High Court challenge to offshore detention
Human Rights Law Centre Media Release [14/5/15]:
A case has today been commenced in the High Court of Australia on behalf of a group of 10 asylum seekers and their families challenging the lawfulness of the Australian Government’s offshore detention arrangements.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, who is part of the legal team representing the families, said the group have been temporarily returned to Australia but are facing imminent removal back to Nauru.
“We’re helping a very vulnerable group of people – including people with serious medical issues, families with young children and even one family with a newborn baby – who’ve asked us to take urgent steps to stop them being sent back to detention on Nauru.
“They’ve all described conditions inside the centre as abhorrent. Their time detained on Nauru has clearly taken a toll on them and on their children. The United Nations, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the recent Moss review all make clear the Nauru detention centre is unsafe and unsuitable for children and families,” said Mr Webb.
The case raises important and untested legal questions about whether the Australian Government has the necessary power to detain, or cause the detention of, asylum seekers in foreign countries and to spend public money for that purpose.
“Liberty is a fundamental human right. The Government needs clear legislative authority to deprive people of it or to enter into contracts and other arrangements which procure detention. One of the questions at the heart of this case is whether any such authority exists under any Australian law.
“We know the Government has powers to detain asylum seekers in Australia and also has powers to remove asylum seekers from Australia. But the question is whether the Government has the authority to then lock them up indefinitely in the territories of other sovereign nations or to effectively procure that detention,” said Mr Webb.
The case also challenges the Government’s funding of offshore detention. The case will consider the contractual arrangements under which the Australian Government pays Transfield Services Pty Ltd a reported $1.22 billion to provide services inside the Nauru and Manus centres.
“It’s a truly extraordinary thing for the Government to be spending billions of dollars indefinitely detaining people in other countries. We know it’s harmful. We know it’s a breach of international law. We also know it’s also incredibly expensive. This case will examine whether that expenditure is lawful.
“In recent cases the High Court has said that, apart from some limited exceptions, legislative authority is required before the Government can spend public money on major policy projects. This case asks whether the necessary authority to spend on offshore detention exists,” said Mr Webb.
Mr Webb said that money spent on offshore detention could be much better spent on developing safe pathways to protection for refugees.
“We’re currently spending over $1 billion a year detaining asylum seekers offshore. That’s more than five times the United Nations refugee agency’s entire budget for all of South East Asia.
“Instead of using costly and cruel measures to stop the boats, Australia should be working with the United Nations to address why people get on them in the first place. We should be using our resources and our influence to develop safe pathways to protection for people who need to seek it,” said Mr Webb.
The asylum seekers are seeking orders from the
- Preventing their return to detention on Nauru;
- Declaring that their detention on Nauru would be unlawful; and
- Restraining the Government from continuing to
make payments to Transfield Services under the current arrangements.
The legal team running the case includes barristers Ron Merkel QC, Richard Niall QC, Craig Lenehan, David Hume and Rachel Mansted.
Assistance has also been provided by the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network.
Parliament passes the Tribunals Amalgamation Bill [Joint press release - Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, Attorney-General, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, Minister for Social Services, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection -14/5/15]
Minister for Immigration Media Release [14/5/15]:
The establishment of the Australian Border Force (ABF) is closer than ever with the passage of the Australian Border Force Bill 2015 and the Customs and Other Legislation Amendment (Australian Border Force) Bill 2015 through the Senate today.
These Bills enable the establishment of the ABF as the operational arm of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said that the ABF will keep Australia’s borders secure for legitimate trade, travel and migration and will work closely with Commonwealth, state and territory and international law enforcement partners ...
@ItalianNavy [14/5/15]: Nave Espero #MarinaMilitare inizia intervento #SAR in soccorso a barcone con numerosi #migranti nello Stretto di #Sicilia
Senator Hanson-Young asks Attorney-General George Brandis about the 8,000 stranded refugees in the Straits of Malacca.
His answer: "Thanks to this government, it isn't Australia's problem anymore".
Greens Media Release [14/5/15]:
The Australian Greens have called upon the Abbott Government to provide immediate technical, financial and humanitarian assistance to the reported 8,000 Rohingyan asylum seeking refugees currently adrift in South-East Asian seas.
"The UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration have called for an international search and rescue mission to save the asylum seekers and Australia is best placed to provide such assistance, Greens spokesperson for Immigration Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said
"Australia must do everything we can to help in this urgent search and rescue operation. Turning a blind eye is simply not acceptable.
"The asylum seekers, many suffering from starvation, are in desperate need of assistance and Australia, as a regional leader, has an international responsibility to provide leadership and provide immediate assistance.
Thailand denies permission for refugee boat to land
Channel News Asia [14/5/15]:
Thailand has found a boat drifting off its west coast carrying 300 migrants but has refused to grant it permission to land, a senior police officer said on Thursday.
"We declined them entry to the country but we gave them food and water to adhere to our human rights obligations," regional police official Major General Puthichart Ekachant told Reuters.
The boat was found 17 km (10 miles) off the coast of the southern island of Koh Lipe, he said.
Migrants on the boat did not want to land in Thailand but instead wanted to go to Malaysia or Indonesia, said Somchai Na Bangchang, a rear admiral in the Royal Thai Navy.
"We did not push back the boat or kick them out," Somchai said.
Several thousand migrants have been abandoned at sea by smugglers following a Thai crackdown on human trafficking. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has warned the situation could develop into a "massive humanitarian crisis".
Thai police charge 187 detained refugees [NDTV - 14/5/15]:
PNG Prime Minister describes Australia's refugee death camp on Manus Island as "very pleasant"
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has described the Manus Island detention centre as "very pleasant", saying hype in the Australian media is unhelpful.
There have been reports in the past about detainees attempting suicide and going on hunger strike at the centre, which was also the scene of last year's riot [attack] in which Iranian man Reza Barati was killed.
Two men arrested over his death have yet to face trial and Mr O'Neill said he would look into reports that the case was being stalled because the accused men had not been provided legal representation.
"We just cannot fast track it because judiciary
in PNG is very independent," Mr O'Neill told Sky News on Thursday.
Frank Lowy Institute Event - An address by the Hon Peter O’Neill, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea [14/5/15]
Fatal house fire, Beenleigh
QPS Media [14/5/15]:
Police are currently at the scene of a fatal house fire that occurred at Beenleigh this afternoon.
Around 3pm, police and emergency services were called to a Kokoda Street address.
Upon arrival, the house was fully engulfed, and a two-year-old boy was unaccounted for.
The body of the boy was located a short time ago within the residence.
Forensic officers will be attending the scene to investigate the cause of the fire.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Asbestos fears at Sunshine Coast house fire
Sunshine Coast Daily [14/5/15]:
Authorities have set up an exclusion zone at the scene of a house fire on the Sunshine Coast amid asbestos fears.
Emergency services were called to the fire at Dulong, west of Nambour, about 11am.
Those inside fled the Queenslander, which was fully alight when firefighters arrived.
Police say an exclusion zone of about 20 to 30 metres has been established around the home due to suspected asbestos.
Army drawn into search for missing Townsville woman
Nine MSN [14/5/15]:
Defence personnel are helping police in the search for allegedly murdered woman Julie Hutchinson as the investigation extends to an army base in Townsville.
Police issued a statement saying Australian Army personnel were assisting with the investigation into the disappearance of the 48-year-old mother of two by searching the base and adjacent areas.
Officers are also speaking to a number of property owners in the Hervey Range area.
Mrs Hutchinson was reported missing on April 9 but had not been seen since March 7.
Her husband Michael, a security guard, has been charged with her murder.
He remains in custody after his lawyer requested an adjournment at an April 14 appearance.
The matter will next be mentioned in court on June 30, but Mr Hutchinson will not be required to attend.
Police officer stood down, South Eastern Region
QPS Media [14/5/15]:
A 39-year-old male Senior Constable from South Eastern Region has been stood down from official duty with the Queensland Police Service.
The officer is subject of a disciplinary investigation into allegations including excessive force, wilful damage of a Service vehicle and falsifying training records.
In keeping with our commitment to high standards of behaviour, transparency and accountability, we have undertaken to inform the public when an officer faces serious allegations of misconduct.
This does not mean that the allegations against the officer have been substantiated.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Mt Isa: Serious assault witness sought
North West Star [14/5/15]:
Police are seeking a man who waved down a police car in Marian Street Mount Isa on Wednesday night.
At about 9:40pm the man stopped a police vehicle and informed them of a disturbance between a man and a woman near Hungry Jacks Mt Isa.
Police are requesting this witness contact them to assist with inquiries.
Police located the man and woman from the disturbance and have subsequently charged a 34-year-old Bongaree man with three charges of serious assault police officer and one of obstruct police.
He is due to appear Mt Isa Magistrates Court on June 1.
Anybody with any information can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Drug trafficker and Kawana siege man jailed for six years [Morning Bulletin – 14/5/15]
A partygoer at a New Year's Eve beach rave north of Perth has been found guilty of murdering another reveller he slashed across the throat with a machete. ... [West Australian -14/5/15]
A 47-year-old man has been charged with the murder of a Seville Grove father who was found in the boot of his burnt-out car six weeks ago. ... [West Australian - 14/5/15]
Armed robbery charge, Annerley
QPS Media [14/5/15]:
Police have charged a 20-year-old man with armed robbery and a number of other offences following an incident in Annerley last night.
It will be alleged around 10.40pm a man has approached a 22-year-old man at a residence on Ipswich Road, producing a knife and demanding the man’s car keys.
The 22-year-old has complied with the demands and the man has then taken his car.
It will be further alleged the man has then driven the vehicle in a dangerous manner and has fuelled the vehicle at a service station before driving off without paying.
The man was arrested and charged with one count each of armed robbery, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and stealing.
He is due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Armed robbery, Spring Hill Commonwealth Bank
QPS Media [13/5/15]:
Police are appealing for witnesses following the armed robbery of a financial institution at the intersection of Leichardt Street & Upper Edward Street in Spring Hill this afternoon.
Preliminary information indicates a man entered the business just before 4pm where he threatened staff and customers before stealing a sum of cash and fleeing the scene in the direction of the city, travelling along Upper Edward Street.
The man is described as Caucasian in appearance, aged in his late 40s or early 50s, approximately 183cms tall, of proportionate build with short brown hair and a handlebar moustache. He was last seen wearing a dark, long sleeved collared shirt, brown pants and a blue tennis visor.
A male customer was treated for minor injuries at the scene.
Investigations are continuing.
Truck rollover, Gladstone
Gladstone Observer [14/5/15]:
A single light rigid truck veered off Red Rover Rd into bush land.
One male driver was involved in the accident.
The Ambulance arrived at 4.15pm.
There was a standard load inside.
Traffic is being diverted.
Truckie charged over Victorian cyclist's death [West Australian - 14/5/15]
Gladstone BP fuel pricing mishap fixed
Gladstone Observer [14/5/15]:
A pricing error made by a customer service representative at BP Gladstone has now been addressed.
Between 9.38am and 10.18am six customers were charged incorrectly for ultimate diesel, according to a spokesperson from the company.
The price was corrected once the customer service representative was alerted to the issue. All prices at the site are now correct.
One customer has received a refund and the remaining five customers will be offered a full refund for the mistake.
The incident was a simple case of human error, and BP apologises for any inconvenience to their customers.
Thanks for numbering every box and putting the LNP last!
Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Media Release [14/5/15]:
The Palaszczuk Government is seeking interest from around the globe in exploring for potentially-rich petroleum and gas resources of Queensland’s far south-western corner.
Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham said today 11,000 square kilometres was being released for exploration expressions of interest.
“New discoveries of gas resources will support future domestic gas supplies for Queensland as well as our world-leading liquefied natural gas industry,” Dr Lynham said.
“The Cooper and Eromanga Basins contain vast petroleum and gas resources and are considered among Australia’s most prospective and commercially-viable regions for deep gas and oil development.
“Into the bargain, Queensland offers potential investors access to $70 billion worth of infrastructure in pipelines, processing facilities and liquefaction plants.”
Dr Lynham said the Department of Natural Resources was targeting potential explorers and investors in Europe, North America and Asia through international industry media and events.
Most of the land being made available is in the Cooper and Eromanga Basins, with one small area of highly-prospective land in the Surat Basin.
The Cooper and Eromanga Basins (PLR2015-2) areacovers about 11,000 sq. km in size in the remote, sparsely populated south-west corner bounded by Windorah, Betoota, Eromanga and the South Australian border.
“This is the first of a four-year land release plan for the Copper and Eromanga Basins and is designed to attract junior and major explorers,” Dr Lynham said.
The Surat Basin (PLR2015-1) area is about 6 square kilometres of high-prospective land, 22 km south-east of Condamine.
“This is close to the existing operations and infrastructure of both QGC and APLNG. QGC will tomorrow commission its first plant at Gladstone, APLNG is projecting it will export its first LNG in October, and Santos GLNG is set for export in the third quarter of 2015,” Dr Lynham said.
“Further exploration and development represented a new and significant opportunity for regional development and jobs; including in the Barcoo, Diamantina, Bulloo and Quilpie shires.
Extremist Australian government wants you to dob on another enemy.
… I was in my room and I was just like staring at the wall thinking about everything
But then again I was thinking about nothing
And then my mom came in and I didn't even know she was there she called my name
And I didn't even hear it, and then she started screaming: MIKE! MIKE!
And I go: What, what's the matter?
And she goes: What's the matter with you?
I go: There's nothing wrong mom.
And she goes: Don't tell me that, you're on drugs!
And I go: No mom I'm not on drugs I'm okay, I was just thinking you know ...
'Institutionalized', Suicidal Tendencies 
Bigger. Fresher. Newer.
US imperialism. It's like Stalinism and Nazism all rolled into one!
Canberra Times [14/5/15]:
... Duncan Lewis, the Director General of Security, told Fairfax Media that families and communities were "a very important source" of information for authorities, as they could spot early on the signs of radicalisation, which was often happening online in the privacy of homes.
"They are getting younger," Mr Lewis said.
"September last year we still had people in their 20s [being arrested] … By Christmas it was turning down to late teens. Now we are talking about teens. So there is a trend downwards in terms of youth. ...
Queensland Police (along with their friends in the media temple of lies) create a new and improved enemy
QPS Media [14/5/15]:
Detectives from Taskforce Maxima have successfully concluded Operation North Gulf.
The operation commenced after investigators identified members of a violent crime gang allegedly responsible for a range of serious criminal offences including extortion, assaults and robbery.
Search warrants were executed in coordinated raids on six properties at Brisbane and the Gold Coast resulting in the arrest of nine men alleged to have been involved in a violent crime gang.
Six men have been arrested on charges of torture, assault in company, extortion, grievous bodily harm, robbery and possession of drugs.
As criminal associates in the crime gang all of the men arrested have been charged subject to the provisions of the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013.
Inquiries are continuing with more persons expected to be charged.
Detective Acting Inspector David Cove said the brutish behaviour carried out by the group was over with today’s arrests and the community is safer as a result.
“Today, Task Force Maxima, assisted by the National Anti-Gang Squad, dismantled a violent criminal gang with strong links to OMCG.”
“Based on an ethos of violence and fear, the crime gang operated under a traditional OMCG structure and included ex members of the Comancheros OMCG.”
“The gang claimed to be a start-up chapter of the Rebels OMCG to be based in the western suburbs of Brisbane and did include associates of that declared OMCG.”
“We will continue to target and dismantle criminal gangs and ask the public to assist us with information,” Detective Acting Inspector Cove said.
... Mauric suggested his appearance along with the other Bandidos was coincidental and if the gathering at Broadbeach had been part of a plan he wasn't aware of it.
He said as a non-affiliated "nomad", he had no links to any chapter and wasn't beholden to do anything another Bandido demanded.
Mr Hunter countered he had close contact with Gold Coast chapter secretary Steven Cox, who was his business partner, and knew exactly what the plan was that evening.
Mauric also said that a lack of experienced police officers at the scene had enhanced the confusion and violence, while the sight of five or six Bandidos lying on the ground after being handcuffed had enraged the other men.
Both defence and prosecution will provide written submissions to magistrate Quinn on Monday with any final oral submissions to be made on Tuesday.
Broadbeach tapas bar table tipover: Magistrate rejects defence 'no case' application in Mauric trial [ABC – 13/5/15]
... No one looks for an answer
No one asks you why
No one stops you dancing
No one stops you getting high ...
'Walking On The Moon', The Black Ghosts 
Australian hypnotist Martin St James dies aged 80 on Queensland's Gold Coast
Australian hypnotist and entertainer Martin St James has died on Queensland's Gold Coast aged 80.
In television appearances in Australia, St James performed stunts like getting large numbers of people to dance like chickens and fall down in a heap.
His website said that for over 50 years St James had hypnotised more than 1.5 million people, sometimes up to 40 at a time.
St James was born in the outback desert goldfields of Western Australia in 1934 and joined a circus in the 1950s, before going on to host TV and stage shows around the world.
He found success in the USA in the 1960s, appearing in numerous national TV shows such the Merv Griffith Show, and performing at major venues and hotels across the country.
Back in Australia, in 1969 he produced a TV series called Spellbound, which was broadcast in peak viewing times in capital cities.
In that same year St James was arrested by Victorian police after a performance at Festival Hall and charged with breaching the Psychological Practices Act by performing hypnosis in a public place without a permit.
He was found guilty and fined $200.
In the 1970s, St James performed in England and Germany, also producing his Spellbound program for broadcaster ITV in the UK.
In 1980, he appeared on the BBC's Christmas special for the Michael Parkinson show, and was offered several more appearances.
However, his website said he was then banned by the BBC because he had hypnotised volunteer members invited by Parkinson from the British secret service, MI5.
St James returned to Australia in 1982 after living in the UK for 15 years, but found he was not allowed to perform in Victoria, South Australia or Tasmania due to changed laws.
Over several years, he still performed in those states to challenge the laws, but was arrested for contravening laws that prohibited the demonstration of hypnosis without a licence.
In 1990s, he turned his attention to Japan, appearing on TV and performing in shows across the country.
His website said his six tours and almost 20 hours of TV in Japan made him "one of the most sought after and best known western performers to ever visit".
He then spent time performing in Hong Kong and Asia, returning to Australia in 1994 to make three 30-minute TV specials that featured six live performances recorded over 24 hours.
In 1995, St James was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but in 1997 "commenced a miraculous road to recovery", his website said.
He returned to performing, writing and creating hypnotherapy tapes "with the help of self-hypnosis, faith, spiritual awakening and the support of friends and loved ones".
St James also established a hypnosis centre at
Broadbeach on Queensland's Gold Coast in 2004.
... One thing has become a given in Australian politics: we will not be asked to think. That doesn’t mean we won’t, of course. But don’t wait for the invitation to arrive in the mail.
The last thing politicians want is for us to analyse, synthesise, infer and evaluate. We might end up insisting they do the same, or that they outline their thinking for us to evaluate.
Even worse, thinking voters are unpredictable, and that makes them dangerous.
It is far more beneficial to politicians if they only ask us to judge. People are far happier if they are asked to judge the merit of a course of action than if they are asked to analyse an argument.
Rigorous engagement with a complex issue is difficult and time-consuming. Judgements are frequently instantaneous and satisfying. It is easy to imagine we are thinking critically when we are merely leaping to conclusions. ... Peter Ellerton [The Conversation - 11/5/15]
Gold Coast roller-coaster breaks down
More than a dozen thrillseekers had to be removed from a broken down roller-coaster at a Gold Coast theme park yesterday.
Sea World’s Storm Coaster was brought to a halt about 28 metres above the ground around midday on Wednesday.
Up to a dozen riders were stuck on the attraction for only a few minutes before the ride resumed without incident.
But it shut down a second time within the same hour, leaving a reported 16 passengers stuck in their seats for up to 30 minutes.
The ride remained closed late yesterday as technicians worked to identify and fix the problem.
It isn’t the first time the Storm Coaster has malfunctioned, with the popular ride breaking down midway around the track several times last year.
Earlier this year, 13 people had to be plucked to safety after they become stranded on the Green Lantern roller-coaster at Movie World for up to four hours when one of its carts derailed.
Cyclist struck by car in Carrara
A cyclist has been rushed to hospital after being struck by a car in Carrara this morning.
It’s understood the male was hit while travelling along Gooding Drive around 5.30am.
He suffered knee and arm injuries and was transported to Robina Hospital.
The accident caused some minor delays in the area but that has since eased.
4 Nauru refugees due to be exiled to Cambodia have been incarcerated in Darwin.
Johnny Depp's dogs deemed more newsworthy in Australia.
Is Nauru's Australian-backed 14 day Facebook blackout a new record?
In any case, the Murdoch Press' sudden, belated interest is highly suspicious. [10 countries where Facebook has been banned - Index on Censorship - 4/2/14]
Phnom Penh Post [14/5/15]:
Four refugees who are due to be resettled in Cambodia were flown to Darwin from Australia’s detention centre on Nauru over the weekend and are being housed in an immigration facility near the airport, a refugee advocate has said.
The Post first reported yesterday that the refugees had been flown to Australia in secret, without Australian immigration notifying their Cambodian counterparts, which was later confirmed to Australian media by a refugee advocate in Darwin.
Two adult men, from Myanmar and Iran, as well as an Iranian couple, were flown to Darwin on Sunday night, Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network spokesman Ben Pynt told the Australian Associated Press yesterday.
A spokeswoman for Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton declined to respond to questions about the transfer, saying only that “arrangements are ongoing”. She also declined to give a breakdown of spending on the resettlement deal outlined in the country’s national budget, which was released on Tuesday.
Australia slashed aid budgets to Cambodia’s neighbours, but it appears the Kingdom’s funding was left in place, despite one development consultant suggesting that the country’s aid programs were some of the worst performing.
A spokesman for Cambodia’s Refugee Department said a final decision on the refugees’ applications was expected soon.
The refugees en route to Cambodia are thought to have accepted tens of thousands of dollars and other inducements to be part of the first group to sign up to the scheme.
Australia has pledged to cover all expenses for caring for the refugees, as well as provide an additional $31 million in aid to Cambodia.
5 Montagnards seek asylum in Cambodia [Phnom Penh Post - 14/5/15]:
As the government continues to flout its own refugee processing rules, five more Montagnard asylum seekers from Vietnam have entered the capital in recent days in the hope of having their claims registered, according to the United Nations.
Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), said yesterday that five more Montagnards, a minority group from Vietnam’s Central Highlands, have arrived in Phnom Penh, bringing the total number “currently awaiting registration” to 45.
“We’ve been urging the government to register them as soon as possible and not to refoule them,” she said.
Some of those waiting to be registered have been left in limbo in the capital for more than 100 days, despite the law saying they should be registered within a week.
According to rules stipulated in a 2009 sub-decree, refugee statuses should be determined within a maximum of 112 days of asylum seekers presenting themselves to the Interior Ministry’s Refugee Department.
Kerm Sarin, director of the Refugee Department, yesterday claimed that none of the asylum seekers had attempted to register their claims.
“I have not met them yet, [so] it is has nothing to do with the sub-decree,” he said.
But the UN and rights groups have said repeatedly that efforts have been made – and ignored by officials – to register the asylum seekers.
Since October, dozens of ethnic Jarai Montagnards have fled to Cambodia citing religious and political persecution.
Dozens have been deported, while 13 have so far been granted provisional refugee status after they were escorted to the capital by UN officials late last year.
UNHCR said yesterday that a third-country for resettlement has yet to be found.
Interior Ministry officials have previously threatened that, if this does not happen, they could be deported regardless of their refugee status.
As those in Cambodia look to an uncertain future, efforts are being ramped up to keep any more Montagnards out of the Kingdom.
The Post revealed earlier this month that almost 1,000 Cambodian soldiers have been stationed along the Vietnamese border in Ratanakkiri province in an effort to crack down on the asylum seekers.
One of the soldiers stationed inside the remote province’s sprawling border jungles claimed yesterday that the mission had not yet yielded any results.
“There has been no action,” he said.
Vietnamese asylum seekers refouled and disappeared by Australia still missing [Sydney Morning Herald - 23/4/15]:
... Trong Doan, a Vietnamese Australian refugee advocate and former community leader, said it was no secret that detention centres and re-education camps were used across Vietnam to interrogate suspected political subversives.
He said it was likely that security officials would be sent to Binh Thuan from Hanoi, the Communist Party capital in the north of the country.
"What usually happens is people are asked the same question again and again and again. If people are charged they will go to prison. The Communist Party runs the courts. They run everything, all the newspapers and all the NGOs," he said.
Mr Doan said Vietnamese Australians were concerned at the secrecy that has surrounded the hand-back.
"This type of secrecy is normally reserved for terrorism and national security not for a group of people who are tired and weak on a boat journey."
Amnesty International has said that the asylum claims of the Vietnamese cannot have been adequately assessed and determined by government officials at sea.
Canberra Times [21/4/15]:
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has indicated that a "bilateral" deal in which Vietnam is believed to have accepted the return of 50 asylum seekers intercepted by the Australian Navy last week includes the government not talking about the swap.
Mr Dutton said he could not comment on reports that Australian Navy ship HMAS Choules last week travelled to a port city south of Ho Chi Minh City to hand over the group of Vietnamese.
Their boat is believed to have made it to somewhere north of Australia before being stopped.
When pressed, Mr Dutton raised the relationship with Vietnam for his inability to comment.
Malaysia must make room for Rohingya refugees, lawyer group says
Australian politicians, human rights groups silent.
Malaysia turns away 2 boats with more than 800 Rohingya refugees [AP - 14/5/15]
Malaysia must make room for Rohingya refugees, lawyer group says [The Malay Mail Online - 13/5/15]:
Malaysia is bound by international law to help Rohingya refugees believed to be currently stranded on boats that are adrift off the country's waters, a legal group claimed today.
Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) argued that even if Malaysia does not recognise refugee status, it is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which means the country is obliged to make sure the women and children among the refugees are safe and well.
“Even though Malaysia is not a signatory to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Malaysia is still bound by international law not to forcibly deport refugees or cause them further harm as normally, those who were returned face severe persecution, including arrest, disappearance and torture,” said LFL Executive Director Eric Paulsen.
Over a thousand abandoned "illegal" immigrants comprising Bangladeshi nationals and ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar landed on Langkawi's shores recently.
News reports claim that there are up to 8,000 more aboard boats off Malaysia's waters which have been cut off by human traffickers and adrift for at least three days with no food or water on board.
A Malaysian official, however, reportedly said that the boats will be turned away if they are seaworthy.
Newswire AP quoted Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) first admiral Tan Kok Kwee as saying yesterday that they will provide provisions to the boats before turning them back, and only rescue those aboard sinking vessels.
Paulsen today warned that the MMEA's position is “extremely dangerous and irresponsible”, and likely to go against international laws.
He added that the persecution of the Rohingya by Myanmarese authorities is well documented, and to send them back is “ inhumane and cruel”.
While he acknowledged Malaysia's right to protect its borders from incursions, Paulsen urged the authorities to allow the refugees immediate access to the UNHCR to allow them to seek asylum and establish their refugee status.
“These boats carrying overcrowded refugees and migrants are typically rickety wooden trawlers and hardly seaworthy. Turning or towing these boats away is as good as signing their death warrant as the occupants are normally starving, dehydrated, sickly and in dire need of immediate assistance.
“We urge the Malaysian government not to act hastily, keep our borders open and help rescue those stranded until more information can be ascertained as to why these people left Myanmar and Bangladesh including whether they are refugees who are entitled to international protection,” he said.
Australian parliamentary delegation visits Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon to study ways of keeping refugees in their rightful place [November 2014]
Why are some refugees from Myanmar accepted and settled in Australia while others are left to die?
I do not accept this logical inconsistency.
Victorian town gets $41m benefit from resettling Karen refugees from Myanmar [Guardian – 23/4/15]:
A small town in Victoria has gained an economic benefit of $41.5m from resettling refugees, a report has found, pointing to the possible gains available to other local communities.
The town of Nhill is nestled halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide, and has a population of just under 2,300. Since 2010, 170 Karen refugees from Burma [Myanmar] have been resettled in the largely agricultural town.
A report commissioned by the resettlement agency Ames and undertaken by Deloitte Access Economics has found the resettlement of the refugees has created 70 full-time jobs, mainly in local poultry producer Luv-a-Duck.
“Fifty-four Karen are directly employed in Luv-a-Duck, and seven employed in businesses that supply Luv-a-Duck. Beyond this, the increased population has enabled the creation and filling of additional jobs across a number of broader community businesses and services,” the report said.
The creation of the jobs and the flow-on effects of having a larger population have resulted in a $41.5m boost to the economy, according to the report, which will be released on Friday.
“The resettlement of the Karen in Nhill has had a specific and sizeable economic impact on this agricultural town,” the director of Deloitte Access Economics, David Wright, said.
“It has eased a capacity constraint on local production and at the same time boosted demand for local service provision. This has resulted in a 4%-plus lift in regional production in 2013-14.”
The chief executive of Ames, Cath Scarth, said she hoped the report would pave the way for policy change.
“We at Ames hope that this research report ... will inform in some way policy and practice in the settlement of refugees and, for that matter migrants; and, that the lessons we’ve learned from this experience will be shared widely to improve outcomes both in the fields of refugee settlement and regional development.”
The head of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia, Joe Caputo, said the report could help stop the spread of misinformation about refugees and asylum seekers.
“Refugees historically have added so much to this country,” Caputo said. “There are a lot of myths around the place and often they’re not based on facts.
“Reports like this will dispel a lot of those myths.”
Caputo said refugees tended to be courageous risk-takers who made good employees. “I see people really making an effort and doing well,” he said.
The Karen people are from the mountainous region of Burma [Myanmar]. Many fled the country during the country’s civil war, saying they were persecuted by the ruling military junta.
Up to 150,000 Karen live in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border.
The last census showed there were 21,760 people in Australia who were born in Burma [Myanmar].
The Karen of Nhill: an experiment in regional settlement [AMES News - 17/2/14]
US Army uses disaster response exchange and training to undermine sovereignty and foster military interoperability
PNG Loop [13/5/15]:
The US Army Pacific and the Government of Papua New Guinea kicked off the first Oceania Pacific Resilience Disaster Response Exercise and Exchange (DREE) on May 11 in Lae, Morobe Province.
The DREE is a five-day exercise, hosted by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, that will consist of presentations and discussions from subject matter experts, a tabletop exercise, a field training exercise and an after action review.
There are more than 80 participants from Papua New Guinea, the United States, Australia, Solomon Islands, various international organisations, and non-governmental organisations.
“This kind of exercise helps us to come together to understand both civil and military standard operating procedures, and enhance the plan that is already in place in case of an emergency,” said Col. Dominic Bulungol, Chief of Defence Intelligence, Papua New Guinea Defence Force.
The opening ceremony included two cultural dance groups representing different tribes in Papua New Guinea and opening remarks from Melanie Higgins – US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, and Judas Nalau – Deputy Governor of Morobe Province.
Shortly after the opening ceremony, Ms. Higgins, Col. Bulungol, and Mr. Martin Mose, the Director of the National Disaster Centre held a press conference describing the exercise.
“The work you’re doing here this week has real benefits to save lives,” said Ms Higgins. “When terrible things happen, we need to integrate and be able to work together as seamlessly as possible.”
The Pacific Resilience DREE will build on existing partner nations’ capacities and enhance the US government’s readiness and preparedness to provide aid in the wake of hazards.
“This type of exercise has the ability to decrease barriers in order to communicate, work together and come up with practical solutions on how we can ensure that if there is a natural disaster or emergency, we can respond quickly, effectively and together in a joint response,” said Ms Higgins.
Pacific Resilience is USARPAC’s platform to engage, partner and prepare for a Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response, using both military and civilian organisations in order to enhance the ability to respond and recover from an emergency situation. It is not a singular event, but one of many exercises that ensure that the United States is prepared to assist its global partners.
New Zealand: Weather chaos in lower North Island
The capital is all but cut off after torrential rain caused flooding and slips in the lower North Island, closing road and rail links and forcing people from their homes.
The Transport Agency says today's extreme rainfall has severely affected the lower North Island's transport network. Flooding has closed State Highway One on the Coast Road and State Highway Two in Lower Hutt and Petone.
The agency says the roads are already congested and as people begin to make their way home, that situation will deteriorate.
There are reports of the back road from Kelburn to Johnsonville being at a standstill.
The agency is advising against all non-essential travel and is asking motorists to plan ahead and to expect the unexpected.
It says crews are working nonstop to clear flooding and debris.
It says widespread flooding and slips can be expected across the roading network and extreme care is required on all roads.
The New Zealand Transport Authority advised people to use SH1 to Porirua and then SH58 via Haywards to get to the Hutt Valley, but severe delays could be expected.
Wellington Rail Station has closed, meaning no trains are operating in or out of the capital.
Wellington Girls College was struck by lightning just after 11am and more than 1300 students and staff had to be evacuated. No one was injured.
As well, close to 50 millimetres of rain fell in Upper Hutt and about 25 millimetres in Lower Hutt, where the city council was urging motorists to move their vehicles away from the river banks.
A MetService spokesperson said the rain was expected to ease later today but heavy falls were expected again tomorrow.
Meteorologist Emma Blades said severe gales were also expected in exposed areas of Wellington.
A Civil Defence spokesperson said high tides in Porirua and on the Kapiti Coast were due at 7pm, when the flooding was expected to peak.
As well, several bands of rain were forecast to
sweep across the region this afternoon, causing further issues for people trying
to get home on already gridlocked roads.
Guam on typhoon watch [RNZI – 14/5/15]
Senate reaches bipartisan deal on TPP vote after Democratic "revolt" against Obama
Senators reached a deal on Wednesday to move forward this week with legislation key to a pan-Pacific trade pact, a day after a Democratic rebellion dealt a blow to the White House's trade agenda.
A compromise between Republicans and Democrats would set up another procedural vote on "fast-track" trade authority crucial to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, including aid for workers who lose their jobs due to trade. The first such procedural vote failed on Tuesday.
Two other trade bills, a customs bill including rules against currency manipulation and one extending African trade benefits, would be considered separately - but cannot be amended, and need to win 60 votes for passage in the 100-member Senate.
If Thursday's procedural vote on fast-track authority succeeds, it sets up a full debate next week on the legislation, which is a key part of President Barack Obama's pivot to counter China's rising economic and diplomatic clout in Asia.
The authority would be twinned with the relatively uncontroversial worker assistance program, designed to help those who may lose their jobs due to expanded trade.
"The plan will provide our Democratic colleagues with a way forward without killing the bill," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor after 24 hours of negotiations to break the impasse.
On Tuesday, all but one of the Senate's 44 Democrats teamed up to block debate on the legislation, amid concerns about the impact of the proposed 12-nation TPP on U.S. workers.
Democrats also want legislation to punish countries that artificially reduce the value of their currencies by mandating import duties to offset any boost to competitiveness. That approach has been tried several times before but never won the necessary congressional support.
The move is backed by some Republicans but opposed by the White House, which has warned that such rules could breach international trade laws and open the United States to retaliation.
The customs bill contains a second measure to bar currency manipulators from U.S. trade deals and government procurement, which the White House supports.
Two Democratic aides said they were optimistic the customs bill could pass.
But Republican John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the Senate leadership team, said opening the door to import duties was a tough request.
"If it has currency manipulation attached to it, it makes it a harder lift," he told reporters.
Even if the currency manipulation measure is approved, there were no assurances that the House of Representatives would approve it.
Derailed Amtrak train was not fitted with latest US safety controls [Reuters – 13/5/15]:
... Federal rules require the national rail network to have an operating PTC system by the end of the year, though there has been a legislative push to extend that deadline by years.
In March, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to extend the deadline for implementing PTC until at least 2020.
Both Republicans and Democrats supported the measure which will now go to the Senate floor. ...
Horrible old fascist farts out another decree
Rupert Murdoch has taken to Twitter to claim the UK general election “explodes the myth of social media power”.
Just in case readers are left in doubt about what did sway the result, the Sun and Times owner says it is a “great time” for the “competitive free press”. (Presumably he means the newspapers that overwhelmingly chose to back the Tories, with no interference from their proprietors.)
@rupertmurdoch UK poll explodes myth of social media power. Great time for competitive free press.
Murdoch also praised David Cameron’s “surprisingly good” new cabinet:
picks surprisingly good. Osborne, Duncan Smith, Gove, Javid, Whittingdale,
Patel, more women. Few toffs! Great start.
Monkey notes that new culture secretary John Whittingdale makes Murdoch’s list. Presumably he has forgiven the MP for being summoned to appear in front of his select committee, which the mogul claimed was the “most humble day of my life”.
A Bit of Fry & Laurie - If Rupert Murdoch hadn't been born [VIDEO]
Terror charge against Logan man dropped.
(Charges were laid following a September 2014 Murdoch beatup about a bookstore - and subsequent AFP raid.)
Prosecutors have dropped charges against a Brisbane man who was accused of holding money intended to fund terrorist activity in Syria.
Robert Louis Maestracci was arrested in connection with counter-terrorism raids last September over $7000 in a bank account that police alleged was to be used to finance terrorist operations.
The charge was struck out in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday after the prosecution offered no evidence in relation to it.
A delay in obtaining secretly recorded phone conversations is holding up the cases of two Queensland men accused of preparing to fight in Syria.
Omar Succarieh, 32, and Agim Kruezi, 22, had their matters mentioned briefly in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
They're facing a number of terrorism-related charges, including preparing for incursions into war-torn Syria.
Commonwealth prosecutor Justin Williams told the court on Wednesday the "vast bulk" of evidence had been provided to Kruezi's and Succarieh's lawyers.
However, transcripts of intercepted telephone conversations involving Kruezi could not be obtained from a third party before late March or early April, Mr Williams said.
"The amount of material that's already provided, in my submission is substantial, and will take the parties a significant amount of time to consider," he warned.
Further allegations against Kruezi include that he was planning a terrorist act, possessed weapons and recruited people to fight overseas.
Succarieh is charged with providing funds to the terrorist organisation Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra Front, in Syria.
Both men have been behind bars since their arrest in counter-terrorism raids last September.
Neither was required to appear in court.
Succarieh's lawyer, James Wallace, expressed frustration at the "extremely slow and tedious" progress of the case.
Queensland Chief Magistrate Ray Rinaudo adjourned the matter until April 3.
Lawyers for two men facing terrorism-related charges have criticised police for taking too long to provide evidence against their clients, who remain in custody in Queensland. ... [SBS - 19/12/14]
A lawyer for one of three Queensland men charged with terrorism offences has accused police of withholding evidence and using the G20 Summit to drag out his client's pre-trial imprisonment. ... [Daily Mercury - 17/10/14]
Brisbane Times [23/1/15]:
Court documents have revealed how an undercover police officer infiltrated a Logan Islamic bookstore community, gaining the trust of three members who were later charged with terrorism offences.
The Australian Federal Police agent known as UCO317656 met Omar Succarieh, Agim Kruezi and Robert Louis Maestracci in June 2014 at the iQraa Islamic Centre, according to material filed in the Brisbane Supreme Court this week.
iQraa, which was run by Mr Succarieh, was raided on September 10 last year by AFP anti-terrorism police.
FBI informant exposes sting operation targeting innocent Americans in new "(T)ERROR" documentary [Democracy Now – 20/4/15]:
… AMY GOODMAN: They were apartment neighbors.
LYRIC R. CABRAL [Directors of (T)ERROR]: They weren’t neighbors. Tarik actually didn’t live in the brownstone, but he frequently played music gigs in Harlem, and so he would stop by a lot, just because it was a—you know, the FBI had engineered this environment so that it was comfortable for him, so that he would have a place that was available late at night after he would get off of a gig. And so, ultimately, Saeed used this child support need that Tarik had—he owed about $70,000—and said, "Well, you know, if you use your martial arts service in service of 'al-Qaeda,'" quote-unquote, "we can get you $70,000. I can get your passport back."
AMY GOODMAN: So, Stephen Downs, explain ultimately what happened to Tarik, what he was charged with.
STEPHEN DOWNS [Attorney]: Well, he was charged with material support for terrorism, for essentially, I suppose, nothing more than, in a kind of a scripted plot—or not a scripted plot, but a scripted play by the FBI, he took some sort of an oath to al-Qaeda that he would treat al-Qaeda soldiers if they were injured somehow, or would train them in martial arts. And I think the request was: Would you train al-Qaeda soldiers? And he said, "I’ll train anybody. I’m a martial arts instructor." And that was essentially the—for what he was convicted of. ...
Al Jazeera Investigates - Informants [VIDEO – 20/7/14]:
Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit takes you inside the shadowy world of FBI informants and counterterrorism sting operations. Following the 9/11 attacks, the FBI set about to recruit a network of more than 15,000 informants. Al Jazeera's investigative film tells the stories of three paid FBI informants who posed as Muslims as they searched for people interested in joining violent plots concocted by the FBI.
Canberra Times [3/2/15]:
Federal Coalition MP Luke Simpkins illegally crossed the Thai border into Myanmar to attend a military parade and "revolution day" ceremony with rebel fighters.
The former Australian army officer, who has spoken out often about human rights abuses in the country, also known as Burma, presented a large Australian flag to Karen soldiers who have been fighting the Myanmar army.
He spent a night at a base of the Karen National Defence Organisation, which has several thousand fighters, before re-entering Thailand near the border town of Mae Sot, 491 kilometres north of Bangkok.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade declined to comment on Mr Simpkins' crossing of the border.
Australian Federal Police are investigating the whereabouts of Northern Territory Labor Party chief Matthew Gardiner, also a former Australian army officer, who has reportedly joined Kurdish guerrillas in Syria fighting against the so-called Islamic State.
US denies bombing mosque in Iraqi city of Tal Afar
The Long War Journal [13/5/15]:
US Central Command, which is coordinating the air campaign to “degrade and defeat” the Islamic State inside Iraq and Syria, denied that it launched an airstrike on a mosque near the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar that is rumored to have killed the jihadist group’s deputy emir.
Iraq’s Ministry of Defense released a statement today claiming that Abu Alaa al Afari, the purported deputy emir of the Islamic State, Akram al Qurbash, who is also known as Mullah Meisar, and “a large number” of fighters were killed in “an air strike by international coalition forces” at the Martyrs mosque in a village near Tal Afar. Qurbash is said to command the Islamic State’s military forces in Ninewa province.
Afari, a Turkman whose real name is Abdul Rahman Mustafa Mohammad, is known to coordinate with the Islamic State’s “provinces” outside of Iraq and Syria. He is said to have taken over day to day operations for Baghdadi, who has been rumored to have been seriously wounded Or killed several times in airstrikes over the past year. These reports have not been confirmed and US military officials have stated they believe he remains in firm control of the Islamic State.
The Iraqi government has a poor track record in claiming the deaths of senior leaders of the Islamic State and its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq.
The Islamic State has not released an official statement announcing the death of Baghdadi, nor have well known jihaidsts linked to the group announced his death on social media accounts.
US Central Command, which runs Operation Inherent Resolve, the coalition of countries that is launching airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, denied that it conducted the strike against a mosque and said it has “no information” about the death of Afari.
“We are aware of media reports that the second-in-command of ISIL has been killed in a Coalition air strike in Tal Afar and have no information to corroborate these claims,” CENTCOM stated in a press release. “However, we can confirm that Coalition aircraft did not strike a mosque as some of the press reporting has alleged.”
“We have significant mitigation measures in place within the targeting process and during the conduct of operations to reduce the potential risks of collateral damage and civilian casualties,” CENTCOM concluded.
The US military is sensitive about striking religious sites, and terrorists frequently use mosques as meeting places and weapons storage sites.
CENTCOM conducted one airstrike in the Tal Afar area between 8:00 AM May 12 and 8:00 AM May 13. According to a press release, it “destroyed an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL heavy machine gun.”
ISIL is an acronym for the Islamic State of Iraqi and the Levant (or Syria), the previous name of the Islamic State.
The US military persists in calling the jihadist group by the acronym despite the fact that the group changed its name to the Islamic State nearly one year ago when Baghdadi declared the establishment of his “caliphate.”
After months of uncertainty, Imad, Nithal and three of their children fled the central Iraqi city of Ramadi in mid-April when clashes between government forces and militants spilled into their neighborhood.
A decision they had to make so quickly, they weren't able to bring their eldest daughter with them.
"I had never seen fighting like this before," 24-year-old Nithal told UNHCR at the Arbat camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in north-east Iraq's Sulayminayah province, where she and her family are now sheltering.
Born in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, Nithal became used over the years to hearing fighting and clashes in the distance, but on April 15 the violence came closer than ever before.
A gun battle broke out on the street behind her home and three people were shot dead in front of her.
"My children saw it too. We were all crying, but I tried to cover their eyes with my hands," she told UNHCR. ... [UNHCR Media Release - 13/5/15]
Fierce battles erupted on Wednesday on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal between al-Nusra Front-affiliate Jaish al-Fatah and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The state-run National News Agency reported that clashes reached the outskirts of Arsal and Wadi Hmeid crossing, four kilometers from a Lebanese army checkpoint.
The army prevented owners and employees of stone crusher plants in the area from heading to the region. ... [Naharnet - 13/5/15]
A five-day truce in Yemen appeared to be broadly holding Wednesday, despite reports of airstrikes overnight by Saudi-led forces and continued military activity by the Iranian-allied Houthi group.
Witnesses in the southwestern city of Abyan said warplanes had hit positions there after the Houthis seized the area following the start late Tuesday of the cease-fire, which is intended to ward off a humanitarian catastrophe. ... [Daily Star - 14/5/15]
Afghanistan: Gunmen attack Kabul guesthouse [Pajwhok - 13/5/15]:
... The brazen attack follows NATO’s decision to maintain a presence in Afghanistan even after the current training operation ends by the end of 2016 during a foreign minister meeting in Turkey on Wednesday, an announcement the Afghan foreign minister welcomed . ...
A United Nations human rights report released today says that a Uganda-based rebel group has committed grave violations of international humanitarian law in crisis-riven north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The report says that the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) committed the violations, which were systematic and extremely brutal, and which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, over a three-month period at the end of 2014 in Beni territory, North Kivu province. ... [UN Media Release - 13/5/15]
Army general dismisses Burundi president [Al Jazeera – 13/5/15]:
... Al Jazeera's Malcolm Webb, reporting from Bujumbura, spoke of huge celebrations and some gunfire, although it was not immediately clear if the shots were being directed at the demonstrators or were celebratory in nature.
About 20 soldiers were deployed at the gate of the compound of the broadcaster in Bujumbura, he said.
"The road outside has been sealed off and journalists have been told to go inside," he said, adding that state radio and TV were still broadcasting.
It appears that the army has control of the state broadcaster and state-owned buildings, he said.
While in Tanzania, Nkurunziza was due to meet the leaders of the five-nation East African Community (EAC) - made up of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda as well as Burundi.
The president's office, in a message posted on Twitter, said an attempted coup had "failed".
"The situation is under control, there is no coup in Burundi," the message read.
Palestine recognised by the Vatican
Tamil Guardian [13/5/15]:
The Holy See has formulated its first treaty which recognises the State of Palestine, in an agreement dealing with Catholic activities in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
A joint statement released by the Vatican on Wednesday said the text of the treaty had been concluded and would be officially signed by the respective authorities "in the near future".
The agreement "aims to enhance the life and activities of the Catholic Church and its recognition at the judicial level", said Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, the Vatican's deputy foreign minister who led its delegation in the talks.
Officials said this was not the first time the Vatican has recognised Palestine.
"We have recognised the State of Palestine ever since it was given recognition by the United Nations and it is already listed as the State of Palestine in our official yearbook," Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesperson, said.
In an interview with the Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Mr Camilleri said he hoped the agreement would indirectly help Palestine in its relations with Israel.
"It would be positive if the accord could in some way help with the establishment and recognition of an independent, sovereign and democratic State of Palestine which lives in peace and security with Israel and its neighbours," he said.
PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi welcomed the Vatican's recognition of Palestine.
"The significance of this recognition goes beyond the political and legal into the symbolic and moral domains and sends a message to all people of conscience that the Palestinian people deserve the right to self-determination, formal recognition, freedom and statehood," Mr Ashrawi said in a statement.
Israel looks to justify future strikes on civilian areas in south [Daily Star – 14/5/15]
Breakthrough to Ukraine peace in recent days, no alternative to Minsk deal - German FM [RT – 13/5/15]:
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says there has been a serious breakthrough in fulfilling the Minsk peace roadmap in Ukraine. Despite any difficulties encountered, he says, the participants must press on with implementing the deal.
Steinmeier was speaking at a meeting of NATO member states diplomats in Antalya, Turkey.
"Despite the fact that in two places [in eastern Ukraine] the ceasefire is still fragile, in the past few days there has been a serious breakthrough in implementing the Minsk agreements, concerning the creation of working groups," Steinmeier told the gathering.
He was referring to the decision taken on May 6 by representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE to create four working sub-groups to help implement the peace roadmap. They focus on security, political issues, economy and refugees. The political and economic sub-groups are scheduled to hold meetings in the Belarusian capital on May 16.
... When, in 2003, the US press began to discuss "chaos theory", the White House responded by citing a "constructive chaos", suggesting that it would destroy the structures of oppression so that life could spring forth freely. But never had Leo Strauss, nor the Pentagon until then, used this expression.
Rather, according to them, chaos would be such that nothing could be organized, apart from the will of the Creator of the New Order, the United States.
The principle of this strategic doctrine can be summarized as: the simplest way to plunder the natural resources of a country over a long period is not to occupy it, but to destroy the state.
No state, no army. No enemy, no risk of defeat.
Thus, the strategic goal of the US military and the alliance it leads, NATO, is only destroying States. What happens to the people concerned is not Washington’s problem. ... [ICH - 12/5/15]
US returns Cuban boat refugees
The United States repatriated 50 Cuban migrants Wednesday who had been intercepted at sea in precarious rafts trying to reach U.S. shores.
The migrants were arrested last week in three different boats that had left Bahia de Cabanas bay in northern Cuba, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
The first 27 migrants were intercepted on Friday, after their raft was spotted by a cruise ship near the Dry Tortugas in the Florida Keys tropical islands.
That same day, the Coast Guard stopped a second boat with 15 Cubans on board in the same area.
The remaining eight Cubans were arrested Saturday when they were still relatively close to the northern Cuban port of Matanzas.
"All three interdictions included unseaworthy, homemade vessels that posed significant risk to the migrants attempting to make the perilous journey," the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement.
It said the migrants were all transferred "safely" to a Coast Guard vessel for repatriation. There, they were provided food, water, shelter and basic medication.
In recent years, the Coast Guard has found a growing number of Cubans trying to cross the shark-infested waters separating the communist island from Florida. The journey is just 90 miles (150 kilometers) long.
The number of migrants increased after Washington and Havana made the historic announcement in December that they would seek to restore ties after half a century of enmity.
Cubans are concerned that the move will end immigration benefits provided by the United States, where they can stay legally if they succeed in reaching U.S. shores.
Since October, the Coast Guard has picked up 2,460 Cuban trying to reach the United States.
In fiscal year 2014, which ended in September, the figure was 3,677, up from 2,129 the year before and 1,870 in 2012.
The U.S. Coast Guard discourages these dangerous "illegal" crossings, which sometimes end in deaths at sea.
UNHCR hails today's EU proposed Agenda on Migration as breakthrough, urges speedy adoption
UNHCR Media Release [13/5/15]:
UNHCR applauds the European Commission's proposals, announced earlier today, for dealing with the thousands of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe via the Mediterranean.
The proposals include strengthened measures to save lives at sea, and improved mechanisms for allowing legal entry into the EU for people fleeing war, and providing for a fair redistribution of refugees. They also contain measures to address some of the factors that are driving people into the hands of smugglers, including the desperate conditions many refugees face in countries of first-asylum and transit.
"The EU's proposals represent a great breakthrough in terms of managing refugee flows and migration," said Volker Türk, UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection. "It is now enormously important, and vital for the urgent purpose of saving lives, that these proposals be embraced quickly and fully implemented."
Record levels of global displacement from wars and conflict in Syria, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and other regions of sub-Saharan Africa, coupled with insecurity in Libya and blocked land routes for mixed migration flows in other regions, have in recent years combined to fuel a sharp increase in refugees seeking to enter Europe by one of the few remaining means possible – travel by sea.
A record 219,000 people crossed the Mediterranean in 2014 in smugglers' boats and 3,500 died. Around half of these people were refugees fleeing war and persecution. So far in 2015 some 62,500 people have made the crossing, and at least 1,800 have died.
"Solidarity among EU Member States in the approach is the only way that a problem of this nature can be tackled, and UNHCR is enormously pleased to see that this principle has been recognized in the proposals put forward today," said Volker Türk. "UNHCR stands ready to provide all further help we can to Member States in making these objectives a reality."
More details on UNHCR's response to the EU proposals can be found below
Questions and answers on the European Agenda on Migration [European Commission Fact Sheet - 13/5/15]
@moas_eu [13/5/15]: #MOAS saved 188 people in the Mediterranean Sea today who now being treated by #MSF on board Phoenix. ...
South East Asian nations follow Australia's example. i.e. doing whatever Uncle Sam tells them to.
... “If Southeast Asian nations are genuinely concerned about the mass flight of Rohingya from Burma, they should demand that Burma immediately end widespread rights abuses against this most vulnerable population,” Robertson said.
“Ending discriminatory policies and ensuring full security so that Rohingya can safely and with dignity return to their homes in Arakan State would be a good place to start.” [Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director, Human Rights Watch - 14/5/15]
Voyage of the St. Louis [United States Holocaust Memorial Museum]
Turner Classic Movies:
Based on a chilling real-life incident from the early days of World War II, Voyage of the Damned (1976) told the dramatic story of a shipload of European Jews expelled from Hitler's Germany who sailed across the Atlantic in 1939 in a quest to gain asylum in Havana, Cuba, and eventually the United States.
What they found when they arrived was a shocking and ultimately deadly slap-in-the-face that still reverberates today, nearly seventy years later.
The ship was the SS St. Louis, out of Hamburg, and the voyage was actually a Nazi-crafted ruse straight from the warped mind of propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.
The Nazis knew that the U.S. would be reluctant to offer sanctuary to the passengers, therefore the Nazi policy of persecution would be validated and the world would accept their heinous treatment of Germany's Jewish citizens. ...
Another boat of 500 Rohingya refugees found off Malaysian coast
Another boat, this one crammed with 500 Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshis, was found off Malaysia's coast Wednesday, an activist and an official said, as the international community called on Southeast Asian governments to open their borders and step up search-and-rescue efforts. Thousands of migrants are believed to be stranded at sea.
It was not immediately clear if those offloaded near the city of Penang would be given refuge, said Zafar Ahmad, a Malaysian human rights activist. Their vessel was discovered hours after a maritime official warned that new arrivals would be given food, water and then sent on their way, unless their boats were sinking.
The country has already accepted more than a thousand refugees since Sunday. Wednesday's boat would make it 1,500.
Indonesia, neighbours silent after UN calls for Asia boatpeople rescue [Jakarta Globe – 13/5/15]:
... “Towing migrants out to sea and declaring that they aren’t your problem any more is not a solution to the wider regional crisis,” ABHR chairman and Malaysian lawmaker Charles Santiago said in a statement.
Many of the arrivals are Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority from Myanmar described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
An estimated 25,000 Bangladeshis and Rohingya boarded rickety smugglers’ boats in the first three months of this year, twice as many in the same period of 2014, the UNHCR has said.
“When countries such as Thailand implement a push back policy, we find Rohingya bodies washing ashore,” said Sunai Phasuk at Human Rights Watch in Thailand. “If these three countries move forward with push backs, blood will be on their hands.”
Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have been persecuted for decades [New York Times - 12/5/15]
“Never Again”: time to end genocide in Burma, Nancy Hudson-Rodd [New Mandala - 12/5/15]:
... Burma as 2014 ASEAN chair forbade reference to Rohingya. The word does not appear in Burmese state or independent media. An estimated 800,000 Rohingyas were forced to surrender all temporary white ID cards by 31 March this year. These withdrawn cards, issued under the 1949 Burma Residents Registration Act, effectively strip Rohingya of legal documentation, their identity, and last right to live in Burma.
No opposition groups came to the defence of the Rohingya. Certainly not Aung San Suu Kyi in her role as chair of the Rule of Law and Tranquillity Committee. Since being released from house arrest in November 2010, she has travelled widely, meeting royalty and the powerful, collecting her ‘human rights’ awards. Alas, she has found no time to take an hour flight from her lakeside house to visit the semi-concentration camps in Rakhine state, where nearly 150,000 Rohingyas are locked up; for their own protection of course. ...
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop presents Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with a photograph of their meeting in 1995 [28 November 2013]
Australia-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce [8/5/15]:
On Wednesday 6 May 2015, Colin Biggers & Paisley (www.cbp.com.au) hosted a live video presentation from Singapore, featuring Jude Benny from JTJB Lawyers as guest speaker on the topic "Welcome to the new frontier: doing business in Myanmar".
The presentation was very well received by our audience in Sydney and the theme of the evening was complemented by Myanmar-inspired cuisine which was served to guests at the event.
A-MCC was a proud supporter of this event.
14 May 2015