Tag: SAT

PM ScoMo bats for “world order that favours freedom with liberal values” ; supports probe into the origins of COVID-19

Photo- @PerthUSAsia

By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 9 June 2021: Australian Prime Minister today minced no words batting for a “world order that favors freedom with liberal values” and cautioned about world instability with a danger of conflict in the Indo-Pacific region. He called the Indo-Pacific an ‘epicenter’ of competition in the region. The Australian Prime Minister was today addressing a select gathering live-streamed and televised at the Perth USAsia Centre ahead of his departure to the G-7 Summit.

The speech without naming focussed on the obvious rising global economic power of China and its influence in the world and the Indo-Pacific region. The PM’s reference to an open liberal society many times in the speech, sniped at the authoritarian set up in China and the challenges it posed to the liberal democracies. That Australia is firmly embedded in the US-led western alliance was laced with many words in the speech.

He said the G-7 countries will emphasize vibrant liberal democracy, open societies, sovereign capacity, countering challenges, and business-led growth. “We cannot be casual about our values,” he said.

Touching the digital and tech issues, the PM said, Our technological edge is “under challenge” and that has to be overcome by us and our allies. Technology should reflect our “shared values”, he said.

The PM referred to Japan and India as being part of the ‘ reliable supply chains’ to meet the emerging global challenges. He also said the World Health Organisation (WHO) be strengthened and the origins of the COVID-19 be investigated.

Morrison added a positive note saying competition in the Indo-Pacific should not lead to conflict and we are ready for dialogue with any country including China.

- The report will be updated.

MUSINGS: #protest4partners & ‘civilization’


By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 10 May 2021: Recently, I went to cover a rally at Victoria’s Parliament steps, by people who are separated from their partner, fiancé, or spouse because Australia has delayed their visas. The many men and women (mostly young) demonstrating under the banner of #protest4partners are separated from their loved ones. One placard said, “14 months apart” and another said, “Fiancés are immediate family” and another said, “582 days apart”.

I was making videos and taking still photographs when I noticed a quite Indian-looking young man. I went to him and asked him why he was at the rally and where he came from. He turned out to be a Gujarati working in Melbourne and separated from his wife for 20+ months. Reluctantly, he said his wife (in Gujarat) was not getting a visa and if she does not get it soon he might quit Australia. He said he had written to concerned authorities but things do not move here.

Meanwhile, my sympathetic mind asked him – Why do so many people leave Gujarat for overseas pastures? “This is a trend there and is on”, he replied. Plus, “one Australian dollar makes 57 Rupees”, he said. We were at the sidelines of the rally and the young man seemed to be getting emotional. So, I told him, I will try to do a story about your case and hope something might happen.

“For how long Indians will do cleaning jobs in Australia. We did not come here for this. We are being used, “he said. The boy seemed to be speaking from his heart. An element of frustration and helplessness was visible.

“You see the Westerners doing this to us despite we having an ancient civilization. In fact, after the initial migrations from Africa, we spread civilization across the world and now they are dominating. The Aryan invasion theory is wrong. There is archaeological evidence we are the most advanced indigenous civilization”, he said.

Confronted by his ‘civilization’ stuff, I said, “But this is the 21st century and we have to move accordingly and adjust.” Na Na, “I will leave if my wife does not get a spouse visa soon.”

Something then stuck to my mind and I asked him, “Do you have Permanent Residency” (PR) to stay in Australia. Reply, “Wahi to nahi hi, apply kar rakha hi aur main wait kar raha hoon” (I have applied for PR and waiting for it).

I asked, “So, how can your wife get a spouse visa if you don’t have PR yourself.” The fellow baffled, could not answer. Anyway, I handed over my business card to him and asked him to give me a call do discuss the matter. I wondered I was sure, most cases are human tragedies with different connotations. Was the ‘civilization’ argument the last refuge of an emotionally down human?

Meanwhile, two MP’s (Greens and Labor) addressed the gathering and promised to fight for the cause. My Tweet about the rally seems to be doing well.

Australian Govt invests taxpayers money in Adani’s Carmichael coal project: Stop Adani


By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 16 December 2020: The ‘Stop Adani’ environment organization has alleged: “Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Future Fund, is investing taxpayer money in an Adani Group company that is funding critical aspects of the controversial Carmichael Coal Project and holds business ties to the Myanmar military”.

In a statement emailed today to South Asia Times (SAT), Stop Adani says, ” Rohingya community, human rights, and environmental groups are calling on the Future Fund to divest its equity holdings from Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone, because of critical environmental, social and corporate governance failings of the company in Myanmar and Australia.

In January 2019 Adani Ports entered into a commercial relationship with Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), a Myanmar military holding company, to build an international port in Yangon on military-owned land.

Adani Ports entered into a lease with MEC for 50 years for an investment of USD $290 million for the construction of Ahlone International Port Terminal 2. The Myanmar military owns four commercial ports in Yangon that are currently operational. The first phase of Adani’s port is scheduled for completion in 2021.”

Photo- Stop Adani, Twitter

Pablo Brait, a campaigner with Market Forces said: “The Future Fund should be investing in the companies building our future, not those that are destroying it. Adani Ports’ role in the Carmichael coal project – a project that will fuel the climate crisis and the extreme weather that it is causing – shows it is a terrible investment for the Future Fund to be making with our money. It is clear that Adani Ports has a very concerning environmental, social, and governance risk profile beyond its role in climate-wrecking coal.

The media statement says:

“Adani Ports’ business with the Myanmar military, in disregard of human rights, follows its recently revealed direct role in the Carmichael coal project in Australia, which is a major threat to the environment and Traditional Owners of the land, the Wangan and Jagalingou people. Adani Ports has recently established the subsidiary Bowen Rail Company to transport coal from the Carmichael mine.

The groups submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Future Fund, to disclose any holdings it has in Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd. The Future Fund disclosed AUD$3.2 million in equity holdings, invested despite the company’s widely known and heavily criticized environmental and human rights record.

In August 2019 UN Human Rights Council’s Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar warned that companies involved with the MEC risked being complicit in funding the financial operations of the Myanmar military and urged companies to sever ties.”

Mohammad Junaid from the Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia says, “It is shocking to the Rohingya people that Australia’s Future Fund has invested in a company that is doing business with the Myanmar military. The UN has condemned foreign companies profiting at our expense.”

Member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Australian lawyer, Chris Sidoti said: “Adani is in bed with the Myanmar military and now it seems the Future Fund is in bed with Adani.

“Australia’s sovereign wealth fund should follow the lead of similar funds in other countries and of increasing numbers of pension funds, moving towards disinvesting from companies in league with Myanmar’s murderous military.

Rawan Arraf, Director of the Australian Centre for International Justice said: “Despite United Nations condemnation of Adani Ports’ business ties with the Myanmar military, the Australian government is investing in Adani Ports. The Future Fund is at risk of contributing taxpayer money to the financing of Myanmar military activities through its investment in Adani Ports.”

Meanwhile, “In October 2020 it was announced that global shipping giant, Maersk, will end its use of the military-owned ports in Myanmar, leaving Adani Ports, currently constructing a new military-owned port in Yangon, in serious commercial trouble, as shipping companies are under increasing pressure to end business with Myanmar’s military-owned ports. Adani Ports SEZ has been taking on debt from international banks including US, UK, Germany and Japan to finance projects including in Myanmar.”

South Asian migrants accuse Croatian police of brutal beatings at border


By Arafatul Aslam

South Asian migrants stuck in Bosnian camps have accused Croatian police of badly beating people caught trying to cross the border into the EU. Human rights groups are calling for an investigation of the abuse allegations.

Solaiman is a 20-year-old Bangladeshi migrant and one of nearly 600 South Asian asylum-seekers who are camped out in a hilly forest in the western Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa, just a few kilometers away from the border with Croatia.

They are spending nights in crowded shacks made from tarps, and they lack sufficient food, water and medical supplies. But more than cold or hunger, they fear what may happen when they attempt to cross the European Union border into Croatia.

“Croatian police split us into groups of five people after we crossed the border. They forced us to lie down and beat us mercilessly before forcing us back to Bosnia,” Solaiman told DW just an hour after an alleged incident that took place on October 19.

He was bleeding from an injury on the right side of his forehead, his lip was split, and there were bruises all over his body.

“There were 21 Bangladeshis and seven Afghan refugees in the group. They beat all of us, and some had their hands and legs broken by the torture,” Solaiman said.

Solaiman claimed the police officers who tortured them were wearing black uniforms and ski masks. Other migrants and refugees living at the camp told DW that the Croatian police in black uniforms are notorious for brutality. The migrants accuse the police of beating and robbing people who try to cross the border illegally.

“They take our bags, mobile phones, money and even our clothes. After that, they beat us and force us back in our underwear,” Mohammad Yasin, another Bangladeshi asylum-seeker, told DW.

Bosnia has become a bottleneck for thousands of Europe-bound migrants after other nations closed their borders and disrupted migration paths through the Balkans.

Upon entering Bosnia, most migrants walk northwest to the country’s highly porous 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) border with Croatia, one of the last gateways to northern Europe.

Border town Velika Kladusa is a migrant hotspot where around 1,500 people, most of them from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, have been staying, their future uncertain.

Overworked NGO treats injured migrants

At the nearby Miral camp, run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), hospital beds are provided only to severely injured migrants; others are provided with pain medicine. The camp also houses refugees who cannot live without support.

Hundreds of people camp in the woods near the Croatian border

There are about 700 migrants living at the overcrowded Miral camp. Half of them are from Pakistan, around 30% from Bangladesh, and the others from Afghanistan, Morocco, and Tunisia.

The rest of the migrants live without medical aid in the forest camp, or in an abandoned factory.

“Croatian police broke both my legs by beating me mercilessly. It happened last night when I was trying to cross the Bosnia-Croatia border,” Muhammad Waqas, a 27-year-old refugee from Pakistan, told DW at the Miral camp. He had been rescued by Bosnian police and taken for treatment to Miral.

“They intentionally aim for bones and faces using black batons. They don’t listen, or ask anything, before starting to beat us,” he said.

Mite Cilkovski, the manager of the Miral camp, said it often receives injured migrants who were beaten at the border, many of whom will take months to heal.

“They say that the injuries were caused by the Croatian police. We report the issue to relevant institutions and organizations whenever we receive such injured people,” Cilkovski told DW.

Human rights groups ‘horrified’

Last week, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) recorded more than 75 incidents of violence at the Bosnia-Croatia border near Velika Kladusa. The humanitarian NGO said it has teams in the area to verify reports. Most of the victims come from Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“The testimonies that the DRC has collected from victims of pushbacks are horrifying,” DRC Secretary General Charlotte Slente told DW.

“People from different groups and nationalities have independently reported inhumane treatment, savage beatings and even sexual abuse at the border,” she said, emphasizing this has been taking place for months.

She said authorities needed to intervene. “There is an urgent need to ensure that independent border-monitoring mechanisms are in place to prevent these abuses and to ensure that all reports of abuse are transparently and credibly investigated — and those responsible are held to account,” she said.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has repeatedly asked the European Commission to take action against member states like Croatia, accusing them of allowing unlawful abuse during violent pushbacks at EU borders.

“HRW has documented violent pushbacks from Croatia to Bosnia and Serbia for several years. These abuses have been going on unabated and are a frequent occurrence — not isolated events but rather a part of systemic practice by Croatian border officials,” Lydia Gall, a senior researcher on the western Balkans at HRW, told DW.

“EU law prohibits summary returns of migrants and any violence during such unlawful returns on all its external borders,” she added.

HRW’s Gall said there should be enough evidence of beatings to legally prove abusive asylum practices.

“The European Court of Human Rights has ruled on asylum and pushback-related cases in the past,” she said, adding that a lawsuit would be possible if lawyers could provide enough evidence of abuse.

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, has said that she is aware of the reports of police brutality at the Bosnia-Croatia border and was taking the matter very seriously.

“I am planning a thorough discussion with the Croatian authorities on these and other reports of fundamental rights violations,” she said on Twitter, adding she plans to discuss Croatia’s border-monitoring mechanism.

“Croatian authorities have committed to investigate reports of mistreatment at their external borders, monitor this situation closely and keep the Commission informed on progress made,” Johansson said.

However, HRW’s Gall said that EU should open infringement proceedings (legal action) against Croatia over its “blatant abuses of EU law ” to put pressure on Croatian authorities to “effectively investigate abuses on its border, including holding responsible officers to account.”

Croatia says it will investigate
Croatia’s Interior Ministry told DW it is investigating the abuse allegations and has not independently verified whether they occurred.

”Immediately after receiving these allegations, this ministry initiated relevant procedures to verify them,” the ministry said in a statement.

“It is our objective, and in our interest, to not only remove any suspicion of actions taken by Croatian police officers, but also to sanction and eliminate irregularities if, by chance, any have occurred.”

”Taking into consideration the severity of those accusations, we find it inappropriate to provide any response to those accusations until they have been thoroughly verified,” the ministry said.

Read more: EU migration policy: Eastern European leaders get tough on new plans

Many refugees fear that their situation could get worse as winter is approaching. Cilkovski, the manager of the Miral Camp, said there is not much more his organization can do.

“We can’t accommodate more than 700 people in the Miral Camp. Another camp is needed to accommodate others who are in the forest and surrounding areas now,” he said.

“But it’s not happening. If someone wants to return to their own country, IOM will arrange their flight free of cost.”

Source- dw.com


BUDGET 2020-21: “500 hours free English classes’ must in spouse & spouse visa sponsor requirements; changes to apply mid-2021

Budget pix

By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 8 October 2020: The Federal Government seems determined to push its know English plans for new migrants as indicated in the Budget 2020 presented by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Many new migrants with a Permanent Residency who plan to get married soon or whose spouses are still overseas might well need to brush up their English skills to join their loved ones.

The new essential English requirements for those applying for the visa for their spouse and themselves will need about 500 hours of English language requirements before living permanently in Australia, Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has told the ABC radio on 6 October, reports the AAP.

The Minister feels these changes in the Budget2020 would help support social cohesion and economic participation, while better protecting vulnerable people from controlling or exploitative partners.

Associate Professor Marie Segrave, Deputy Director Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre, Faculty of Arts has refuted claims by Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge and the Prime Minister that without sufficient English language skills migrants are vulnerable to family violence, as untrue and unfair.

In a statement emailed by Medianet Marie Segrave says, “We know that temporary visa holders are disadvantaged by the migration system preventing and limiting access to support in the context of family violence and that this has been compounded by COVID-19 and their exclusion from Job Keeper and Job Seeker.

What we see in the Budget is the further exclusion of women via sponsor checks and language requirements. The potential damage of this is to continue to exclude many more women from support who are already married and/or have children with their abusive partner.

Instead of making changes to ensure access to the full suite of financial, housing, medical, and other support, these changes flag an effort to exclude women.”

In a statement Labor while slamming the changes says, “The Morrison Government’s Budget promise to increase the number of partner visas is just another empty announcement until they actually deliver for Australians and the people they love.

The Morrison Government has not explained how their new English language requirements for partner visa applicants and their permanent resident sponsors will impact applications – both those waiting to be processed and new applications.”

The Subcontinent Friends of Labor, Victoria (SCFOL) in a post on it’s Facebook page questions the proposed changes saying, “Subcontinent Friends of Labor Victoria (SCFOL Vic) is concerned to see the proposed English language requirement for partner visas by the federal government in #budget2020. How is this relevant to who Australian’s choose to marry? What does it say about our multicultural society? Who was consulted about this change? Why does the permanent resident sponsor need to undertake an English test for their partner’s visa?

Earlier, PM Scott Morrison told a virtual multicultural media conference on 7 Oct, ” English unifies the country and it enables us all to connect both economically and socially and so that’s why we believe that’s an important step that needs to be taken’.

Commenting about the changes Bina Shah of IAEC Education & Migration says, ” Clients are anxious. If a permanent resident marrying overseas looks for an English proficient spouse then things can go upside down. One will have to say no to a would-be spouse even if you want to marry him or her because of English.

Also, the 500 hours of free English teaching will take place where? If the intending spouse is overseas then will he or she have to attend private or stipulated classes and bear the massive costs? So, it looks, people will marry the person they love or want to and go in for English classes pushing up the cost of bringing your spouse here.”

“These issues need to be addressed before the new policy is introduced next year,” she says.

The AAP report says the changes will not be introduced until the next mid-next year and will only affect people who apply after the changes are introduced.

Mr. Tudge told the ABC there were almost one million people living in Australia with poor or no English and that language skills were necessary for finding work and staying safe.

He said, “And we want to encourage everybody to be able to learn English so that they can fully engage in Australian life, in every aspect of it, from employment markets to our democracy, to our society, to community activity.

English is absolutely essential in order to do all of that.”

In a media statement, Mr. Tudge says, ” Most partner visas are a provisional visa of two years before becoming eligible for a permanent visa. The requirement will have to be met at the time of the granting of the permanent visa.

While the ability to speak multiple languages is a great asset for an individual and for Australia, a person will struggle to fully participate in our society and democracy without basic English.”

(Story to be updated soon)