Racist immigration policy claims more victims
by Marcus Browning Add to the long list of human rights abuses by the Howard Government two more lives — two women asylum seekers who drowned in Australian waters off Ashmore Reef when the boat they were in caught fire and sank. Prime Minister Howard and Immigration Minister Ruddock leaped with glee at the opportunity to whip up some fear and hatred about refugees just one day before the federal election. Howard read a report from the Navy on radio to try and lend credence to his and Ruddock's claim that the refugees themselves started the fire. Ruddock was soon after backing down from his accusations: "Certainly the Defence people have a view it might have been deliberately lit, but presumably it could have been from trying to cut the fuel line on a hot engine." Naming the Australian Navy as its source, on October 7 the Government accused asylum seekers of throwing their children overboard from a ship that was taking water. It has now been revealed that the Navy did not tell them the children were thrown overboard. A Navy video of the incident, that the Government reluctantly made public — their alleged ironclad proof — also did not show children being thrown over the side. There is no question that there were people in the water, abandoning a sinking vessel after a navy gunship had fired across its path. The Government also used the incident to keep the ball rolling on their smear campaign to link the refugees to terrorism. So, when Howard was asked if the people coming to Australia under such dangerous conditions were in fact fleeing oppressive regimes, he worked the angles: "Some of them would undoubtedly fall into that category. Others may not and that is our very point." He said there was "no guarantee" that there weren't terrorists on board the boats. Greens Senator Bob Brown said that the Government must apologise to the nation for its misleading statements. "The public have been deceived, asylum seekers vilified, and the navy misrepresented by the actions of the nation's most senior representatives", he said. Senator Brown called for independent observers on naval vessels intercepting asylum seeker boats. The children overboard beat-up was followed by the drowning of 353 mainly Iraqi refugees bound for Australia. All are the victims of the Government's racist refugee policies.