A letter to Scott Morrison

February 28, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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Janice Huppert, Senior Vice-President of B’nai B’rith Australia and New Zealand has expressed the organisation’s concern about the Abbott Government’s treatment of asylum speakers and has written to Scott Morrison, the Federal Minister for Immigration and Border protection.

Melbourne-base Huppert’s letter:

Dear Mr Morrison

Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison

We are writing on behalf of the Australian members of B’nai B’rith Australia and New Zealand who wish to express their grave and growing concern about current Australian immigration policies relating to the indefinite and prolonged detention of asylum seekers who have arrived in Australian waters by boat. We note that as at 31 December 2013, 5,660 asylum seekers were in closed detention facilities in Australia of whom 1,028 were children.

We are particularly disturbed about the removal of asylum seekers and their children to offshore locations. Australia ratified the U.N.Refugee Convention over sixty years ago and thereby took responsibility for the protection of asylum seekers irrespective of their mode of arrival on our shores. They have a right to our protection yet we have outsourced these responsibilities to other sovereign governments with very limited capacity and resources to undertake them on our behalf.

We note that as at 31 December, there were 1,229 asylum seekers sent by the Government of Australia to Manus Island; 838 were sent to Nauru of whom 116 were under the age of 18. The more recent removal to Nauru of 10 unaccompanied minors who arrived by boat is evidence of the determination of the government to implement policies without regard for evidence of the long term negative impacts that indefinite detention in offshore locations has on children. We are outraged that there is no provision for independent oversight or monitoring of the conditions under which asylum seekers are being detained or the impact of detention on their wellbeing.

We are also very concerned about the withholding of information from the Australian public about asylum seekers; specifically there has been a decline in transparency regarding:

details of boat arrivals – numbers, origin, age, details concerning the return of asylum seekers to transit countries and countries of origin;
details of bilateral agreements with offshore states where asylum seekers are being held including measures taken to protect the security, physical and mental wellbeing of asylum seekers;

information both to the Australian public and to the asylum seekers themselves about strategies and progress towards processing their claims to asylum and determining their refugee status.

We maintain that withholding such information is not in the public interest and is contrary to our Australian democratic values of liberty, fairness and rule of law.

Internationally, B’nai B’rith is committed to upholding human rights – for over 170 years, the organisation has actively engaged in defending the principles of social justice and equity. We have been and continue to be proud of Australia’s compassionate support for refugee settlement and of Australia’s past record in living up to its responsibilities and commitments by protecting persons fleeing from persecution.

We believe that current policies are extreme and harsh; they discourage and challenge the right of the persecuted to seek asylum in Australia and have resulted in recent images of desperation and fear on Manus Island. These images are most disturbing.

B’nai B’rith Australia/New Zealand would like to place on record its opposition to current policies and stand up on behalf of asylum seekers whose voices cannot be heard in the current highly charged policy environment.

This letter seeks to urge the Government to review policies and return to full commitment to our responsibilities under the Refugee Convention. In the words of Edmund Burke:

“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”

Janice Huppert
Senior Vice President
B’nai B’rith Australia/New Zealand


10 Responses to “A letter to Scott Morrison”
  1. Paul Winter says:

    As a long-time member of B’nai B’rith, I reject Janice Huppert’s letter.

    Australia has an obligation to asylum seekers, but not to economic invaders who abuse the highly commendable humanitarian treaty to which Australia is a signatory. Just today, the SMH carries an article about the Iranian Kurd who died in the riot on Manus Island. He was an unemployed architect who wanted to come to Australia to find work.

    The “progressive” stance of let them come, our doors are open is great in principle, but not in the real world. Seeing what has taken place in Europe, where Jews are attacked by “asylum seekers”, should give pause for thought. Further, the cry of “there is no queue” is a flat out lie; the UNHCR has millions of people in camps waiting for resettlement (and here the desperate plight of the Nuba people facing extermination in Sudan comes to mind). Why should moneyed people get to the head of the queue, especially when they are already in a place of first asylum a place to which they flew legally, departed without exit visas and arrive in Australian waters without any documentation.

    Using the experience of Jews fleeing Europe denigrates their experiences. Sure there was some funny business then, but once they were safe, they didn’t engage in country shopping; that’s why there are Jews in the most unlikely places such as in Central America. And yes, children are a concern, but once they are safe in Indonesia, which caring parent would risk the life of their child on a leaky boat?

    Stop playing games B’nai B’rith. I am a Shoah survivor with experience as a refugee and your letter is most certainly not in my name!

    • Graham Dent says:

      Paul, Sam, Otto and others with similar views

      Your comments are full of anger and resentment and with respect also show a profound lack of knowledge of:

      – the conditions of those who seek asylum, both in the country they flee, and in “staging posts” along the way such as Indonesia and Malaysia.
      – the reality of the “queue”;
      – the legal rights and status of refugees under international conventions to which Australia is a signatory.

      I think Janice’s letter on behalf of B’nai B’rith is a timely, entirely appropriate and a great letter. That she clearly had the support of the board of B’nai B’rith to write on its behalf is also a huge positive. The letter is what I would want, hope for and expect from the Jewish community.

      Looking back in time I suppose the current Australian government would consider people like Raoul Wallenberg, if he was a contemporaneous figure, a people smuggler ? But no, he has been long honoured by the Jewish community and rightly so, so far be it for any Australian Government to criticise such a courageous and righteous man. It was therefore I believe somewhat ironic and hypocritical that under Julia Gillard he became Australia’s first honorary citizen – strongly supported by Tony Abbott.

      Ok, some current people smugglers do so for greed and profit – but if a person does the right thing (aiding genuine refugees – for the “wrong” reasons – does that make the ultimate act of saving refugees in itself “illegal”.

      As for payments of money to escape their homelands ?? Are you seriously suggesting that:

      (1) financial status has anything to do with whether a person is desperate, in fear of their life and being persecuted or not? Under international law and common sense it does not.

      (2) that Jews fleeing Germany – Austria or other occupied territories never had to pay bribes and meet various demands for payment to facilitate their escape from persecution?

      As for Indonesia – it is not a signatory to the refugee convention and refugees are not permitted to work and their children cannot attend schools – there is no social welfare payments (as in Malaysia) – I am curious as to exactly how they might be expected to survive, and also to allow their children to languish for years and years without education or socialisation – other than to work illegally for a pittance and in fear of being returned to their country of origin – which itself is a breach of the conventions.

      I am amazed at the lack of understanding and lack of compassion from some Australian Jews – many who surely must trace their origins here to their families fleeing as refugees at some point in the past.

      And by the way, I am not a Jew, but I married a wonderful Jewish woman and have 2 beautiful Jewish children.

      I hope those who have commented with fury against refugees can do a little more research and also search their hearts and perhaps reconsider their positions.

      Kind regards


      • Otto Waldmann says:

        I feel the need to repeat my position that relevance to the points raised is essential.
        You are objecting to what I said while, in fact, you are not AT ALL addressing the points I made and bask in the glory of “replies” which are completely irrelevant.
        I mentioned from the outset that analogies with OTHER , quite distinct, historic events cannot be a part of our discussion. As I said “other” and “distinct” I have defined the reasons.
        You and so many like you carry on completely oblivious of what is being said in respect to the LEGALITY of Australian Govt’s position. The “humanitarian” arguments, the high horse moralistic posturing cannot change the considerations I mentioned. This does NOT make the position I support inhumane or unethical. Lines must be drawn and categories addressed without irrelevant digressions.
        Personally I left some 44 years ago a poilitical system as a refugee of sorts, finding solice and , indeed refuge, in a country which I regarded my own, as distinct from the one I was born in. Yet my own situation was incredibly distinct from what we are dealing here with in regards to ILLEGAL attempts at entering Australia.
        Your statistics are important, but in dealing with them , a resposible, convention signatory Australia is officially doing the right thing. NO relevant international body is accusing Australia of any of the stuff you and all other advocates of farcical immigration “causes” accuse Australia of.
        Otherwise, I wish you and your family all the best.


      • Paul Winter says:

        The issue is not anger, respect intolerance or any of the smear labels that bleeding hearts apply to stop debate because they are on the moral pedestal they have erected for themselves.

        The issues are:
        -the situation of the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers is nothing like that of Jews fleeing
        -there is a queue and it is both false and cruel to allow those who are less affluent and in greater danger to languish while pushy types go sanctuary shopping
        -if the asylum seekers were genuine, they would not arrive in the country of first asylum with documentation and depart without them. When I left Hungary I picked up documents at a police station in Vienna and that little A5 sheet of paper carried my visa to Australia.

        I object to people abusing the West’s humanitarianism and with bleeding hearts pleading for every fad de jure on the basis not of their experience, but mine.

        • Otto Waldmann says:

          Paul, the very last phrase regarding the “appropriation” of one’s experience is just so perfect !!!
          Good onya !!!

  2. Sam says:

    I am in full agreement with Otto Waldman. If these people want to come into this country, then do it by legal means the same way I and others did, or stay where you are. Clearly the way they are attempting entry, shows they have no claim to be here.

    We do not have the financial means of caring for our own, so we don’t need people trying to enter the country illegally. It is a proven fact these people are not asylum seekers, they are economic refugees, whose country has asked them not to leave.

    The very fact they have to money to FLY to Indonesia and then pay hefty sums of money to ‘people smugglers’ shows how desperate they are ..not.

    If they are genuine, then they should stay in Indonesia which is the first port of call and according to international law as I see it, that is where they should stay.

    Besides the fact Indonesia is a Muslim country and they would be more welcome there than her.

    Let them join the queue and not displace thousands of people elsewhere who have been legally waiting for years in refugee camps.

  3. Otto Waldmann says:

    Dear Janice

    You address and attack our Australian Government on behalf of people who are most obviously not approaching immigration to Australia through legal methods, people you have absolutely NO IDEA what security profile they represent ( and children are in the same boat, as they do not make their own arrangements for attempting to enter Australia illegally ).
    Under the “universal” notion of “humanity’ and care, you, on behalf of B’nai Brith, are simply aiding the farcical arguments of proffessional immigration activists with specific agendas(immigration agents/lawyers ) and certain politcal parties ( Greens in particular ) in intentional defiance of our laws and national security policies.

    Please do not attempt to draw any analogies with any other historic events, in particular Jewish linked refugee cases. It will not help your cause/case !!!

    • Otto,I don’t think you read the same letter I did. Whilst there does need to be an orderly way to correctly assess and process asylum seekers, there is nothing illegal about seeking asylum. This fact has been shared repeatedly but it seems there are those who just do not wish to acknowledge its truth.

      Also, why is it that the Australian Government has abdicated its responsibility towards these people and refuses to allow the public to know ANYTHING about what is going on? Surely letting the public know how many asylum seekers have been returned and the number of children in detention is not going to negatively affect our ‘sovereign borders’. The lack of transparency and accountability should be frightening to any Australian.

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        Catherine, let’s introduce a bit of order, accuracy and, indeed, rationale in what you intend to convey.
        1. My/our issue is not the legality of “seeking asylum” but the method used in “seekig asylum”.
        2. “Asylum seeking” must be defined by a number of factors all contingent on the qualification for asylum.
        3. Australia does NOT have any responsibility toward any person who intends to enter Australia by illegal methods and, even more so , a person outside Australia’s teritorial mandatory obligations to care.
        If anyone cries from atop the highest peak in Bangladesh that he/she wants to become an Australian, our state has no responsibilities at all for that person. Same goes if the same person manages to inch closer to his/her Australian dream and makes the same claim from a fishing village on the Indonesian coast and, just as well while boarding a leaking dingy destination the object of his/her cries.
        There is no lack of transparency and/or accountability. What certain people dislike is that the “accounting” side of these stories are on the negative side of the ledger as far as the recent successes of those who would love Austrlia to become responsibile for their plans of entering this country as they please and as it breaks our laws.
        No one will benefit from hoisting the rag of guilt for the elementary expectations of civic and, indeed ethical responsibility of safeguarding the rule of law.

  4. Great letter.
    Thank you Janice.

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