alvaro's death has sparked an investigation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Federal Government claims that Australia is not responsible for what happened to Alvaro Moralez because his was a ‘voluntary’ departure from detention and hence what occurred after that was really his own responsibility. Amnesty points out, however, that the choices given to Alvaro were to leave voluntarily or face deportation. The Government appears to have no regard for the fact that the harsh policy of detention can lead to people accepting ‘voluntary’ departure as a last resort. There are believed to be about 120 cases involving Colombians pending in Australia. At least 10 cases are understood to have been refused and there have been calls for them to be reopened.

(This account is from Frances Milne and articles of Cynthia Banham in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 9 and 10, 2002)
Ahad Bilal: Deported to Pakistan and Murdered

Ahad Bilal was born in Sawabi in north Pakistan but left his country in November 2000 for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because of threats from a drug smuggling group. He and his family had been active in an anti-narcotics movement in his homeland and feared retaliation. His grandfather and uncle had been killed by a drug-smuggling network before the family fled to the UAE and settled in Dubai. Ahad Bilal eventually left the UAE in March 2001 and arrived in Australia with a temporary visa. He secured a job and remained in Australia after his visa had expired. He was picked up and put into detention at Villawood in January 2002 and applied to DIMIA to be granted protection as a refugee. When DIMIA rejected his application, he appealed to the Refugee Review Tribunal to review his claim. He lost his appeal on 8 May 2002 and received a ‘letter of removal’ on 27 May 2002.

Informed by DIMIA that he was about to be sent back to Pakistan, Bilal begged to be sent to Dubai where his parents were living. DIMIA told him it was up to him to pay his own fare and to ensure that he would be received back in UAE. Having been out of UAE for more than six months, Bilal needed to check that his visa there was still valid and he suggested also another possible arrangement via UAE to Abu Dhabi. However, he was not allowed time either to check these matters or attempt to raise his fare

Ahad Bilal, still aged only 18, was deported from Villawood on June 1, 2002. After arriving in Pakistan, he was murdered when some men came to where he was staying and tied him to a chair, injected him with drugs, probably heroin, and forced him to drink poison until he died. On July 31, 2002, friends in Sydney received word from Ahad’s sister-in-law that he was dead.

(Material provided by Frances Milne, Coalition for the Protection of Asylum Seekers Against Deportation).

2 Those Who Have Disappeared : Two Iranian brothers

ND and NS came to Australia as stowaways on the ship arriving in Victoria in September 2000. The brothers were fleeing persecution in Iran following the Abadan water riots. Twenty-three people were shot dead at this protest and hundreds disappeared. ND escaped with his brother NS and friend BM by hiding in the ceiling space of a friend HN's cabin on the ship.

ND's brother NS, unable to bear separation from his wife and children, returned voluntarily in August 2001and disappeared. Attempts by his family to find out what happened have been unsuccessful. NS was escorted to Malaysia on an MAS plane and then put on a direct flight to Tehran. Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) and the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) told ND this when he reported his brother’s disappearance. They said that what happened later was not their concern.

ND was the main witness in the recent case against HN who was found guilty of three counts of people smuggling. In summing up, the magistrate acknowledged that there was clearly no financial motive involved and HN had done this for humanitarian reasons. HN was given a suspended sentence of four months. During this court case no attempt was made to suppress the identity of the Iranians. The case was reported in Iranian newspapers and on cable television with pictures of ND and the others.

ND broke down as he described missing his wife and children and being in detention for 20 months. He said, ‘I saved my life but lost my spirit’. Despite pleas from advocates in Melbourne, ND was returned to the Perth Immigration Detention Centre. While in Melbourne, he was kept in isolation and not allowed contact with his friend whom he had not seen for 12 months. ND was depressed and suicidal, slashing his wrists in April and locking himself in the toilet. He was discovered, however, and taken to hospital. After that time, he was kept in isolation.

ND was forcibly removed from the Perth Detention Centre in May 2002. Witnesses report that he put up a struggle but was overcome by guards and injected with medication. Other detainees were told that he was deported on the same ship on which he had arrived.
There have been unconfirmed reports in Port Hedland that ND is dead but so far there is no independent corroboration of this report though his disappearance has been confirmed. BM and HN were subsequently given refugee visas. Their risk of exposure following the publicity of the trial may have been one factor in the success of their applications.

(Material provided Pamela Curr, Greens Spokesperson on Refugees in Victoria.)

3 Those Put in Gaol: RH, Rwandan Hutu

This account is in the words of an Australian, Brother Sean McManus at the Edmund Rice Centre in Nairobi, who sent the following account about RH, a young Hutu from Rwanda.

I was at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi the other evening to meet a young 18 year old refugee from Rwanda who had just been expelled from Australia. The latest threat to Australia's security and well-being was young RH! His parents were killed in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. He and his twin 10-year-old sister escaped to Mozambique where he lost contact with his sister. He got a boat to Mombasa, Kenya and lived on the streets there for five years, and realized it was going nowhere. He has a very justified fear of persecution if he returns to Rwanda.

He stowed away with five others on a ship and ended up in Melbourne. The shipping company called the immigration people and he has since had a two and a half year sojourn in such delightful Australian hostels as Villawood, Port Hedland (most of the time) and the Perth Airport Detention facility. He exhausted all levels of appeal except the last. He had an appeal in the Federal Court or somewhere high up, but in the end he got sick of being in detention and asked out.

So (on August 24, 2002), they sent him back to Kenya, escorted under guard to Johannesburg and on to a Kenya Airlines plane to Nairobi. I have no idea how he got through Immigration in Nairobi. He had some emergency travel documents from the Australian authorities but these were taken from him at the airport and once again he became documentless and stateless. At customs, with me and some JRS (Jesuit Refugee Services) people watching, RH was bailed up by some plain-clothes police who said they had to detain him. They also expressed a close interest in how much money he had (about $80 US). Somehow he managed to talk his way through, though I would have been prepared to move and intervene if they had held him. There was a JRS lawyer present too. So he came with us to South C (a Brothers’ Community in Nairobi), and had his first meal out of detention in two and a half years. He slept for about four hours and then, at his request, we put him on a night bus for Mombasa (a seven hour journey overnight). What lies there, I do not know.

A month later RH left Mombasa to try to get to some other more friendly African country, running the risk of detention or worse as he crosses more borders without papers. He knows English fairly well, but has NEVER been to school, neither in Africa nor in Australia.

Eventually RH was able to connect with Australian friends who discovered that in his attempt to enter South Africa, he and his companions were detained in Lindela prison. At present he is being detained in Durban.

4 Those Who Found Refuge in Other Countries: Angolan Asylum Seeker

An Angolan asylum seeker, called AC by Amnesty International, sought refugee status in Australia in 1998. He was detained in Villawood for three years while the Department of Immigration and the Refugee Review Tribunal were assessing his claims. The applicant’s claims were repeatedly rejected on the grounds of lack of credibility, particularly in relation to his claims of fear of persecution based on his ethnicity and religion. The applicant requested the assistance of a Kikongo interpreter during hearings but was provided with a Portuguese interpreter.

During the course of the assessment and review process DIMIA sought the services of a South African private company, P&I, to verify the applicant’s nationality, despite the fact that the applicant had consistently maintained he was a citizen of Angola. P&I, on behalf of DIMIA secured travel documents that claimed the applicant was a citizen of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On the basis of these documents DIMIA decided to remove the applicant to DRC rather than Angola. The applicant refused to be forcibly removed to DRC.

The applicant was held in Silverwater prison on charges of behavioural misconduct in detention. While in Silverwater he was beaten and raped by other inmates. Several applications were made to DIMIA to have the applicant released from prison. However he was held in prison until his removal from Australia in 2000. After enduring such horrific mistreatment the applicant agreed to ‘voluntary removal’.

On his arrival in South Africa, the applicant demanded to see officials from the Angolan Embassy, who deemed that he was in fact a citizen of Angola and he was permitted to return there rather than the DRC. Soon after arriving in Angola the applicant fled to England, where he was granted refugee status.

(Material provided by Amnesty International)


There is evidence to suggest that DIMIA officials or their representatives may be involved in a number of inappropriate procedures with regard to the removal of asylum seekers. Australia has signed various international human rights protocols safeguarding refugees. Activities such as ‘turn around’ or attempted ‘turn around’ at the airport, physical abuse, chemical injection, inhumane treatment and intimidation breach these protocols.

1. ‘Turn Around’ at the Airport: Iraqi Woman and Her Daughter

Amnesty International in Sydney reports the case of an Iraqi asylum seeker and her five-year-old daughter. On November 16, 1999, these two were ‘turned around’ at the airport by the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) without being allowed to make an application for asylum. This occurred while their legal representative was appealing to the Federal Court for an injunction to enable the applicant to have her claims for protection considered and determined in accordance with the law.

However a DIMIA official refused to allow the applicant and her daughter to remain in Australia while the matter was being determined by the Federal Court. In addition to this, a solicitor from the Australian Government Solicitor’s office was actually present during the Federal Court application on DIMIA’s behalf, but did not intervene to prevent the removal of the applicant pending the Court’s determination on this matter. Even though the Federal Court approved the injunction, pending further consideration of the applicant’s claims, the applicant and her daughter had already been placed on a plane which had departed before further action was possible. Fortunately when the applicant and her daughter arrived in Canada they were granted refugee status within six months.

2 Attempted ‘Turn Around’: Tamil Male from Jaffna, April, 1998

(Material provided in a solicitor’s letter from McDonnells, Solicitors, Sydney)

My client is a 24-year-old Tamil male from Jaffna. On the evening of April 6, 1998, my client arrived at Mascot and he identified himself to an officer at the airport as a 'refugee from Sri Lanka’. He was taken by that officer (probably an airport security officer) and was interviewed by a Department of Immigration officer.

In the course of the interview, he stated that he had been captured by the Tigers and had been forced to work for them for a period of nine months. He stated that he was afraid to return to Sri Lanka because the army would suspect him as a Tiger supporter, as he had been working for them for nine months (June 96- March 97). This is all confirmed by the Freedom of Information (FOI) record of the interview.

My client also stated that he intended to provide further information about his arrest and interrogation by the army but the Departmental officer interrupted him and questioned him about the name he used on his boarding card. This is not recorded in the FOI, but my client provided an affidavit of the contents of the interview.

The Department of Immigration record indicates that after the interview, the officer contacted the State Director and 'relayed all the information' to him. The response was 'on the information presented, he does not engage Australia’s protection'. I was contacted on the morning of April 7, by a relative (aunt, I think) and I obtained an interim injunction from his Honour Justice Burchett preventing the removal of my client. The injunction was settled on terms including allowing my client to lodge an application for a protection visa on April 21. That application was made and he was interviewed for onshore protection on May 8. His protection visa was issued on May 21.

3 Physical Abuse and Chemical Injection : Algerian Man3 Physical Abuse and Chemical Injection3 Physical Abuse and Chemical Injection

This is the story of AA, an Algerian deported from Villawood three years ago to Algeria as told to Ngareta Rossell on October 18, 2002 by a former ACM Officer, (name withheld but can be supplied on request). The deportation happened during the officer’s first week of employment in the maximum-security section of Villawood IDC, known as Stage One.

I was told we have an ‘extraction’; he's high risk, whatever that meant. I mean I didn't know anything then. I just followed orders. We get this guy out of bed early in the morning. We pull the sheet off him. He's in his pyjamas or those long pants that those people wear. He clings on to the bedstead; this is a steel bedstead. My job is to unwind his fingers, struggling, shouting he won't go. There are nurses. First time I'd seen a ‘chemical restraint’ used.

They must have broken about three needles on him. I’m thinking there must be a better way. This bloke’s not an animal. Sometimes there's a smell. They've urinated or something. We put him in the fish bowl. That's like a cage. There were about six big blokes like me. Another tries to get these injections into him. But it’s not working.

He scratches and there’s blood. He’s shouting he won’t go back. Also he's Muslim, this guy. Putting this chemical stuff into his blood - that’s unclean. That’s against his religion. Anyway we get the handcuffs on him. We get him out of the cage and get him into the van to the airport. He's saying ‘I want my shoes.’ His T-shirt is torn. He's saying: ‘I can't go without my shoes.’

When we get him into the aircraft we handcuff him to the seat. But he pulls the whole seat out of the floor. That was it. We got him off the plane and took him back. Next week we did it again. This time he went quietly. ‘ Just give me the tablet’, he said. ‘ Don't inject me with that’. I don't know what happened to him. 1 think he went to jail at the other end.

4 Inhumane Treatment: Hindu Malaysian, Eight Months Pregnant

LS is a Hindu from Malaysia, who came to Australia as a student for three years but overstayed her visa and was detained in Villawood Detention Centre for a year. On Easter Sunday, 2001, she married RS, a Catholic from Southern India and their baby was due on February3, 2002. LS had been in contact with her mother but her father has disowned her and she was not confident about her future welcome in the family. Her husband said he had been tortured and that he had the medical records to prove it. Now stateless, he claimed that his case was to be heard before the High Court.

LS went before the Migration Review Tribunal making application for a bridging visa to allow her to stay till her baby was born. Her solicitor had also written to the department asking for a similar permission. The couple had written to the authorities to say they were prepared to leave Australia voluntarily after the birth of their child. A Uniting Church minister and his wife, who had been giving the couple moral support for some time, had written to the department to say they were prepared to have LS live with them and to support her until the baby was born as long as the department would allow her to remain in Australia after that.

In her distress, LS stopped eating at one stage and began taking only fluids. Later she was sedated (voluntarily) with Valium. In December 2001, the couple were told that LS would be deported. Her husband was so distressed that he said he did not want to live. Whatever the validity of LS’s claim, the fact remains that she was heavily pregnant and was distraught at being separated from her husband.

Refugee advocates believe that the haste with which this removal was carried out was due to the fact that for medical reasons LS could not have been deported after January. A professor of community medicine was prepared to examine LS and assess her suitability to travel, but was denied access to her, first at Villawood, then at Sydney Airport.
These stories are a small sample of the evidence, which underpins the concerns of human rights activists in Australia that the present Government’s policies and practices in regard to asylum seekers are in breach of international human rights standards.


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