MELBOURNE, June 28 — Chinese immigrants have become the longest-held group in Australian immigration detention centres, according to Victoria Green Party spokesman on refugees Peter Job, speaking with Blue Skies China today. And the discrimination of Chinese immigrants is a direct result of the economic relationship Australia seeks with China, he said.
Job’s comments come as Australian prime minister John Howard told China it would honour its liquefied natural gas (LNG) contract price commitments, under pressure from Australian investors to push for higher prices (story here).
Shenzhen terminal near Hong Kong received its second shipment of LNG from Australia yesterday, after a trial run last month – and oil has risen from US$25 a barrel to more than US$70 since the LNG deal was struck in 2002.
Job said this was a typical example where “here in Australia the government is doing everything it can to butter up the Chinese government” and that its treatement of those seeking asylum from China would reflect that.
Job gave the example a Chinese couple who had been in detention four years. “The wife now was recently diagnosed with stomach cancer – we felt that would lead to her immediate release, on health grounds,” said Job. “But instead, they’ve moved the couple to a ‘community housing’ project, which is still like incarceration. They’re effectively under house arrest.”
Job is aware of 15 Chinese asylum seekers who have been in detention in Australia for over two years – overall it is by far the longest-serving community.
A law was recently passed which would have given a new type of visa to those in detention for more than two years. “But for some reason, the Chinese have been largely missed by that process,” Job said.
Job says he does not support any detention period in Australia. “Given our record of treating them badly, we should not be detaining them,” he says, referring to appalling conditions revelaed at the South Australian Baxter facility. In publicising the plight of the refugees at the centre, Job told the story of a Chinese man who had been suffering from severe stomach problems for almost a year and who claimed his requests for proper treatment have not been listened to. “Last week, he was vomiting blood, but says his request to see a doctor was ignored. Finally, in frustration, he broke a window,” said Job.
There are 39 Chinese in the Baxter Detention Centre facility and 128 in Villawood. Baxter is operating at only 300 of its 700-detainee capacity.
There are a number of inmates have developed stomach problems, yet been refused medical treatment, Job claims.
“In Sweden, for example, they’re detained two months, they are given lawyers, they are given medical treatment, information, they can talk to the media, they have the internet. In Australia, the Chinese have been given no rights, no legal representation, no internet access.”