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Australians Mark World Refugee Day

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TEHRAN, June 19 (ICANA) – Thousands turned out to demand an end to Australia's policy of mandatory immigration detention.
Sunday, June 19, 2011 11:19:25 PM
Australians Mark World Refugee Day

Australia is among few countries that automatically incarcerate asylum seekers and in general all who enter the country without having a valid visa. They will be stay behind the bars while their visa applications are under process. This can take several months and even years.

“Scaremongering” is what some speakers call this policy. Both sides of Parliament have been vocal in their desire to deter asylum seekers from coming to Australia and both support mandatory detention - a policy introduced under former premier John Howard and maintained by each successive Labor government.

The protest coincides with 60th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention. Australia has failed to meet its obligations, protesters here are demanding an immediate implementation of the Convention, and the Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, both of which Australia is a signatory.

There are almost 7000 people, 1000 of which are children, currently detained in Australian mainland and offshore detention centers. Despite promises that 90% of claims would be processed within 90 days, the average period of imprisonment exceeds 200 days.

Prolonged mandatory detention has led to many incidents of self-harm, lasting psychological trauma and suicide. There have been five separate incidents of suicide on Australian detention centers in less than a year and reports of tens of suicide attempts.

Australia's recent proposal to process asylum seekers in Malaysia has also come under attack. Rally organizers say that any assurances the Australian government might give of better treatment in Malaysia for Australian-origin refugees are meaningless.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen plans to deport 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia as early as next week.

A number of speakers reiterated that it is a right of any person to seek asylum and by any means. By marking the 60th anniversary of the refugee convention, protesters are calling on their government to ensure that the rights of asylum seekers are not violated.

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