The Guardian April 12, 2000


Kosovas used, abused, deported

It was with great media fanfare and political hype that Kosovo refugees 
from the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia were brought to Australia last year. 
"Operation Safe Haven" was Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock's special 
propaganda project last May, accompanied by the setting up of a Kosovo Safe 
Haven Media Centre and media interviews with selected refugees.

These displaced people were milked for all they were worth by the publicity 
machine. They were then locked away in camps, given a few prisoner 
privileges and would have been totally ignored by the Government and the 
media but for their protest actions against their treatment.

The Government is now going to force them to go back, deported regardless 
of the circumstances they will face in Yugoslavia.

Around 100 of the refugees have refused to leave and have gone on a hunger 
strike. Another 81 who took their case to the High Court have had their 
request to stay denied.

One man expressed their predicament, saying he was going back to "no house, 
no money, nothing".

The Government is refusing to allow those Kosovas who wish to stay in 
Australia to apply through the normal processes.

Ruddock is all-powerful, having given himself the ultimate say in 
legislation which was rushed through Parliament before the Kosovas arrived.

Under the legislation:

* The Minister's decision to cancel or refuse extensions of a safe haven 
visa can occur at any time and is not subject to any form of review appeal;

* Despite the fact that Australia is obliged to offer protection to any 
people on our soil who meet the definition of a refugee under the Refugee 
Convention, the Kosovas are not allowed to use Australia's independent 
legal processes which have been established to test claims of refugee 
status;

* Any claim by a Kosova seeking protection under the Refugee Convention 
relies solely on the discretionary judgement of the Immigration Minister, 
with no right of appeal.

The Minister is specifically exempted under the legislation from even being 
required to follow natural justice.

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