‘ABC Unleashed’ balances false claims in ‘the Australian’

July 14, 2010 Comments Off on ‘ABC Unleashed’ balances false claims in ‘the Australian’

ABC Unleashed – Real terrorists enter via airports, not on leaky boats

So some asylum seekers are terrorists are they? Well yes, according to The Australian today. But for a host of reasons we should be very cautious in accepting the veracity of those who make claims that people fleeing conflict are in fact zealous members of terrorist organizations…

…Mr. DeSilva-Ranasinghe’s views should not necessarily be accepted as gospel. After all he made the extraordinary claim in the same paper on 7 April this year that “there is strong evidence that since the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May 2009 Sri Lanka has moved towards stability and inter-ethnic reconciliation, rather than widespread or institutionalised persecution of its Tamil population.”

This is certainly not what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says in its latest country assessment of Sri Lanka, issued on July 5. While noting that steps are being taken to normalize the country the report also notes that detention without trial, torture of suspects, rape and other forms of sexual abuse of women and children is happening and that there is “severe overcrowding and lack of adequate sanitation, food, water and medical treatment” in prisons. Hardly a rosy picture!

As to whether or not there are terrorists on leaky boats trying to get to Australia, one might want to consider a recent case in Canada where a similar claim was made about a group of 25 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were detained last October after arriving on a boat in Vancouver by the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) because they had been told the men were members of the Tamil Tigers.

The Vancouver Sun revealed last weekend that when it came to having their cases assessed by Canada’s migration review system the CBSA suddenly dropped their allegations and the men have been released into the community under conditions. A spokesperson for the CBSA told the Vancouver Sun last Saturday that the “CBSA was not in a position to substantiate arguments for continued detention and the [review tribunal] began ordering release.”

More broadly, the difficulty with making claims that an asylum seeker is connected to a terrorist group is that it is such a sweeping statement. In countries like Sri Lanka and Afghanistan many people have contact with, and associate with, the Tamil Tigers and the Taliban or Al-Qaeda respectively. It is, or was, physically almost impossible not to in certain parts of that country. If they are young, they might even train with one of these groups.

But is it seriously being suggested that simply because someone has an association with a terrorist group that makes him or her a danger to Australia? If it is then why did we allow hundreds of thousands of Irish Catholics who directly, or through friends and families, had connections with the IRA, come to our shores? More

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