ben moretti on Thu, 18 Jul 2002 10:38:59 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The Worst of Woomera - Part 3: Illegals?

by Dave McKay (as related by Cherry McKay and Robin and Christine Dunn) email:


In the end, the Easter demonstrators felt that the only thing they could morally
do was to help the escapees in their desperate attempts to cross the hundreds
of kilometres of desert between Woomera and relative safety. Demonstrators and
escapees headed off in several directions with minimal supplies, most of them
almost certain to be caught and charged with escaping or with aiding and abetting
escape from lawful custody. 

But would their actions be any different to the escapes that these people had
already made from their homelands? Was their custody any more lawful than the
custody that they fled from in order to get here? 

Phillip Ruddock stubbornly refers to asylum seekers as "illegals". Yet Australia
is a signatory to the U.N. Convention on Refugee Rights, which states that any
human being has the right to seek asylum in another country. They are not illegal
at all. We may eventually find that some do not qualify as refugees, but even
then, they are not illegals. They had a right to ask. 

If anything is illegal, it is their continued forced detention. 

Keeping track of people while their papers are processed is legitimate behaviour
by any government. But years of punishment and humiliation in prisons that are
falsely labelled "reception centres" is not justified. In trying to "make examples"
of these innocent people, we have put ourselves on the same level as the regimes
that they have run away from. 


Marshall's father, a former intelligence officer for Savak, was jailed in 1978,
held for seventeen years for opposing the Iranian Government, and released under
house arrest in 1995. 

For five years, Marshall sought a way to escape, hoping to become a Christian
when he was safely out of the country. 

In late February, 2000, using a forged passport, and assisted by a cousin who
worked for the airlines, he boarded an Iran Air flight to Malaysia, and then
caught a boat to Darwin. His cousin was subsequently sacked for his part in
the escape. The cousin later disappeared, and has not been heard of or from
since. He is believed to have been killed for aiding in Marshall's escape. 

In Australia, Marshall was refused a visa because he cannot prove beyond any
doubt that the man imprisoned for 17 years is really his father, and because
he did not openly convert to Christianity before leaving Iran. (Conversion to
Christianity is punishable by death in Iran.) 

Muslims and Christians, prisoners and wardens all sing the praises of Marshall,
who spreads hope and cheer wherever he goes... a result of his faith. "Life
is beautiful," he says. "I must enjoy each day here, because when I get back
to Iran, I will be dead." And a silent tear forms through his brave smile. 

All pleas for mercy have so far failed. Marshall will almost certainly be sent
back to his death. 

ben moretti

(*)/ (*)

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