Newsletter

ATC's Statement on Current Refugee Policies

Australian Tamil Congress calls for principled and humane approach to policy formulation and implementation of refugee laws

 

Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) expresses its strong disappointment and condemnation at the proposed lifetime ban on asylum seekers who arrive by boat in Australia.

 

There is no doubt whatsoever as to the pathetic plight and the hopelessness of the inmates in the immigration detention centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Now to bring this extra-ordinary measure, which will inflict an added degree of cruelty on an already broken people, all in the name of sending a strong message to people smugglers, is a clear illustration of the lack of leadership, compassion and humanity in the Australian political leadership. A notable numbers of Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka are also potential victims of this measure, and in desperate need of counselling and help.

 

Another troubling development for the Tamil refugees is the flawed ‘fast track’ refugee processing arrangement with no judicial oversight, disregarding any previous harm, persecution or violence inflicted with impunity by the security establishment of Sri Lanka under the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which is yet to be repealed.

 

Though the present government of Sri Lanka has made advances in relation to diluting executive powers and allowing media and civil society freedom, it has yet to take meaningful measures to end abuses by security forces, including torture by police. An assessment by Sri Lanka’s own Human Rights Commission indicated torture is routine in Police custody; and a case is being filed in the UK by a recent returnee who was tortured in Sri Lanka on the suspicion of his past involvement in Tamil politics. These incidents illustrate that Tamil asylum seekers should not be assessed and repatriated in a blanket manner; rather each individual case must be assessed carefully. In particular, those with past political involvement should be assessed with extra care before decisions are taken on the outcomes and possible repatriation. 

 

Australia has a proud record of supporting vulnerable people and refugees from all over the world. It is home for tens of thousands of Tamils, a significant portion of the population having arrived here as refugees. They are today proud Australians, who contribute fully to the wellbeing of this country. It is in this context that our hearts sink when policies and procedures highlighted earlier are contemplated by our political leadership. While it may be important to send a message to the ‘people smugglers’, do we want to be known in the world as a nation of compassionately impaired people?

 

The proposed changes to the Migration Act will discredit Australia globally. It is time that all Australians – including principled politicians across the entire political spectrum - rise to the occasion and prevent any escalating measures from being espoused or implemented.

 

We are certainly better than this.

Opportunity for us Tamils to identify ourselves at the Australian Census

Every Five years, when a census is done, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) gathers a lot of data about community groups.  Grants, concessions, and government resources are allocated to various communities based on the information ABS publishes.

It will benefit not just us but the generation to come as well, if we Tamils identify ourselves as an ethnic group.

ATC representatives have been in consultation with ABS since 2011 Census and worked together to have fixes in place to avoid misrepresentation of Tamils living in Australia from previous census in 2006.  Last census in 2011 Tamils living in Australia showed a significant increase. We need your cooperation again so Tamils are accurately represented in 2016 Census.

Three questions will identify us as an identifiable ethnic group in Australia.  Please find information below explaining how to answer the questions. Also click here for details.

ABS does not publish any information related to individuals, nor does it share information about individuals with other Government agencies in Australia. ABS only publishes consolidated, aggregate figures.

Hence, let us Tamils identify ourselves as Tamils and show our real strength in Australia.
For more information please visit our website www.australiantamilcongress.com or call 1300 660 629. 

Please watch the special interview with Mark Harding, NSW CMU Director, ABS on Census 2011.
http://www.youtube.com/user/OzCensus2011?feature=mhsn#p/f
Provide the appropriate response to be counted as a Tamil in Australia !!
http://www.teamfours.com/tamils/abs/Census2011.gif
Also, please forward it to other Tamils you know.
 
Kind regards, 
Australian Tamil Congress 

Australian Tamil Congress cautiously welcomes the draft resolution tabled at the UNHRC

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) cautiously welcomes the draft resolution on Sri Lanka tabled at the UN Human Rights Council on 24th September, which Sri Lanka is co-sponsoring.

The text is a product of difficult consensus building including that of the Government of Sri Lanka, and reflects the sometimes competing interests of a wide range of stakeholders. ATC has consistently called for an international accountability mechanism to address the violations and abuses committed by both sides of the conflict, and though the tabled resolution falls short and is a source of concern for many in the Tamil community, we believe it provides a realistic starting point, and if faithfully implemented, can lead to a credible accountability process with substantial international involvement.

The law reform to allow for war crimes to be investigated and trialed, incorporation of Commonwealth and foreign judges in the judicial process, political settlement through effective devolution mechanism, and periodic reporting on the progress of the implementation by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, are a few key provisions that will be under the microscope as this resolution takes hold.

While welcoming the new Sri Lankan government’s commitments, we note that implementing the resolution and the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will be the real test of progress, and not merely words. Victims of Sri Lanka’s brutality have heard far too many words, and now deserve credible actions. The draft resolution gives the Government of Sri Lanka the opportunity to achieve that goal. 

ATC has engaged with a wide range of stakeholders on many issues of concern to the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, which includes the Australian government, the opposition parties, NGOs, academics, legal professionls and the media, and we believe our continuous efforts have contributed to the outcomes at the UNHRC. In this regard, we are grateful to the governments of the US and the UK, all co-sponsors of the resolution, and all others who helped drive the progress on accountability. We sincerely hope that this week’s result will be a step in the right direction.

We are particularly pleased that Australia has decided to co-sponsor the UNHRC resolution, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s statement is clear testament to her willingness to constructively contribute to reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We also would like to acknowledge the statement from  Shadow Ministers Tania Plibersek and Michelle Rowland welcoming the OHCHR report and the resolution. The draft resolution stresses the importance of the participation of Commonwealth and other foreign judges in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, and we believe this is an area where Australia, as a commonwealth country, can make a significant contribution.

Victims of heinous crimes committed during the civil conflict have waited for over six years for this process to reveal the truth and justice to be served. They sincerely hope that all stakeholders of this process including the international community will not let them down. ATC on its part will do all it could to ensure that this process will lead to true accountability and closure to all victims.

UN Human Rights Chief calls for Hybrid Court to Investigate Sri Lankan War Crimes‏

Yesterday, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released its long awaited report into human rights violations in Sri Lanka 2002-2011.

The violations revealed in the report, characterised by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid, as “among the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole”, makes a harrowing reading, presenting evidence of horrific level of abuses suffered by the Tamil civillians at the hands of the Sri Lankan soldiers, including indiscriminate shelling, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, denial of humanitarian assistance, ill treatment of IDPs, torture and sexual violence.

The report recommends the establishment of a hybrid special court, integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators, as essential.

 

Australian Tamil Congress Congratulates the Tamil National Alliance

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) congratulates Mr. R. Sampanthan and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on their resounding election victory in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. The Tamil people have once again given the TNA, and its leader Mr. R. Sampanthan, a strong mandate to negotiate a political solution.

 The Tamil people have also sent a clear message to the new Sri Lankan government and to the international community that they are firmly behind the TNA and its leadership; they are anxious to see a just political solution to the long standing Tamil national question; they want to achieve accountability for war time excesses through honest implementation of the relevant UN resolutions and processes; and they want to address matters of immediate concerns, such as land and livelihood in the north and east, without any further delay.

 As an organization that has worked with the TNA for several years, we seek the full support of the international community, including India, to help implement the legitimate demands of the Tamil people through a negotiated power sharing arrangement.

 Overall, the ‎citizens of Sri Lanka have once again voted for the consolidation of progressive changes that began with the January 2015 presidential election.‎ ATC would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ranil Wickramasinghe, the leader of the United National Party, and President Sirisena on this remarkable election outcome, and is hopeful that they will continue to strive together for far-reaching constitutional changes for the good governance of the country.  

 ATC respects the wishes of the Tamil people and reiterates our commitment to work with TNA and all other relevant stakeholders to achieve equality, justice, peace and prosperity for our people.

 The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) congratulates Mr. R. Sampanthan and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on their resounding election victory in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. The Tamil people have once again given the TNA, and its leader Mr. R. Sampanthan, a strong mandate to negotiate a political solution.

 The Tamil people have also sent a clear message to the new Sri Lankan government and to the international community that they are firmly behind the TNA and its leadership; they are anxious to see a just political solution to the long standing Tamil national question; they want to achieve accountability for war time excesses through honest implementation of the relevant UN resolutions and processes; and they want to address matters of immediate concerns, such as land and livelihood in the north and east, without any further delay.

 As an organization that has worked with the TNA for several years, we seek the full support of the international community, including India, to help implement the legitimate demands of the Tamil people through a negotiated power sharing arrangement.

 Overall, the ‎citizens of Sri Lanka have once again voted for the consolidation of progressive changes that began with the January 2015 presidential election.‎ ATC would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ranil Wickramasinghe, the leader of the United National Party, and President Sirisena on this remarkable election outcome, and is hopeful that they will continue to strive together for far-reaching constitutional changes for the good governance of the country.  

 ATC respects the wishes of the Tamil people and reiterates our commitment to work with TNA and all other relevant stakeholders to achieve equality, justice, peace and prosperity for our people.

 

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