Posted by sankho (126.96.36.199) on November 12, 2001 at 18:37:03:
In Reply to: redneck accountant responds to nakosha posted by sankho on November 12, 2001 at 18:28:47:
>>Vicious remarks....I don't recall any from OUR side, but from the Government's I do.... mums throwing their children overboard--an "absolute fact".....what more can I say?
Refugees' image tainted, says UN
By KERRY TAYLOR
AND IAN MUNRO
Friday 9 November 2001
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says an independent assessment should be made of claims that asylum seekers threw children overboard, saying it is alarming that their characters might have been tainted without foundation.
UNHCR regional representative Michel Gabaudan yesterday also expressed dismay that the plight of asylum seekers had been made a federal election issue.
His comments came after the Federal Government was yesterday forced to release naval video footage of the incident that occurred on October 7. The footage showed people entering the water but was inconclusive about whether any were children and naval chief Vice Admiral David Shackleton later also cast doubt over the incident.
"It is alarming if attacks on the character of asylum seekers are later to be found without foundation," Mr Gabaudan said. "The UNHCR would welcome an independent assessment about the recent allegations."
Greens Senator Bob Brown, who has opposed the government and Opposition Leader's hardline stance against asylum seekers, yesterday called on Mr Howard to allow media access to the boat people involved in the October 7 incident and for naval advice over the incident to be released.
Former head of the Immigration Department John Menadue and refugee advocates yesterday said the government had sought to demonise asylum seekers by making such allegations without conclusive proof. "It's become part of a policy to demonise refugees ... it's the first step to being able to treat them inhumanely," he said.
Mr Menadue said the government's hardline stance was clearly not working.
Refugee advocate Marion Le said the government had acted despicably over the incident. "Mr Ruddock and Mr Reith demonised these particular people by seeking to show they were somehow less than human by saying they threw their children overboard," she said. "That to me is despicable. There are no means, no way of knowing what went on out there."
United Nations Association of Australia president Margaret Reynolds said asylum seekers had been political footballs during the election campaign and the incident of October 7 highlighted how boat people had been used.
"They (the government) made statements without clear evidence in front of them ... they were happy to because it supported their view," Ms Reynolds said.
Outspoken WA senator Ross Lightfoot said the video evidence did not change his view and he stood by his earlier comments that the asylum seekers involved were "uninvited and repulsive people".
He said he was not persuaded by comments from Union of Christmas Island Workers secretary Gordon Thomson, that he could vouch for witnesses who claim navy sailors said that children were not thrown overboard.
A UNHCR spokeswoman last night said the organisation had decided not to process the asylum seekers - who have been taken to Papua New Guinea - as it was a matter for the Australian Government to work out.
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