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Federal

Jan 30, 2014

Ex-Immigration officer: is there asylum seeker blood on my hands?

Lauren Smith saw the Department of Immigration's handling of asylum seeker cases from the inside. Now free from the bureaucracy, she wonders whether she should have spoken up.

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Why did ordinary men participate in the killing process during the Holocaust? This essay question in a university subject put me on the path that I am on today. I have travelled the world analysing the behaviour of people involved in war.

People react differently to war. A range of emotions take over:  anger, pain, grief, loss, sadness, frustration and denial. But in every person I have seen fear. Then I have heard blame: someone else is responsible for these killings.

Usually, the people I am talking to do not feel responsible, including the perpetrators. People on all sides believe they are “the goodies” and that their actions were justified: the perpetrators, the victims, the bystanders.

And I was the same when confronted with being involved in the war on refugees. Believing I was doing a “good” job helping support people escaping war, I took work with the protection visa section of the Department of Immigration. I was providing administrative support to people determining who was a “genuine” refugee and who was not. Our team was determining which “boat people” could stay in the safety of Australia and who would be returned.

Shortly after joining this section I realised that the Australian government and some of my colleagues were seriously endangering innocent people by returning them to unsafe countries.

Throughout all of this I convinced myself that it was not my fault, I wanted to do good things but couldn’t. I blamed everyone else — I blamed the government, I blamed the officers. I blamed the Australian public for electing the government.

In May 2013, I went to Christmas Island; an experience that began to unravel my comforting alibis. I began to understand my participation in these callous and life threatening processes. I was there to organise screening interviews for Sri Lankan clients. Many of these clients were poor fisherman, coming to Australia as they would die of starvation if they stayed in Sri Lanka.

As they were viewed as “economic refugees”, the government saw an opportunity to send a strong message: they were not wanted in Australia. A secret process was created: enhanced screening. This denied these asylum seekers access to legal representation and proper protection during interviews. The aim was simply to send them back as quickly as possible. Sri Lanka is one of few countries to which Australia has the right to forcibly return asylum seekers. This opportunity was seized, ignoring much evidence that, for these asylum seekers, a return to Sri Lanka could imperil their lives.

In the north of Sri Lanka, there is still mass corruption and discrimination. This is affecting people’s livelihoods and starving desperate fisherman. These “economic refugees” are still imperilled by war’s prejudicial aftermath. I saw starving mothers holding newborn babies come off these boats. No matter what anyone says, there must be very serious reasons why they had risked their lives and the lives of their children to come to Australia. Their starvation was directly linked to the political climate of their country. However, Australia refuses to recognise this as a valid reason to claim refuge. So we returned these people, very possibly to die.

For a while I continued to delude myself that this wasn’t my fault. I didn’t make these decisions, the protection visa officers did. These people, these Sri Lankans, chose to take this journey. They understood the risk. And if they didn’t understand, the “people smuggler” did. The people smugglers were surely to blame.

However, the day I returned from Christmas Island I was told 28 life jackets had washed up on the shores of Cocos Island, an Australian island. Some 28 Iranian refugees had been killed in Australian waters.

I was devastated to learn this, but I begun to put together the pieces of the puzzle. For a week while I was on Christmas Island, I had been waiting for that boat to arrive on shore, so we could assess their claims for asylum. Hearing the news they had died sent me into a state of shock. I realised it was not the dangerous journey or the people smugglers that had killed these people, it was we Australians.

“We knew for a week they were close to our shores, we were constantly monitoring them, and we let them die.”

We knew for a week they were close to our shores, we were constantly monitoring them, and we let them die. We knew they were in trouble, and we chose not to save them. Furthermore, this was published in the newspaper, and Australian citizens just ignored the fact that our government believed it had the right to choose who lives or dies.

As I grappled with the seriousness of the situation, I had to ask myself some tough questions. Could I justify continuing to work for this department? I finally realised that although my intentions were good, my involvement had implicated me in these deaths.

Ultimately, I chose to leave the department rather than to continue to implement policies that: sent people back to their homelands risking their death; allowed people to drown in Australian and Indonesian waters; and detained people indefinitely in harsh conditions, with limited access to water, food and medical treatment. Unequivocally, we Australians are causing severe mental and physical harm to fellow human beings.

In the American justice system, if you witness a crime and do nothing to try and stop it, you are guilty by association. However, Australians do not have this obligation. This perplexes me, as the legal system should be a reflection of our morals and values. Protecting the vulnerable in society should not be choice but a moral obligation. In the end, if you do not help save someone’s life, you are, in some measure, responsible for their death.

Amid all the proud flag-waving this Australia Day weekend, I was unable to raise my flag. I did not feel comfortable celebrating the current pain Australia is causing other human beings and I know I was not alone.

Many Australians cannot frankly face the implications of our governments’ policies that deny others’ human rights and terrorise vulnerable people seeking our help. But we pretend we are not involved, that we do not know what is happening or we deny responsibility.

Every Sunday, Catholics like Tony Abbot attend church to remember Jesus’ life and his struggle to spread peace and stop unnecessary suffering. On Anzac Day we remember all those who have died at war and we say “lest we forget”. However, we appear to have forgotten what it means — that we should not forget the past: that people have died in many wars to help bring peace.

We can remember our past and learn from it, we can remember our journeys and celebrate our achievements. And, living in the present, we can forgive past mistakes and commit to not repeat them. When we see a problem we should try to resolve it quickly so it does not escalate into a crisis and harm us or others.

A civilisation is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable. I fear Australia has been found guilty of crimes against humanity, and no one seems able to talk about it, to reflect on what is being done.

If someone is in trouble it is our responsibility to help them out. We should not let people drown at sea; we should bring them safely to our shores. Once here, they should not be left to languish in interminable limbo, but helped to get on with their lives and to contribute meaningfully to Australia, like so many migrants who have come before them.

*Lauren Smith worked as an administration officer for the Department of Immigration. She now works in refugee support services, and is the co-founder of non-profit group Learning & Ideas for Tibet. She is calling for signatures on a Change.org petition to protest government policy.

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59 thoughts on “Ex-Immigration officer: is there asylum seeker blood on my hands?

  1. Chris noname

    Russ – Banal comments about trolls and nutters and again not a solitary comment of debate as to why we have permitted 50,000 Illegal Immigrants [of which 80% – 40,000 are young single uneducated males] into this magnificent country of ours built by people who started with very little and build it into the most magnificent Country.
    We are now admitting a large group of people who will have great difficulty in assimilating and have been given nothing but hand outs – Who I going to give them a job ? and just to top it the highest area of unemployment is the young Australian male and the highest suicide rate – try thinking about that for a few more facts -Thanks, facts speak for themselves.

  2. Russ Hunter

    The nutters can be amusing. Then there are the trolls to deal with who are intentionally peddling garbage, which is another level of wrong. I think a nutter would be more likely to put their name to their work.

    I’m a little suprised that either inhabit Crikey, but there you go.

  3. AR

    Once nutters wrote their poison pen and obsessive rants with green & red ink with underlining. The modern version, as haters like noname go in for apparently random caPitaL letTers and use words like ‘sin’ and calls for saving kiddiewinks.

  4. Chris noname

    Russ – The comments I make are absolutely true and well researched – Yet you in your wisdom you choose to ignore the facts and personalise the discussion – Believe me you and your children and grandchildren will rue the day YOU did not stand up for the right thing for Our country and Our rights and Our People – There is no hate in my thoughts just a great and grieving sadness that there are those who do not understand the greatest sin – “The Sin of Omission” and who do not stand up and do the right thing for themselves, their friends, and above all their country. . . and let a flood of illegal immigrants flood our country while breaking all the international laws of Immigration and jumping the line of true refugees patiently waiting their turn – Its disgraceful we are creating further problems by not standing up for Our Country and our People . . .

  5. Russ Hunter

    You are an angry piece of work Mr No-name. Do you feel better now? You do realize vitriolic diatribes are wasted here. You might have more luck in the hate media where you obviously gained all of your worldviews.

  6. Chris noname

    Lauren – I am sad you have gone to the place you did by taking on the views you have – THE BEST THING YOU COULD HAVE DONE WAS PROTEST AS THIS MASSIVE FLOOD YOU WERE DEALING WITH WHEN THE LABOR GREENS OPENED THE DOOR TO THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. – 7 YEARS WE PUT UP WITH THIS FLOOD AND RUDD AND GILLARD SHOULD BE PUT ON TRIAL FOR THEIR HORENDOUS INHUMAN POLICIES WHICH HAVE CAUSED 1000’S OF DEATHS AND INCARSERATIONS [WHICH THE PRESENT LABOR PARTY ARE STILL GOING ALONG WITH] – – Lauren YOU and countless OTHERS have had to bear the brunt of this horrendous Labor Green policy and Rudd and Gillard are globe trotting and getting massive pensions a GOVERNMENT CAR AND DRIVER AND OFFICE FULLY PAID FOR BY TAX PAYERS – and you and I left to pay the taxes for this . . . unbelievable

  7. Chris noname

    In case some people are not aware there are approximately 43 000,000 million refugees in the world – the 50,000 illegal immigrants arriving here are not refugees – they had enough money to fly or travel to Indonesia [as their boarder laws are much less tight than ours] and have bribed Indonesian fishermen to bring them to Australia
    We have spent 12 BILLION dollars on processing, building accommodation and feeding and paying them [they get more than pensioners – they clothing schooling medical and all sorts of other benefits – and our hospitals, schools and infrastructure all need funds – one example is we could have built12 suburban railway systems for the money we have wasted on handling the flood of illegal immigration . . .

  8. Chris noname

    Chilla – I read your email with such sadness that you would destroy our culture and our country which our previous generations built with all their blood sweat and tears from nothing but the bush – and your views on letting illegal law breakers in on the basis of them having enough money to bribe Indonesian fishermen to bring them here – This flood of illegal immigrant people will continue to break all our culture and law abiding rules and this mindset will put us and our children and grandchildren further into poverty which the Labor/Greens have started us onto with the $400 Billion debt that we will battle to pay off – Imagine the feeling our children and grandchildren will have for us having got them into such debt financially and culturally . a sad sad day that we accept law breakers as our immigrants with nothing to bring but their selfishness . . .

  9. Chilla Bulbeck

    Thanks Lauren for writing this piece and for your long struggle in the Immigration Department to work with humanity for other humans.
    As you say, we all stand condemned by what we allow our government to do in our names without sufficient protest.

  10. Russ Hunter

    I like to give people the benefit of the doubt they are not trolls, often against my better judgement.

    I think you will find you are wasting your time on Crikey. Most people here have a brain. You could always try and get your money back.

  11. Ian

    Jimmyhaz,

    “Howard realised it was an easy way to grab the votes of xenophobes.”

    What really troubles me though is that there are so many xenophobes… and also why so many that are not do nothing. I mean they continue to vote Labor in spite of its joining the race to the bottom.

  12. Jimmyhaz

    I think what those on the left actually want is a system whereby those in need are granted asylum. The system in place has absolutely nothing to do with the Australian left, and everything to do with the situation in the countries of origin for the asylum seekers.

    You’ve had it explained to you a few times now, we would have no idea whether or not asylum seeking boats have attempted to land in Australia, and boats that are towed past the Australian maritime border count as having arrived. Also, this ‘trade’ has been ongoing since the Vietnamese war, far before the previous Labor government, and their is nothing illegal about seeking asylum.

    This would be much easier if you would stop painting broad generalisations about the Australian left (something that I’m half-convinced is completely made up, given the public dialogue), and realised that we have been successfully integrating asylum seekers into our society for more than three decades, the ‘problems’ only started once Howard realised it was an easy way to grab the votes of xenophobes.

  13. Russ Hunter

    There you go at it again on this “left” business, Sean. Much easier than confronting our current behaviour. I imagine it helps you sleep better at night. Or perhaps you have your own agenda.

    Just to clarify, it is blowing the asylum seeker issue out of all proportion to chase the racist vote that is a low, low act by the lowest form of politician. Breeding more hate and racism in the process and taking your country backwards.

    Asylum seekers shouldn’t even be a major issue in this country.

  14. AR

    isn’t it amazing the way certain subjects bring out the real haters, like flies to shit? Apparently new ones, Tisme & (deservedly)noname, have the bile prebottled – wonder who they really are, thinking of previous trolls who once infested Crikey.

  15. Sean Tisme

    Russ,

    What those on the left want is Humanitarian Visas by eBay Auction system… those who pay the most get a spot and those who don’t have the money miss out. It is a very cruel unfair system setup by the left which doesn’t take in the validity of the applicants claims, their suitability for this country, their waiting time or anything else… just how fat their wallet is.

    And I am delighted… absolutely delighted to see Scott Morrison after 6 Years of Labor thumbs up bums, to actually shut this nasty and cruel trade down once and for. No il1egal boats now for 43 Days and counting folks.. now that’s a success!

  16. Russ Hunter

    Sean,

    There is no justification for flouting our moral imperatives under the UN Refugee Convention; there is no justification for the secrecy; there is no justification for breaking people in concentration camps. That is the starting point on this issue. And to do all this in the name of votes is a low, low act that should not be tolerated in Australia.

    Chris, if you believe what you say you should put your name to it.

  17. Chris noname

    Please give us all a break – this emotional waff is exactly what the Illegal immigrants are seeking to help them in – They are illegally arriving because their countries are in such a shambles – The best remedy is go there and help them out instead of wanting to bring the problem here – We already have enough of our own problems since Rudd and Gillard nearly destroyed the country by removing previous sensible policies and have left us with a whole legacy of massive debt and an ‘entitlement’ dependent section of our population. Please wake up to the real world . . .

  18. Susan Felsch

    A quote I took from last nights ABC 1 Program ’88’ –
    “ALL IT TAKES IS GOOD PEOPLE TO DO NOTHING FOR INJUSTICE TO FLOURISH”.
    To me this quote says it all for what is happening in Australia now!

  19. Sean Tisme

    Russ,

    There are lots of people in refugee camps waiting for resettlement, why should humanitarian visas be on a highest bidder wins model?

  20. Sean Tisme

    [“Sean Tisne – the Coalition haven’t “stopped the boats”, they have just stopped reporting them. “]

    A silly conspiracy theory by the left that doesn’t cut the mustard. We are told of all arrivals, every week, by the Operation Sovereign Borders website(google it)

    [“And to those who question the legitimacy and motives of asylum seekers, tell me that you wouldn’t do the same thing if the situation was reversed…”]

    Billions of people would love to live Australia given the chance, but it’s simply not a valid reason for illegally entering our country and our government must do everything within their power to control our borders.

    [Next, turn your mind to morality: think about what’s right and wrong.]

    It is totally against my morals to jump the queue on others… and it is completely and totally against my morals and values that someone should happen to steal a spot and jump the queue based on their wealth being greater than someone much more in need and who has waited longer, legally applied, in a diseased hell hole of a refugee camp somewhere. That offends me greatly.

    What the left have basically done with their little boatpeople experiment for the last 6 Years is have a “highest bidder wins” system for refugee visas… if you have the most money you get in… if you have little to no money, your spot gets taken by those with more money. Might as well sell Australian Humanitarian Visas on an eBay Auction.

    Now what sort of morality is THAT?

  21. Jimmyhaz

    Yes, the monolithic entity of ‘the left’, the being that is so all-powerful there is not one government in the western hemisphere any further over than centre-right. How can ‘the left’ be responsible for any of this when their are about 10 federal MP’s that are on that side of the fence?

    But you have shown us the way, clearly we should follow the far-right LNP’s example on self-reflection and accountability by not allowing any media whatsoever to cross-examine us on issues we choose to play close to the chest.

  22. AR

    Just to get Godwin out of the way straight off, what will we say when the future asks why we were silent & voted for the true iniquity of our governments’ actions – at least the last 3 or 4, not forgetting a craven & complicit Opposition under Bumbler Beezle!
    Nuremberg or Lord Acton, or Thomas More, Qui tacet consentire videtur – “to remain silent is to agree”.

  23. Russ Hunter

    Sean, rather than resorting to lame labels and generalizations about the “left”, you should make an attempt at human empathy: try putting yourself in someone elses shoes. Next, turn your mind to morality: think about what’s right and wrong.

    You might start to understand things like why the UN Refugee Convention exists, and why your ends and means argument is quite misguided.

  24. The Pedanticist

    And to those who question the legitimacy and motives of asylum seekers, tell me that you wouldn’t do the same thing if the situation was reversed…

  25. The Pedanticist

    Sean Tisne – the Coalition haven’t “stopped the boats”, they have just stopped reporting them. And also it’s cyclone season – any pause in the number of boats is in all likelihood a seasonal pause.

    And as for Dan B – you obviously have little idea of how the DIBP works. I have worked in a number of Departments over many years and I have DIAC (as it was at the time) was one of the most dysfunctional and politically riven organisation that I ever had the misfortune to work in. Bullying was rife and decision making was driven by the need to satisfy the organisation’s political masters, not to develop and implement good, workable policy. By the sounds of it you would fit right in.

  26. beetwo77

    There is no evidence the LNP’s policy is stopping people from dying. None.

    In fact there is no evidence the LNP’s policy is stopping the boats from leaving or stopping people drowing as far as I can tell. There is the LNP and their trolls saying this. But no actual evidence.

    Regardless of this, Laurens article is an interesting and worthwhile peace for those of us with no real world background.

    Dan B, seeing as you know so much, there is nothing stopping you writing about your experience and sharing that with us. Perhaps you could talk about all the hurt and anguish assylum seekers are doing you or the harm they are doing you?

    By your logic, Peter Cosgrove should go F#$K himself and resign from the GG nomination as he knew all about the WMD situation in Iraq and lead the ADF into the conflict and still denies it. He didn’t speak up at the time, therefore he is guilty and should f#$k right off.

    But I’m guessing you don’t apply the same principles (or lack of) to conservatives.

    Thanks for your input Dan B and thanks for sharing your thoughts Lauren.

  27. Sean Tisme

    If you stop the boats, you stop the deaths.

    There are 2 things the left in Australia are terrible at:

    1. Self-reflection
    2. Accountability

    Every time a boat sank did SHY go on TV saying “okay I made a terrible mistake encouraging boat arrivals and take responsibility for my policies”

    Nah course not! Blame the Navy! Blame the Coalition! Blame anyone but yourselves!

    By stopping the boats the Coalition has stopped drownings at sea… this is a logical outcome that can’t be denied.

  28. Russ Hunter

    It takes some serious self-delusion to convince yourself you are doing asylum seekers a favour by persecuting them. It’s psyhcological self-justification of what boils down to xenophobia, hate and fear, if you dig deep enough.

    There is no excuse for our current behaviour.

  29. Jimmyhaz

    Ignoring that the current ‘solution’ put in place by the government is completely unethical and totally illegal, Australia does not have an embassy in the majority of countries that people would seek asylum from. How exactly can one legitimately seek asylum in Australia in the countries without Australian embassies?

    Also, we have absolutely no idea if there have been any drownings while ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ has been in play, the cone of silence enacted by LNP somewhat prevents us from knowing anything at all about what is going on there.

    Finally, I think it’s somewhat grotesque that people are pretending that the current ‘operation’ has anything at all to do with asylum seekers well-being, it’s a beat-up to stop brown people, nothing more.

  30. Sean Tisme

    [“Hearing the news they had died sent me into a state of shock. I realised it was not the dangerous journey or the people smugglers that had killed these people, it was we Australians.”]

    Just on this bit I have to agree… leftwing Australians let people on boats die by encouraging 55,000 to try and get here by illegal rickety boat.

    Thankfully the Coalition Government has stopped the drowings and death by stopping the boats.

    Zero drownings so far since Abbotts been in power… this is a massive success people! The left should be bitter they let so many die needlessly when they didn’t have to… shame.

  31. Sean Tisme

    Now that the Coalition has stopped the boats, you can your guilt to bed Lauren in knowing the Government will no longer pick and choose who gets to stay and who gets sent home… and rather.. those most needy from one of the many refugee camps around the world will be invited in to Australia through the front door.

  32. klewso

    “It’s not this government’s fault if it happens in someone else’s water! ‘We’re’ just towing that responsibility to someone else.”?

  33. Peter

    @Dan B – So by your logic if someone doesn’t speak up immediately, they lose all right to speak about it later? That it is better for it never to be divulged if it is not in real time? It’s easy to be judgemental (not to mention paternalistic) as a keyboard warrior…

    You also state that you have an exceptional knowledge of these things, care to back that up with some evidence? Your comments here seem to indicate otherwise. For example, your comment about asylum seekers being ‘surrounded’ by criminals in the boats simply doesn’t match up with what is on the gov’ts own website:

    “Past figures show that between 70 and 97 per cent of asylum seekers arriving by boat at different times have been found to be refugees and granted protection either in Australia or in another country.” <- Taken from the Australian Parliament website
    (http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/2012-2013/AsylumFacts)

    But we aren't really talking about Asylum Seeker facts here are we?

    You also say that Abbot has stopped 100s of deaths at sea, care to back that up with some evidence? How many genuine asylum seekers has he turned around in boats, potentially to their deaths?

  34. Russ Hunter

    Dan B, if people like Lauren don’t speak up how the hell else are we going to know what is going on with the secrecy of this government. She offered to talk to you and you continue to dismiss her out of hand.

    You fail. You fail to understand what “needs to be done” under the UN Refugee Convention, and the reasons behind it. You fail on human empathy. And manners.

  35. edumf

    Dan B.

    Your heavy footed, and outraged response to Lauren’s anguished story raises an number of questions, …. quite aside from the bullying ‘ I know it all’ manner you so aggressively convey.

    You come across in your writing as a scary individual indeed, turning your anger outward perhaps, to deflect the fears you have within.

    Maybe you were Lauren’s boss or colleague when she worked with the Department of immigration?
    Perhaps your worked in the Dept of Immigration during her time there, and assumed operational responsibility for some of the matters she alludes to, and which she shares her ethical concerns about ?
    Perhaps you are just one of Abbott & Morrison’s ideological warriors whose job it is to troll websites that offend this government?

    Why are you so intent in denying and negating Lauren the personal observations, experiences and judgements she has made of her time working for the Department of Immigration ? That is a very heavy stance to be taking.

    Such pronounced lack of understanding and empathy for another person, as you show for both this author and for asylum seekers, is not so many steps short of ‘ suitability’ for being an effective torturer in the services of a nation state.

    I invite you to take a hard look at yourself and your attitudes.

  36. ianjohnno

    Well DanB, since you know so much about it, why don’t you enlighten us. We can see that you aced INTIMIDATION 101.

  37. Jimmyhaz

    Today I also learnt that torturing asylum seekers and denying them basic international legal rights is something that needs to be done.

    Today has been a good day.

    Seriously though, whistleblower avenues are almost always dead-end traps designed to bog down the whistleblower in mountains of paperwork and useless meetings that stop them before they can reveal damaging or embarrassing information to the media. Do you honestly think that there would be a legitimate, government-approved avenue for her to get out information such as this on the singular piece of legislative work that the coalition has managed to convince voters is necessary?

  38. Dan B

    Lauren, no – you have no reason for waiting to speak out until now. You failed. Simple.

    I asked no person to blow any whistle, I stated that people (in this case, Lauren) who have concerns within their place of work, and who start to feel that what they are paid (and volunteered) to do starts flagging their moral compass they should speak up then and there. I am well aware of what confidential information you elude to, but I do not see how that stopped you from speaking out. You are easily able to convey your concerns without divulging sensitive information. You also have confidential means within department to raise your concerns. But you haven’t. You dragged it through the mud in a very one-dimensional fashion. But since you hint at a more holistic understanding of the issue(s), perhaps you should have inserted some cold-hard facts. Not just thumped Government for doing what needs to be done, regardless of popularity. Or perhaps you should write a piece on how Mr. Abbott’s initiative has already stopped 100’s of unnecessary deaths at sea. Which they volunteered to trek.

    You are better than that..

  39. donald kent

    If the poor fisherman was starving….why not take a short trip to Tamil Nadu in India where there are tens of thousands of refugees under the care of the Indian government?

    Its irrational to take a thousands of kilometres journey by boat unless there is some other reason why Australia was so attractive an option.

  40. donald kent

    If the poor fisherman was starving….why not take a short trip to Tamil Nadu in India where there are tens of thousands of refugees under the care of the Indian government?

    Its irrational to take a thousands of kilometres journey by boat unless than is some other reason why Australia was so attractive an option.

  41. Jimmyhaz

    Today I learnt that your entire family starving to death is not a valid reason to seek asylum in another country.

    Thank you for that absolute gem of wisdom Dan.

  42. Lauren Smith

    Hi Dan,
    I had a very good reason for not speaking out until now…but that is a different story. If you want to contact me and ask, I’ll will tell you the whole story. There is a lot of confidential information that I did not put in this piece as it would be too long. But I am more than happy to share!

  43. graybul

    . . . Dan B. For you to attempt to obliterate the essence of Lauren’s story by claiming, probably correctly, that within the trickle of the world-wide migration of refugees seeking refuge in Australia, may also be criminals and/or persons holding less desperate motivations . . therefore regardless, all refugees must be vilified! Many, many Australians of my generation (older) reject your callousness! Your implied or intended threat “to tread very carefully when propagating your opinions” gives away your objective . . fostering of fear to fulfill a political imperative. Lauren has courageously shared her concerns; so also will others continue to challenge the inhumane treatment of fellow human beings.

  44. Vincent O'Donnell

    For those who come across the seas
    We’ve boundless pains to share.

    Says it all, really.

    And speaking of ‘moral courage’ Dan B, Lauren Smith signed her story.

  45. Salamander

    You have added nothing to the debate Dan B. Criticising someone for not being a whistleblower is a bit bloody rich. They weren’t prepared to be a martyr, so therefore everything they say is discredited? Well Dan B that attitude has pretty much undermined the rest of your rant in my book.

  46. Dan B

    What a complete BS piece of writing. When will we read real-time issues, in real-time? You had ample opportunity to convey your suspicions working for the department, but you chose to wait until now, separated from the department to regale one and all about how merciless and cold-hearted Australians are. Since you lacked the moral courage to speak out as things were occurring, and as you point out, “if you witness a crime and do nothing to try and stop it, you are guilty by association”, you can consider yourself responsible. You should have simply left and remained quiet. As someone with an exceptional amount of knowledge on this issue, I can tell you that this piece smells to high heaven. I suspect something big coming out of DoI in the near future. And you’ve gone and gotten your word out first. Well done.

    To all you bleeding hearts who believe there are no smugglers, or everyone is a legitimate asylum seeker – tread very carefully when propagating your opinions. Your lack of knowledge is counter-productive to sorting this out. Currently Australia and Australians are being aggressively ripped-off by foreign nationals who believe they fit the asylum seeker profile. It is unfortunate for those legitimate asylum seekers who choose to travel on the same vehicles surrounded by criminals. Enhanced screening has been effectively pointing out those who are not legit. Your Sri Lankan “client” is the perfect example (thank you for that). If your life is mortally threatened in your home country, be it from insurgencies, civil uproar etc., you might have some dry land to stand on. But this guy was afraid he would starve to death. That is not reason to flee your own country, and risk everything by travelling to the other side of the world so you can get paid.

    I hope the Abbott Government continue its successful campaign.

  47. zut alors

    It’s our fault entirely. We have allowed the two major parties to pander to a minority of ignorant bigots without calling them on it. Some have challenged the last few governments on it but their voices haven’t been sufficiently loud.

    It’s particularly galling to witness the two major parties sanctimoniously join in the daily prayer in Parliament. Words are cheap.

  48. klewso

    If our elected representatives and their media pimps couldn’t give a rat’s and would rather use these people’s suffering for votes – why should anyone else worry?

  49. Marg Hutton

    Hi Lauren,
    Thank you so much for this piece. I have been trying to keep track of asylum seeker drownings at sea (http://sievx.com/articles/background/DrowningsTable.pdf) and well remember the case of the life jackets that washed up on Cocos last year. I searched in vain for more information on this but could never find anything. Your article is the first acknowledgement I’ve seen that this boat was known about and expected. I remember this occurred around the same time as the boat that sank off Christmas with everyone aboard drowning after having been flown over and photographed by Customs.

    If you were able to contact me on my website (sievx.com) and point me to any other public sources about this terrible story I would be most grateful.

    Thank you again for putting your story on the record.

  50. MarilynJS

    And I have one racist media person after the other telling me I am a moonbat when I refuse to blame some non-smuggler, there are no smugglers, no-one is being smuggled anywhere but without crew many thousands of AFghans and others would have drowned.

  51. Russ Hunter

    This is where “keeping your promises” on dog politics leads. What horrible leadership we have in this country at present. I think it’s a low point for Australia in my life time. I’m not sure we can just blame it all on Rupert Murdoch either.

  52. MarilynJS

    I said in 2001 that Australia murdered the 353 people on SIEVX and was howled down with claims we would not do that. We found out 2 years ago that we did indeed murder them, the AFP had a spy working with the person who was known to be dangerous and they sent him to work to kill refugees, he was rewarded by the Australian government with $250,000 and citizenship.

    We have been murdering refugees since the Vietnam era when Fraser sent people to sink boats in the Malaysia ports.

  53. edumf

    Thank you Lauren for speaking out on your important story on the shadow side of contemporary Australia for the last 14- 15 years now.

    ‘Crimes against humanity’ is certainly not an inappropriate description of the institutional depersonalisation and persecution of the asylum seekers (no-names permitted, just numbers) , who have arrived by boat in that time, practices that continue to take place in our name as Australian citizens.

    With the Abbott government in power now and intent on ramping up censorship around asylum seeker matters, the need for these stories to become public is more insistent.

  54. paddy

    Thank you for this piece Lauren.
    It’s a profoundly awful sensation, to feel as ashamed as I do to be an Australian.
    Right now, I can’t even see a light at the end of the tunnel.

  55. Julie Bradley

    I feel terrible – as I should.
    Kevin Bradley

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